Thoughtworks Arts

Suppressed Images

Residency Season: Fall 2016

Project Team

Suppressed Images is a graphic short story which documents a collaboration between Chelsea Manning and Heather Dewey-Hagborg on the artwork Radical Love.

The cover with two hand-inked faces and the text “Suppressed Images”
The cover pane for Suppressed Images

While incarcerated in military prison, Chelsea sent cheek swabs to Heather, who sampled the DNA and produced 3D-printed masks as portraits. The masks gave Chelsea a form of public visibility, at a time when no other images of her could be taken or shared.

Suppressed Images documents this collaboration, illustrating Heather’s technique for converting DNA samples into physical portraits. The story goes on to explore nuances and risks associated with use of the technology.

Example sections of the comic book
Sample images from the Suppressed Images graphic story

The graphic story was written by Chelsea Manning and Heather Dewey-Hagborg, and illustrated by Shoili Kanungo, a designer with Thoughtworks India. It’s hand-drawn ink presentation and comic style opened up the story to new audiences. The story was published at in the final week of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The final pane of the story includes a speculative twist in which Chelsea’s sentence is commuted and, now free, is able to attend a showing of Heather’s work. This twist spectacularly came true shortly after the story’s publication, and the show took place at Fridman Gallery in New York, opening August 2017.

Many face masks hanging from a gallery ceiling
Portraits based on Chelsea Manning’s DNA exhibited at Fridman Gallery in 2017

The unconventional collaboration at Thoughtworks and the subsequent show, which Chelsea attended, were written up in the New York Times, ArtForum, New Yorker, HyperAllergic, the Guardian, ArtNet, Reuters, Huffington Post and Vice.