The Madness of pResident George
Just received this from a friend in London. It needs your support.
STOP PRESS: ART IS NOT TERRORISM
Come and give your support, Friday July 9th, from 19.00 onwards
The Courtroom, Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS
Urgent benefit to raise funds for the LEGAL DEFENCE of artist and academic Steve Kurtz and members of the CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE, currently appearing before a grand jury and likely to be indicted on June 29th 2004 on trumped-up charges of bioterrorism.
Barry Schwabsky (art critic, co-editor international reviews, Artforum), Warren Neidich (NY artist, visiting artist Goldsmiths College) and Anjalika Sagar (UK artist), with the Arts Catalyst and ArtsAdmin invite you to join us in an unmissable gathering of artists, academics and concerned individuals to help raise the legal costs of Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble.
Drinks, food donated by *Story organic deli, celebrity speakers to be announced, music, performance, and exclusive footage of Steve Kurtz speaking at London's Natural History Museum. If you are interested in art and the freedom of knowledge this is the time to lend your support.
Please let us know if you are planning to come: 020 7375 3690 or e-mail here
For further background read Clare Pentecost's excellent essay
Organisational help from: www.artscatalyst.org
What happened to Steve Kurtz?
Art becomes the next suspect in America's 9/11 paranoia
On May 10 Steven Kurtz went to bed a married art professor. On May 11 he woke up a widower. By the afternoon he was under federal investigation for bioterrorism.
What began as a personal tragedy for Mr Kurtz has turned into what many believe is, at best, an overreaction prompted by 9/11 paranoia and, at worst, a politically motivated attempt to silence a radical artist.
The ordeal started when Mr Kurtz, who teaches at the University at Buffalo, New York state, called the emergency services when he woke up to find Hope, his wife of 25 years, had stopped breathing.
A paramedic who came to his house saw laboratory equipment used in Mr Kurtz's art work. Within hours agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force were combing his house and had seized his books, personal papers, computer as well as his work which have still not been returned.
Hope, it transpired, had died of a heart failure which no one suggests had anything to do with Mr Kurtz or his work. But as her body lay in the house Mr Kurtz, 46, was whisked off to be questioned for two days while his home was cordoned off and searched. The FBI refuses to comment.
Mr Kurtz, who is not speaking to the press, is part of the Critical Art Ensemble, "dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics and critical theory".
His art often involves blending biology with agricultural issues. In 2002 his exhibit Molecular Invasion, a statement against genetically modified crops, created a display of small soy, corn and canola plants growing under large incubating lamps. Other exhibits allowed visitors to watch bacteria grow in petri dishes. "He's trying to change the world through his work and
his discourse," says Adele Henderson, the head of the art department at the University at Buffalo. When the police came to Mr Kurtz's house they found equipment used for extracting and amplifying DNA, as well as three types of bacteria - prompting bioterrorism fears. "He is obviously not someone who is attempting to make a weapon," says Mr Cambria. "He explained that he uses the equipment for his art."
The subpoenas say the FBI is seeking charges under section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the Patriot Act. It prohibits the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose". Mr Cambria argues that Mr Kurtz's work "obviously" comes under the last two categories.
"I know everything we did was legal," said Beatriz da Costa, a member of the CAE who says FBI agents followed her to an art show in Massachusetts to serve her a subpoena. "I can only think they are trying to intimidate us and maybe make us an example." Ms da Costa, a professor at the University of California, says everything found in the house has been exhibited in public before.