The Human Race Machine

The Human Race Machine

Today in class a couple of students cited Nancy Burson as an inspiration for their projects. Nancy Burson was also an inspiration for me. While conducting research on her works, I came across a piece she created entitled the Human Race Machine. With the Human Race Machine, participants faces are morphed to resemble a face of another race. It is primarily used as a diversity tool to discuss issues of race, ethnicity, and identity. The message behind it is that there is no gene for race and that the notion of of one’s race is a social construct, not a genetic concept.

Description from site:

What Would You Look Like As Another Race?
Originally developed as a commission for the Millennium Dome in London in 2000, Human Race Machines have been crisscrossing the US in appearances on college and university campuses since 2003.
Primarily used as a diversity tool to discuss issues of race and ethnicity, they are a perfect tool to examine ones personal identity. They have also appeared in many science museums nation wide and have been featured in all forms of media including segments on Oprah, Good Morning America, CNN, National Public Radio, PBS, and Fuji TV News, as well as countless local TV channels in the USA. Prominent articles featuring the Human Race Machine have appeared in The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Houston Chronicle, and Scientific American Magazine to name a few.
The concept of race is not genetic, but social. There is no gene for race. In 2005, there was a gene that was identified for skin color, but that was only skin deep. Skin color is simply a reflection of the amount and distribution of the pigment melanin and humans are all alike underneath their skin. This newly found gene involves a change of just one letter of DNA code out of the 3.1 billion letters in the human genome — the complete instructions that comprise a human being. We are, in fact, all 99.9% alike.
The Human Race Machine gives us the opportunity to have a unique personal experience of being other than what we are, allowing us to move beyond our differences. We are all one race, the human one; one nationality called humanity. We are all the different hues of man.


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