Originally published in Flash Art, November-December 2000, p. 49.

The GFP Bunny

Will the term Transgenic Art be found alongside those studied by art history students in the near future? Chicago-based artist Eduardo Kac thinks so. With the assistance of genetic scientists, Kac introduced green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish into the genes of an albino rabbit to create Alba, the glowing bunny. White under normal conditions, Alba emits a fluorescent green glow under a blue light. For Kac, this three-part artwork consists of Alba herself, the dialogue this project generates in the public domain, and her eventual integration into his family as a pet.

By living with Alba, his goal is literally to bring genetic engineering into the home. Kac explains, "The idea was that the public would come and find us together. Instead of finding a genetic object, they would find a subject in a relationship (Alba and I together), in a social context." As the rabbit is now in France, where she was conceived, the project is not yet fully realized - Kac is working through the bureaucratic process which will enable her to come to his home in the United States.

While rabbits and science are readily associated, Alba's genetic anomaly has no practical function other than to visually signify a work of art, and Kac's status as an artist has certainly helped fuel an atmosphere of alarm and mistrust among the project's critics. Kac, however, points out that humans have selectively bred for aesthetics for centuries, and that his careful use of a molecular 'palette' has made it uniquely possible to render an accessible, concise, and cuddly portrait of the growing debate over genetic engineering. And what does Alba think of her bizarre hue? I'll bet she's glad green is fashionable this season. More information about "GFP Bunny" and related projects can be found at www.ekac.org.

-Susan Giles

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