Natasha Lushetich

Patricia Piccinni, The Carrier, 2012

Transgenic art is a mode of genetic inscription that negotiates a terrain between science and culture.  Without exception, it produces chimera in all three senses of the word: the mythological (the classical Chimera is the fire-spouting monster with the head of a lion and the tail of a serpent), the improbable (in the Oxford Dictionary definition a chimera is an ‘illusion or fabrication of the mind’), and the scientific (where the word refers to any organism that incorporates discrete populations of cells with different genomes, whether of an allogeneic or xenogeneic kind).

Spanning the work of the late 20th-century transgenic artists this paper engages three radically different conceptions of human-animal relations: Bataille’s animality as immanence; Heidegger’s tripartite division of life into plants (which are ‘worldless’), animals (which are ‘poor in the world’) and humans (who are ‘world-forming’); and Derrida’s state of exception which refers to the beast and the sovereign but excludes ‘ordinary humans’. Through this multilogue, the paper argues against the notion of trans-genetically created animals as anomals – liminal, anomalous creatures whose animality is negated or obliterated by biocapital. Instead, it proposes that chimerical animals highlight the contiguity of life by exposing the somatic-social-cultural nexus while simultaneously questioning the ethics of pan-existence (and thus not the Leviansian face-to-face encounter).

→ The Human-Animal Boundary