Photo: Chrystelle Fontaine via Eduardo Kac (though whether the rabbit did glow so brightly and uniformly has been challenged)
What do you get if you cross a bunny rabbit, some jellyfish genes and a madcap Brazilian bio-artist? Alba, the glowing green rabbit. Yes, we know, it’s an oldie, but it’s a goodie too, and one that’s worth retelling, if only to see what became of the bunny. In 2000, artist Eduardo Kac commissioned a French genetics lab to make his genetically modified creation by implanting the albino rabbit with Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) from a type of jellyfish. Under a certain blue light, Alba literally glowed green.
Controversy was never far from this art-meets-science experiment. The rabbit, viewed by Kac as a socio-cultural being – “an animal that does not exist in nature” – was to be taken home by the artist after a brief spell in an art installation. But under the growing media glare, the scientists decided the rabbit was staying put in the lab and distanced themselves from Kac. In 2002, it was announced that Alba had died, a claim that was hotly disputed by the artist, as rabbits can live for 12 years. Still, dead or alive, Alba’s memory shines on like a long-life light bulb.