more on steve kurtz

Posted by joy garnett | Wed Jun 2nd 2004 7:57 a.m.

found this morning via reBlog
http://www.eyebeam.org/reblog/

orig. from: http://joi.ito.com/

>
June 02, 2004
Email from artist suspected by FBI of bioterrorism
08:25 JST Art - Health and Medicine - US Policy and Politics

In the comments on an earlier post on this blog about an artist suspected
by the FBI of bioterrorism, there was a great deal of speculation about
the incident and the facts. (Read the link above to my previous post for
the background.) I emailed the artist, Steven Kurtz, asking him for the
facts, and here is his reply.

Posted with permission.

Steve Kurtz
Hi Joi,

Its a long and complex story.

To shorten it:

I was detained for 22 hours by the FBI
They seized my wife's body, house, cat and car.
These items were released a week later
In the house they seized computers, science equipment, chunks of my
library, teaching files,
I-D, and all my research for a new book.
The only thing I have gotten back is my wife's birth certificate
On Sunday, two members of CAE got summons to appear before a Grand
Jury. (This is bad. It
means I will be charged. Grand Jury is a closed court--only the FBI
gets to present its case).
The Grand Jury will meet on June 15
In all proabability, I will be arrested shortly thereafter.

Best,
Steve/CAE

more:
http://joi.ito.com/archives/2004/06/02/email_from_artist_suspected_by_fbi_of_bioterrorism.html
  • Rachel Greene | Wed Jun 2nd 2004 10 a.m.
    What do you think we can do to support Steve? Has anyone seen an FBI
    address where we can send letters of support or some such? A judge? I
    will see what I can find out from the folks at rtmark. - Rachel

    On Jun 2, 2004, at 9:56 AM, Joy Garnett wrote:

    >
    >
    > found this morning via reBlog
    > http://www.eyebeam.org/reblog/
    >
    > orig. from: http://joi.ito.com/
    >
    >>
    > June 02, 2004
    > Email from artist suspected by FBI of bioterrorism
    > 08:25 JST Art - Health and Medicine - US Policy and Politics
    >
    > In the comments on an earlier post on this blog about an artist
    > suspected by the FBI of bioterrorism, there was a great deal of
    > speculation about the incident and the facts. (Read the link above to
    > my previous post for the background.) I emailed the artist, Steven
    > Kurtz, asking him for the facts, and here is his reply.
    >
    > Posted with permission.
    >
    > Steve Kurtz
    > Hi Joi,
    >
    > Its a long and complex story.
    >
    > To shorten it:
    >
    > I was detained for 22 hours by the FBI
    > They seized my wife's body, house, cat and car.
    > These items were released a week later
    > In the house they seized computers, science equipment, chunks of
    > my library, teaching files,
    > I-D, and all my research for a new book.
    > The only thing I have gotten back is my wife's birth certificate
    > On Sunday, two members of CAE got summons to appear before a Grand
    > Jury. (This is bad. It
    > means I will be charged. Grand Jury is a closed court--only the
    > FBI gets to present its case).
    > The Grand Jury will meet on June 15
    > In all proabability, I will be arrested shortly thereafter.
    >
    > Best,
    > Steve/CAE
    >
    > more:
    > http://joi.ito.com/archives/2004/06/02/
    > email_from_artist_suspected_by_fbi_of_bioterrorism.html
    > +
    > -> post: list@rhizome.org
    > -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    > -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    > -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    > -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org web site is open to non-members
    > +
    > Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    > Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
    >
  • Kanarinka | Wed Jun 2nd 2004 10:34 a.m.
    I'm not sure Eric has agreed yet, but it was suggested on the
    new-media-curating list that he draft a letter of support for Steve that we
    could all sign --- I'm posting the thread below:

    ---------------------------------

    I'm forwarding this from a note I got from Ray Thomas of RTMark.

    Ray Writes:
    This is a great idea--definitely should happen. Ray Thomas could start the
    letter but thinks it would be better for all kinds of reasons if Eric
    Kluitenberg did. Eric?

    ray

    Patrick Lichty
    Editor-In-Chief
    Intelligent Agent Magazine
    http://www.intelligentagent.com
    355 Seyburn Dr.
    Baton Rouge, LA 70808

    "It is better to die on your feet
    than to live on your knees."

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/
    [mailto:NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of patrick lichty
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 10:36 PM
    To: NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK
    Subject: Re: International Support Letter for Steven Kurtz / CAE

    In the case of Steve Dietz' termination from the Walker, Sarah Cook drafted
    a letter that Christiane Paul, Tim Whidden, myself and others collaborated
    on and then used that as the rallying message to the director of the Walker.

    I think that someone needs to write this letter, have it circulated for
    refinements, then send it out to the masses.

    There are many fine people on this list who could pen the draft; I also
    believe that a prime candidate for doing the draft would be Ray Thomas.

    I was with Steve just a few weeks ago at the Free Cooperation summit, and in
    all the years I have known him in one way or another, I'd like to say that
    he is one of the kinder, conscientious people in this world.

    I have no words to describe the situation as it stands.
    I'll let it stand at that.

    Patrick Lichty
    Editor-In-Chief
    Intelligent Agent Magazine
    http://www.intelligentagent.com
    355 Seyburn Dr.
    Baton Rouge, LA 70808

    "It is better to die on your feet
    than to live on your knees."

