I have a bone to pick, and it’s that there are so many possibilities for amazing artwork that never gets made because of a lack of access to the proper materials and equipment. Maybe I just want more science with my art. (Though I’ll be the first to admit that my sciencing is at best armchair science, and even that’s pretty generous.)
Anyway. The reason I’m a little miffed about this is that I’ve been mulling over fingerprints for a while and a couple project ideas that have to do with them.
When I was about eleven, I cut off part of the tip of my left index finger. It was an embarrassingly stupid accident, and it altered my fingerprint irreversibly. Before the accident, my fingerprint was an ulnar loop, as all of the digits of my left hand are, but ever since, it’s a whorl (excepting the huge chunk of scar tissue).
Lately, I’ve been wondering about intentionally altering my fingerprints. Would it be possible to “design” a fingerprint? Not just change it, but to alter it in such a way as to guarantee an outcome? Could I have letters instead of whorls, loops, and arches?
With some research, it seems like it *might* be possible, but also seems like it’s something that hasn’t been done before. It would involve creating a mosaic of the tissue and glands on my fingertips to form the letters, which HAS been done (pretty much only in an illegal setting—people altering their fingerprints to evade law enforcement), but it’s the ability to predict the outcome and get fine details that seems near impossible. I might have to investigate further, if I can figure out who to talk to that would have answers. A plastic surgeon? Someone within law enforcement?
Alternatively, the research has pointed to a way around this: Faking the fingerprints using latex. And considering my objective is to attain a realistic looking PRINT, and not necessarily a realistic looking finger, then this method might be the way to go (even though I am still curious.) I do always tend to lean more towards actually doing something instead of faking it (aka I’d rather take a photo of a situation than photoshop it), but in this instance, I suppose using liquid latex would be a suitable alternative to plastic surgery of questionable legality.
Second idea: Equating the friction ridges that comprise a fingerprint to the ridges that make a vinyl record functional. If you listen closely while you run your finger across a surface (for me the one that caught my attention was a somewhat coarse fabric), there’s a tone. The distance between the ridges is not constant, allowing for variations in tone as it moves across the surface. Would it be possible to “play” someone’s fingerprint? Would there be any chance of a recognizable tune in a naturally occurring print?
I’m thinking the best way to investigate this matter would be to take a three-dimensional scan of fingerprints (thus the rant about access to equipment: Where does a broke art girl get access to this sort of equipment?) I think the next step, to prove the hypothesis, would be to input the scan into a program that would convert it into a sound file (I’m going to guess that this sort of program must exist within the recording industry, though I haven’t yet researched what it is and where to find it) and ensure that what results from multiple sets of prints isn’t just indecipherable white noise. I don’t expect my fingers to play “Mary Has a Little Lamb”, but I would hope for a notable difference in sound between my fingerprints and yours.
If that stage is successful, I would then take the scan and create a large 3D print (oh, why do 3D printers need to be so expensive?!) in a format that could then be played on any standard record player.
This could then tie into the idea of deliberately altering fingerprints: If you can indeed get a recognizable and distinct tone from different fingerprints, could you then go backwards and “design” a finger print based on an audiophile? Could I have it so my middle fingerprint would play “Yakkety Sax” if pulled in this manner?
Much research to do. And no, my mad scientisting won’t go so far as to homespun plastic surgery. I’m not that great with a needle, anyway.
(The best source on detailed info regarding fingerprint alteration and the mechanics behind how natural fingerprints form is a study done by Jianjiang Feng, Anil K. Jain, and Arun Ross)