TRANSGENETIČNI ALBINO ZEC EDUARDA KACA
Writer/Director Richard Kelly does not deny personal interpretations, but has expressed his own theories through the extra commentary on the two DVDs, his own (fictional) book the Philosophy of Time Travel, and in various other interviews.
According to Kelly and his Philosophy of Time Travel, at midnight on October 2 a Tangent Universe branches off the Primary Universe around the time when Donnie is called out of his bedroom by Frank, immediately before the appearance of the Artifact, the faulty jet engine. The inherently unstable Tangent Universe will collapse in just over 28 days and take the Primary Universe with it if not corrected. Closing the Tangent Universe is the duty of the Living Receiver, Donnie, who wields certain supernatural powers to help him in the task.
Those who have died/will die within the Tangent Universe (and would not have died otherwise) are the Manipulated Dead (Frank and Gretchen). Manipulated Dead Frank, at least, is also given certain powers in that he is able to subtly understand what is happening and have the ability to contact and influence the Living Receiver via the Fourth Dimensional Construct (water). All others within the orbit of the Living Receiver are the Manipulated Living (e.g. Ms. Pomeroy, Dr. Monnitoff), subconsciously drawn to push him towards his destiny to close the Tangent Universe and, according to the Philosophy of Time Travel, die by the Artifact.
There are two "Franks" in the story: the living boyfriend of Donnie's sister Elizabeth, and the Manipulated Dead Frank who appears to Donnie as a premonition from the future in the disturbing rabbit suit (the second Frank is dead, or undead; at the end of the film he is killed by Donnie). Dead Frank is aware of Donnie's fate and destiny.
Eduardo Kac, an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, is an artist and writer who is concerned with philosophical and political dimensions of communication processes. Many of his recent works utilize transgenic mutations to explore the complex relationships between biology, ethics, and technology, and to challenge received notions of nature and culture.
‘Alba’ is a transgenic albino rabbit: She contains a jellyfish gene that makes her glow green when illuminated with the correct light. Alba was created by French scientists who injected green fluorescent protein (GFP) of a Pacific Northwest jellyfish into the fertilized egg of an albino rabbit.
Born in April 2000, the rabbit is part of a transgenic art project called “GFP Bunny” by Chicago artist Eduardo Kac. The project not only comprises the creation of the fluorescent rabbit, but also the public dialogue generated by the project and the integration of the transgenic animal into society.
“GFP Bunny” has raised many ethical questions and sparked an international controversy about whether Alba should be considered art at all. “Transgenic art brings out a debate on important social issues surrounding genetics that are affecting and will affect everyone’s lives decades to come,” Kac is quoted as saying.
Kac is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Some of his work is featured in “Gene(sis): Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics” at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, Washington, an exhibition that runs from April 4 to August 28, 2002.
Current projects and more artwork can be viewed at Eduardo Kac’s Home Page
Q. You have said that through your work you hope to stimulate a dialogue among artists, scientists, philosophers, and members of the general public about the cultural and ethical implications resulting from the application of knowledge gained through genetic research. Can you give an example?
A. Humankind has always been fascinated by the ancient image of the chimera, a creature like the sphinx or the centaur, that combines body parts from at least two different species. Lab scientists have created chimeras by mixing cells from different species for research purposes. I conceived "GFP Bunny", an artwork that would begin with the creation of a chimerical animal, that does not exist in nature, and that would stimulate a series of complex social interactions. In this case I use the word "chimerical" in the sense of a cultural tradition of imaginary animals, not in the scientific connotation of an organism in which there is a mixture of cells in the body.
Q. What is "GFP Bunny?"
A: My transgenic artwork "GFP Bunny" comprises the creation of a green fluorescent rabbit, the public dialogue generated by the project, and the social integration of the rabbit. GFP stands for green fluorescent protein. Her name is Alba. Basically she's a typical white albino rabbit, who has a genetic sequence that allows her whole body, from the tips of her ears to her hind paws, to glow a fluorescent green color when she is placed under regular blue light. Alba means white, which highlights the fact that under regular environmental conditions she is a white albino rabbit like any other. In certain languages Alba also means dawn, which sests a new beginning. Her name was arrived by consensus in conversation with my wife and my daughter.
Q. How did you create the "GFP Bunny" artwork?
A. My work would not have been possible without the assistance of Louis Bec, director of the Digital Avignon festival, realized in France in 2000, and Louis Marie Houdebine, the lead scientist in the project.
Scientists have known for some time that they could copy the gene that produces the fluorescent protein obtained from a species of fluorescent jellyfish called Aequorea victoria and insert it into other host genomes. Then they can use it as a marker to trace and study the effectiveness of these gene or protein agents as they manifest themselves in the body. For example scientists have added this green fluorescent gene to anti-cancer genes, so that they can be observed under an external light source.
In the case of Alba we used a process called zygote microinjection, inserting the fluorescent protein gene from the jellyfish into the male pronucleous of a fertilized rabbit egg cell (before fusion). The male pronucleus is the nucleus provided by the sperm before fusion with the nucleus of the egg. As the cell divided, the "green gene" also replicated itself in every cell of the developing rabbit embryo. In February 2000 Alba was born in France. I visited her for the first time in April and intend to bring her back home with me to live with my family.
Q. Your work has sparked an international controversy which, you have made clear, was part of your intention. Could you tell us about it?
A. The artist makes it evident for the general public that molecular biology is not a rarefied language spoken by experts beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. The work of the artist is a stimulus for lay debate. Through accessible visual means, the work of the artist assists the general public in understanding how close the consequences of the biotech revolution are to the individual. The artist reinforces the discussion. In art the question is not "what has already been done in the scientific arena", because the emphasis is not on a given process and its result. In art the key gesture is one of cognitive intervention at a symbolic, not only practical, level. It is urgent to conceptualize and experience other, more dignified relationships with our transgenic other. "GFP Bunny" addresses this need by bringing the transgenic mammal into society, into the domestic space, into a sphere of personal relationships.
Q. Have you done work other than "GFP Bunny" that addresses some of these issues?
A. "GFP Bunny" is my second work of transgenic art. In 1999 I created "Genesis", an installation that explores the relationship between biology, belief systems, technology and ethics. (see the Paradise Now gallery)
For the installation I began with what I consider to be a very troublesome sentence from the book of Genesis: "Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." I translated the sentence into Morse Code and then devised a way to translate that into a series of DNA base pairs. The gene that resulted was incorporated into bacteria which is on display in the gallery and is also visible on a Website. Every time someone logs onto the Website he or she can turn on an ultraviolet light in the gallery, which in turn causes biological mutations in the bacteria, thus changing the original biblical text. The bacteria are brought back to the lab after the show and the mutated sentence is posted online. These changes symbolize the fact that we no longer accept the sentence in the form it was handed down to us. New meanings emerge as we examine it. We do not know what these meanings will be, neither can we control them. The process of creation of "Genesis" can be thought as a snapshot of where we are now socially in regards to biotechnology and culture.
Q. What is the relationship between biology and art in your work?
A. I am interested in sharing social space with transgenic individuals, i.e., in establishing dialogic interaction with transgenic beings. I use genetics as a reflection on how close we are to other fellow mammals. The presence of a human gene in a pig, for example, is evidence that we are much closer to other mammals than we thought. Understanding this serves as a powerful reminder that differences among humans are truly minimal.
Transgenic art does open a new practical horizon for artmaking, but perhaps its most important contributions are made elsewhere. Transgenic art imparts a cognitive change regarding the way we feel about and understand the very notion of life, considering it at the crossroads between belief systems, economic principles, legal parameters, political directives, cultural constructs, and scientific laws. Transgenic art brings out a debate on important social issues surrounding genetics that are affecting and will affect everyone's lives decades to come (if not forever). Art is philosophy in the wild, an inquiry about the world that takes the form of perceptible phenomena (as distinct from purely verbal discourse, as in literary philosophy). Aesthetics, in the case of transgenic art, is directly connected to the social dimension of art. --