“Carnal Light” with Eva Hayward, parallax 66.
“Alba” means glowing white and also a song sung to meet the dawn, inviting us to imagine breaking fast with glowing light. Alba also names a luminescent, transgenic rabbit adopted by bioartist Eduardo Kac. Corporeal kinds of luminosity and fluorescence define Alba’s status as a “tranimal,” that is, an organism animated by trans-formations of life. Tranimals, transformations, and transgenics emerge as manifestations of genetic drift that do not redound to health and progressive intervention. Alba’s flesh becomes light; her glow is refracted through soma, making bodies literally “somalumenal.” Light is no longer an extraterrestrial force of heavenly bodies, but an effulgence bound to meatier substrates. This “carnal light” offers a supplemental reading of visuality not rooted in reflection, refraction, and diffraction of solar light to illuminate discourse. Soma recalls non-reproductive, but still generative, tissue, suggesting how somalumenals might displace hetero-normative processes, and hetero-normative futures.
Taking Alba as a starting point, this paper follows the Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) gene as it moves through labs (Kac 2000), kitchens (Critical Art Ensemble 2002), medicine (ANDi 2000), and visual technologies and into the bodies of multiple organisms, including humans. We distinguish the politics of visibility from the technologies of visuality, asking how the bodies of GFP-donor jellyfish are visualizing but invisibilized forces, even as GFP-host animals steal headlines. GFP hosts and donors reveal the carnality and radiance of naturecultures by welcoming us to a messy, multi-disciplinary table where we are eating light.