Chelsea Manning has already become a solid presence in the art world. Her face has been rendered in Lego on the floor of Alcatraz and now the Hirshhorn Museum in DC, courtesy of dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. (Yesterday Chelsea swung by DC to snap a selfie with her famous fan.) She has also been painted by Philly artist Alicia Neal, who was commissioned by the Chelsea Manning Support Network to portray the Army whistleblower as she wanted to be seen, and was recently shot by Inez and Vinoodh for the New York Times. Now Chelsea is opening an art exhibition of her own.
A joint show with artist/biohacker Heather Dewey-Hagborg, A Becoming Resemblance will also consist of portraits, but the materials are more controversial than Ai's bricks of Lego. The show will feature 30 versions of Chelsea's face that were 3D-printed using cheek swabs and clips of hair that she sent Heather from prison. Heather's last creepy-cool project, Stranger Visions, saw her scouring libraries and subway seats to source DNA from complete strangers.
"Prisons try very hard to make us inhuman and unreal by denying our image, and thus our existence, to the rest of the world," Chelsea said about the new art show. "Imagery has become a kind of proof of existence. The use of DNA in art provides a cutting edge and a very post-modern — almost 'post-post-modern' — analysis of thought, identity, and expression. It combines chemistry, biology, information, and our ideas of beauty and identity." The two women have also collaborated on a related project called Suppressed Images, which imagines the outcome of Chelsea serving the entirety of the 35-year sentence that Obama commuted before leaving office.
Chelsea has certainly been keeping busy since being released from prison. Over the weekend she scaled a rainbow float to attend her first Pride parade as a free woman. She also may or may not be planning to drop a mixtape of drum 'n' bass and 90s jungle tracks, in between perfecting a neo-cyberpunk fashion vibe. Talk about making up for lost time.
"A Becoming Resemblance" opens August 2 at Fridman Gallery in New York.
Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram