First Gift

First Gift is a blanket which visualizes a child’s DNA as data, embedding it in a precious heirloom to be passed down from generation to generation.

First gift1_small

It highlights the sanctity of DNA data, in an age where germ-line genetic manipulation may soon become possible.

As scientists decode more of the human genome, the more nature becomes defined as a set of data, and the closer we get to the ‘genomic aleph’. Popular culture has illustrated the opportunities of genetic engineering. However, the implications of ‘designer babies’ are closer to home: when parents edit their unborn child’s genes. Choosing genes censors the genetics of the parent and places impossible burdens on the next generation.

First Gift is a precious blanket which compares the digital DNA data of a child with their parents. If the child’s genes are edited, these changes will mask the parent’s DNA with synthesized DNA. The blanket itself represents a sacred and fragile heirloom, where tampering with it could potentially lead to frayed edges and uncertain outcomes. This first genetic gift will be with the child for life, and will also be inherited by future generations.

In a similar way to how genes are combined, this blanket is woven from colours representing the genes of the Mother and Father. In this example blanket, the real data is of a female child (used under Creative Common’s License – The Corpas Family). Each time the weft rises above the warp, this is another point of data.

The data was released open source by Manuel Corpas.

Portrait of Manuel Corpas, Scientific Lead of Repositive, at Future Business Centre in Cambridge. Photographed for Genetopia.

Photograph by Chrystal Ding

The weaving for the blanket was done in the Textile Museum Tilburg