In the near future it will be possible to change certain body characteristics by ingesting a virus (viral vector). Already today, gene therapy makes it possible to specifically replace defective or harmful genetic information in certain body cells by introducing a modified virus into the body. Researchers are already reporting initial successes in such a treatment of HIV, cancer and liver diseases.

Pigmentan is a product with which you can change your own skin colour. This product is used by different people in different ways. A fictitious person is interested in the social and political questions raised by such a product and starts to collect everything related to this topic from his environment. In doing so, she finds people who have used Pigmentan in their own unique way. She interviews them and takes portraits of them. Then she correlates the portraits with her findings. She also asks for photographs of the people she photographs. These, together with the essence of the interviews, are placed next to the portraits and found objects.

The colour pigments of our skin (melanin) are produced under our skin in the melanyocytes. The enzyme tyrosinase stimulates the production of melanin, the hormone melatonin in turn regulates the breakdown of melanin in the skin. In our future scenario, we therefore assume that we can ingest a viral vector that specifically modifies the DNA in such a way that enzymes are formed to regulate melanin production. This will either stimulate melanin production in the melanocytes or break down melanin in the skin cells.

Victor Hartman has dark skin. In his home village he was constantly confronted with narrow-minded racism. Media and pop culture rarely show black role models who are not clichés. He has the feeling that ideals of beauty in his environment are almost exclusively white. Therefore he can rarely be satisfied with his innate skin colour. For fear of not having the same opportunities as others because of his skin colour, he decides to come as close as possible to the beauty ideals of our society. For this purpose he used Pigmentan several times.

Han Le is a feminist activist and biohacker. In her actions she tries to draw attention to how harmful unattainable one-sided beauty ideals can be for the individual. She is angry at an industry that derives much of its profit from consumer insecurity.  In her self-experiment, she herself altered some gene sections of the Pigmentan virus in such a way that it reproduces only to a limited extent. She injected it under the skin on her forehead. Her intention is to call for creativity in dealing with new scientific achievements and not to go with the flow.

Max Bastian was often bullied in his youth because of his freckles. He often felt uncomfortable in his skin. When he first heard about Pigmentan, he wanted to try it right away. Within a very short time the pigment spots had disappeared. He is now satisfied with his appearance and looks calmly into the past, although he sometimes hears voices regretting the disappearance of his former “trademark”.

Manifest by Maximilan Bastian


Karl Russel &
Maximilian Bastian