IDENTITY Genotype/Phenotype
Gabriele Seethaler in collaboration with Prof. Franz Neuhuber (Institute of Legal Medicine) and Renald Deppe



in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Franz Neuhuber and Renald Deppe

ID card: this document combines genetic identity (objective) with perceived identity (subjective). One of possibly many genetic ID cards in future.

GENOTYPE: a person's saliva is collected as source for genetic fingerprinting; special loci in  the non-coding regions of the genome (STR-loci) are characterized for forensic DNA typisation. These regions vary in the number of repeats of short sequences from one individual to another. the genetic fingerprint can be seen a symbolic family portrait – a document of our biological origin, a representation of our genetic memory and history

PHENOTYPE: Gabriele Seethaler's mirror-double portraits present a personification of the „Self“, a registration of the subjective appearance at a given time and place.

The biogenetic identity  (genetic fingerprint) can not be changed, at least until now;  in contrast to the subjective (personal) identity, which is ever changing and unreproducable.

MUSICAL IDENTITY: This combined information of genetic fingerprint and mirror-portrait of a person is transformed into a musical score by the Viennese composer Renald Deppe. Musical identities are not only calligraphic art-works but can also being played, as already performed at several exhibitions at Gallery Heike Curtze, Salzburg, during the Salzburg festivals in 2002 as well as at the Charité and Austrian Cultural Forum, Berlin in 2004 and at Heinz and Heide Dürr, Berlin in 2005.


Leonardo da Vinci was probably the first and last person with unassailable claims to the front rank of both arts and science, although perhaps he was more of an engineer than a scientist (did Galileo paint at all?). The temptation to draw a sharp line between the Arts and the Sciences seems irresistible, and statistically speaking, high talent in any field of human endeavour is so rare that the probability of finding someone with the physical insight and mathematical skill of Einstein who could also paint like Picasso must be similar to the probability of a table spontaneously levitating.

It's not impossible, just terribly unlikely.

But although scientists and artists may look at different things and think in different ways, they are both human. Their creative instincts are surely similar, whether the artist is celebrating something or someone beautiful or interesting in a painting, or the scientist is getting to the bottom of a longstanding mystery. Both activities are extraordinarily difficult to do accurately and well, gracefully and simply. When you see these things done well, it looks effortless and obvious - inevitable. Rightly do we call "geniuses" the men and women who have such gifts. For example, Isaac Newton (1643-1727) and Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 -

1750) were approximate contemporaries. (Did Newton ever hear the Brandenburg concertos of 1721?) There is one curious difference between the scientist and the musician. Today, you can hear Bach's works performed every day of the year (or you could queue for hours for a glimpse of the Mona Lisa), whereas hardly anyone bothers to read what Newton wrote. And whereas if Bach or Mozart never lived, there would be no Brandenburg concertos or Marriage of Figaro, it is certain that Newton's explanations of the Universe would have been discovered by others. There is something actual, concrete and particular about works of art that scientific ideas don't have, although the experiments that lead to the ideas are another matter.

But few experiments last the way poems do. I suppose that at least the story of Newton's apple lives on, and it's as true today as it was in the 17th century that hardly anyone would connect a bump on the head from a falling fruit with the precise explanation for the moon's orbit.

I met Gabi Seethaler through a mutual (scientific) acquaintance, very much enjoyed having my photo taken and was very pleased with the result. Also intrigued: my face is seen in a mirror, so is this the way I normally see myself? And out of her bag, Gabi produced a small tube with a swizzle stick for scraping the mouth.

Miraculously, human DNA as well as bacterial transferred to the cotton wool, and thanks to the polymerase chain reaction and advances in DNA sequencing, a unique fingerprint emerged. I have no idea what this means, or how it informed or inspired the piece of music on which it is based. Nor what the piece will sound like. I don't know if this is Art or Science, but who cares, if it's fun.

Tim Hunt, Nobel Prize laureate of Medicine, 2001

South Mimms, 25 July, 2002.


   Many thanks to our sponsor: Applied Biosystems.


© mirror-portraits: Gabriele Seethaler

© musical identities: Renald Deppe

© genetic fingerprints: Franz Neuhuber

© 2009 Gabriele Seethaler