They spoke together in Ann Arbor, on March 15, at the University of Michigan, and in Pittsburg, on March 20, at the Carnegie Mellon School of Art.
Heather and Chelsea, with illustrator Shoili Kanungo made a beautiful little comic book about Chelsea and Heather’s first collaboration, “Radical Love.” The last frame of the Supressed Images comic book has Chelsea out of prison and looking at her own self-portraits for the first time. It was an emotional moment when it came true, and Heather helps me take a walk down memory lane, so we can bring you all sides of this amazing story :-)
Fridman Gallery is pleased to present A Becoming Resemblance, an exhibition by Heather Dewey-Hagborg and Chelsea E. Manning, investigating emerging technologies of genomic identity construction and our societal moment.
In 2015, Heather began to produce 3D printed portraits derived from the DNA extracted from cheek swabs and hair clippings Chelsea mailed out of prison. Incarcerated since her gender transition and subject to a strict policy on visitation, Chelsea’s image was suppressed from 2013 until her release from prison in May this year. The artistic collaboration with Heather gave Chelsea back a form of visibility, a human face she had been denied.
As Chelsea described the collaboration: “Prisons try very hard to make us inhuman and unreal by denying our image, and thus our existence, to the rest of the world. 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 U.S. Government has refused to confirm or deny that there is any ongoing investigation in to your matter, but it looks like they spilled some beans to you? Can you explain what happened, and what it means?
Nearly two years ago, I requested a copy of the FBI files related to their role in the investigation of my case. After going through a lengthy FOIA process, I finally filed a lawsuit to compel the FBI and the Department of Justice to turn over these records.
The basis of their denial is that there is still an ongoing investigation into my case. They have admitted as such before the court in a joint filing. This is the reason that they won’t turn these records over. However, their response is still vague. The government has not acknowledged who they are investigating, or why—just that it is directly related to my case and court martial…
What’s your call to arms for people who care about the issues that sent you to jail? What should they be doing? What would you be doing, if you were free?
Read everything. Ask your own questions. Be your own filter. Nobody is going to look at the world around you and tell you what important things are happening that affect you and the ones you love.
They will sell you things. They will ask you to vote for them. They will offer their services to you. They have an ambiguous agenda that doesn’t really involve your interests as a citizen. There is a difference between a consumer—who passively receives the information that they are spoon fed—and a citizen—who engages with society, asks questions, does research, and works towards making a difference in their neighborhood, city, and country. This is what I try to be—whether I’m in prison or outside—I keep reading and asking questions as a citizen.