Eduardo Kac's Bunny Magic
by Mohamet Ben-Abdul
Magician, mad scientist, and avant garde artist Eduardo Kac pulled another trick from his hat last year, a
bio-engineered bunny named Alba which glows in the dark...
Using the facilities of the French artist and curator Louis Bec, and two scientists, Louis-Marie Houdebine and
Patrick Prunnet, of the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, France, Eduardo managed to add genes of
some phospherescent jellyfish to the embryo that was Alba some time ago, and produced a glow-in-the dark rabbit.
All for the sake of art.
Some quoted sources..
As a transgenic artist, I am not interested in the creation of genetic objects, but on the invention of
transgenic social subjects. In other words, what is important is the completely integrated process of
creating the bunny, bringing her to society at large, and providing her with a loving, caring, and
nurturing environment in which she can grow safe and healthy.
My answer is to make a concerted effort to remain truly open to the participant's choices and
behaviors, to give up a substantial portion of control over the experience of the work, to accept the
experience as-it-happens as a transformative field of possibilities, to learn from it, to grow with it, to
be transformed along the way.
...and with it the fear of banalization and abuse of genetic engineering. This fear is legitimate,
historically grounded, and must be addressed. Contributing to the problem, companies often employ
empty rhetorical strategies to persuade the public, thus failing to engage in a serious debate that
acknowledges both the problems and benefits of the technology.
This is where art can also be of great social value. Since the domain of art is symbolic even when
intervening directly in a given context, art can contribute to reveal the cultural implications of the
revolution underway and offer different ways of thinking about and with biotechnology.
Alba is a white albino rabbit. She only glows if exposed to regular blue light. She does not glow
Eduardo Kac Eduardo Kac is an artist and writer who investigates the philosophical and political
dimensions of communications processes. Equally concerned with the aesthetic and the social aspects
of verbal and non-verbal interaction, Kac examines linguistic systems, dialogic exchanges and
Kac's pieces, which often link virtual and physical spaces, propose alternative ways of understanding
the cultural implications of communication processes. Internationally known in the '80s as a pioneer
of holopoetry and telepresence art, in the '90s Kac created the new categories of biotelematics (art in
which a biological process is intrinsically connected to digital networks) and transgenic art (art
based on the use of genetic engineering techniques to create unique living beings)
The news appeared first in the Boston Globe (September 17, 2000) later in 2000 was covered by
Peter Jennings on ABC.
There has been endless discussions on the ethical aspects of this art trick, but I, for one, look forward to the day
when I will turn on my car headlights and see bunnies flitting away which will keep bounding about as ghosts in
the dark when I turn the lights off again. This will certainly reduce the roadkill on country roads, to the detriment of
the opposum population, but then, coyotes will be able to hunt at night.
Of course we don't know what genes were traded for the glow in the dark propensity; these rabbits might have
sharp teeth, or no liver. And we don't realy know what has been accomplished. Perhaps we are being subjected to
some art hat-trick.
Let's consider the possibilities:
Heraclitus suggested that,
"Either things seem and are;
or they seem to be, yet are not;
or they seem not to be, yet are;
or they seem not, and are not."
So let's ask, "Might not all rabbits glow in the dark?" That could very well be. We may not be aware of it, nor Kac.
Then the art trick is no trick at all.
Or perhaps Kac is being fooled with an afterimage of a rabbit after he turns off the lights, and genuinely believes
that he has created a glow-in-the-dark bunny.
Then again, it is quite possible that Alba does not glow in the dark; we are just being told so, and we believe what
we are told about Alba glowing in the dark. This would serve Kac's purposes just as well. Who is to know any
I, for one, have no objections to the situational ethics of producing green-glowing bunnies. The gene has been used
for years as a marker, and is apparently harmless (barring the possibility of Alba's excessively sharp teeth). Nor do I
object to this type of experiment on a larger scale. I think those who would object feel that we cannot guide God's
slow hand in the rearrangement of molecules over the course of billions of years. But this is a teleological viewpoint
which contradicts the tenets of the doctrine of Evolution: the fact that evolution is a random undirected process. It
serves no purpose at all; we are here by luck, not by design.
In fact the earth has been a caldron of genetic change, as seen by the life forms we have today. Kac's bunny is
going to make little difference. More harm has been done by importing plant and animal species from other
continents. More harm has been done by importing selenium extracting plants from the East Coast to Wyoming,
where large tracts of land are now poisoned to all animals.
Alba is not the issue at all. Kac's art is not about bunnies, it is about attempting to engage in a dialogue, and, I
suspect, one perhaps as self serving and reductive as, "The more publicity, the better." Kac is an entrancing talker.
On the other hand -- to continue on to Heraclitus' fourth hypothesis -- art isn't about dialogue, or social issues, or
political positions anymore. Two decades of such misguided "art" has demonstrated this. Then what is Kac doing?
Well, he is selling bunny posters.
At Julia Friedman Gallery, to be shown May 2002:
"Eduardo Kac, GFP Bunny," described as..
A series of photographs and videos on the theme of the Alba global scandal will be the centerpiece of
the show, including Le monde (front page), The Chicago Tribune (full page), The Boston Globe (front
page), San Francisco Chronicle (front page), Der Spiegel (full page), and ABC News - World News
Tonight with Peter Jennings. A series of "GFP Bunny-Paris Intervention" posters posted by Kac all
over Paris (that have shown in New York, Germany and Seattle) will also be included.
... Still in December, Kac also engaged the public directly through a series of lectures (Sorbonne,
Ecole Normale Superior, Ecole Superior des Beaux Arts, Forum des Images) and through face-
to-face conversations on the street sparked by the public's interest. Kac also held several private
meetings with French intellectuals. In total, Kac reached approximately 1.5 million people (about
half of the population of Paris).
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