Originally published online in Digibodies Online Exhibition, curated by Nina Czegledy and presented in collaboration with InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, Toronto, Canada, Ludwig Museum Budapest/Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest, Hungary, and C3 Center for Culture & Communication, Budapest, Hungary, 2000: http://www.digibodies.org/online.

GFP Bunny

Michelle Kasprzak

Genetic engineering has incited much debate. But while activists picket, big business quietly investigates, and
intellectuals issue grave warnings, art has taken its usual place poking sticks in the eyes of all positions. The
GFP Bunny, or if we are to be more familiar, Alba, introduces us to all important facets of the debate in one
stroke. Alba is of interest to intellectuals, because she is a fascinating scientific experiment. She is of interest to
big business, because designer pets are already becoming a profitable market. She is also of interest to
activists, who would have blocked her very creation if it was within their power. But Alba is of greatest interest to
visionaries who understand that phenomena such as this little bunny will only increase in number. Kac is wise
to stress that the bunny will be loved, and will return to Chicago to be doted on by his wife and his child. For
while he has created what is termed a transgenic artwork it is more soothing to the general public to hear it
termed a pet. There can be no accusations of cruelty if Alba lives out her days in a comfortable home in Chicago
with no end of sugarlumps and carrots. Kac shrewdly shows Alba as an artwork in an environment "designed to
maximize her comfort." By taking these steps, the most obvious criticisms can be deflected.

However, some intellectuals and activists would accuse genetic engineers and their collaborators of "playing
God," still finding fault with the creation of Alba. The concerns of these groups are not without gravity, but Kac is
able to defend himself again. Kac's initial investigations involved the possible creation of a dog, and in these
explorations he referenced the history of dog breeding and argued that genetic manipulation was no more
intrusive than these other methods of determining the characteristics of an animal before its birth. Without
digressing into the history of animal companionship, slavery, and other power struggles, however, we can see
that opposition arises not only from legitimate concerns, but from an uncomfortable stirring in our own
consciences. How does dog breeding differ from genetically engineering dogs? If you can have a better dog,
why wouldn't you want a better child? Better fruits and vegetables? A better self?

The story of Alba is not only about surface judgements, such as whether or not you are happy with your large
nose or your unremarkable children, but human capacity for change. Directing destiny requires vision, and must
be accomplished by force. Choosing direction instead of accepting fate involves great risks. Taking
responsibility for these kinds of risks requires bravery. Kac has executed his vision and accepted responsibility
for it, and in doing so reminded us of our own everyday machinations when we separate the word "genetic" from

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