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/
    [mailto:NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of Kanarinka
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 9:43 PM
    To: NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK
    Subject: Re: International Support Letter for Steven Kurtz / CAE

    Hello all,

    I haven't seen any such letter but I think it's a great idea and I already
    want to sign it. I vote for a draft letter by small committee so that it
    will happen quickly to get it out ASAP to as many people as possible for
    signing. I was at the Interventionists exhibit this weekend where CAE had a
    description of the events that took place. Most patrons were appalled. Some
    believed that it was simply not true. It's very important that this event be
    circulated amongst a wider audience.

    kanarinka
    co-director, www.ikatun.com

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Curating digital art - www.newmedia.sunderland.ac.uk/crumb/
    [mailto:NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK] On Behalf Of Eric Kluitenberg
    Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2004 5:32 PM
    To: NEW-MEDIA-CURATING@JISCMAIL.AC.UK
    Subject: International Support Letter for Steven Kurtz / CAE
    Importance: High

    Dear friends,

    Is anybody already working on a support letter for Steven Kurtz?

    Maybe we orverlooked the most obvious way to help at this point, which is to
    provide an international letter, signed by a list of internationally
    acclaimed curators, writers, critics, artists, and anybody else out there
    who has a direct and professional relationship to the work of Steven Kurtz
    and the Critical Art Ensemble.

    More information on the support campaign can at this point be found at the
    following web page: http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/

    How do we write the letter - do we circulate a draft letter publically, or
    in small committee?

    Best wishes,

    Eric Kluitenberg
    De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics, Amsterdam http://www.debalie.nl

    ------------------

    May 25, 2004
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    FBI ABDUCTS ARTIST, SEIZES ART
    Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism
    Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body

    DEFENSE FUND ESTABLISHED - HELP URGENTLY NEEDED

    Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called 911 early
    in the morning to tell them his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest and died
    in her sleep. The police arrived and, cranked up on the rhetoric of the
    "War on Terror," decided Kurtz's art supplies were actually bioterrorism
    weapons.

    Thus began an Orwellian stream of events in which FBI agents abducted Kurtz
    without charges, sealed off his entire block, and confiscated his computers,
    manuscripts, art supplies... and even his wife's body.

    Like the case of Brandon Mayfield, the Muslim lawyer from Portland
    imprisoned for two weeks on the flimsiest of false evidence, Kurtz's case
    amply demonstrates the dangers posed by the USA PATRIOT Act coupled with
    government-nurtured terrorism hysteria.

    Kurtz's case is ongoing, and, on top of everything else, Kurtz is facing a
    mountain of legal fees. Donations to his legal defense can be made at
    http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/

    FEAR RUN AMOK

    Steve Kurtz is Associate Professor in the Department of Art at the State
    University of New York's University at Buffalo, and a member of the
    internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble.

    Kurtz's wife, Hope Kurtz, died in her sleep of cardiac arrest in the early
    morning hours of May 11. Police arrived, became suspicious of Kurtz's art
    supplies and called the FBI.

    Within hours, FBI agents had "detained" Kurtz as a suspected bioterrorist
    and cordoned off the entire block around his house. (Kurtz walked away the
    next day on the advice of a lawyer, his "detention" having proved to be
    illegal.) Over the next few days, dozens of agents in hazmat suits, from a
    number of law enforcement agencies, sifted through Kurtz's work, analyzing
    it on-site and impounding computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even
    his wife's body for further analysis. Meanwhile, the Buffalo Health
    Department condemned his house as a health risk.

    Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, makes art which addresses the
    politics of biotechnology. "Free Range Grains," CAE's latest project,
    included a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for testing food products for
    possible transgenic contamination. It was this equipment which triggered the
    Kafkaesque chain of events.

    FBI field and laboratory tests have shown that Kurtz's equipment was not
    used for any illegal purpose. In fact, it is not even _possible_ to use this
    equipment for the production or weaponization of dangerous germs.
    Furthermore, any person in the US may legally obtain and possess such
    equipment.

    "Today, there is no legal way to stop huge corporations from putting
    genetically altered material in our food," said Defense Fund spokeswoman
    Carla Mendes. "Yet owning the equipment required to test for the presence of
    'Frankenfood' will get you accused of 'terrorism.' You can be illegally
    detained by shadowy government agents, lose access to your home, work, and
    belongings, and find that your recently deceased spouse's body has been
    taken away for 'analysis.'"

    Though Kurtz has finally been able to return to his home and recover his
    wife's body, the FBI has still not returned any of his equipment, computers
    or manuscripts, nor given any indication of when they will. The case remains
    open.

    HELP URGENTLY NEEDED

    A small fortune has already been spent on lawyers for Kurtz and other
    Critical Art Ensemble members. A defense fund has been established at
    http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/ to help defray the legal costs which will
    continue to mount so long as the investigation continues. Donations go
    directly to the legal defense of Kurtz and other Critical Art Ensemble
    members. Should the funds raised exceed the cost of the legal defense, any
    remaining money will be used to help other artists in need.

    To make a donation, please visit http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/

    For more information on the Critical Art Ensemble, please visit
    http://www.critical-art.net/

    Articles about the case: http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/news-WKBW-2.html
    http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/news-WKBW.html

    On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions regarding
    his case. Please direct questions or comments to Carla Mendes
    <CAEdefense@rtmark.com>.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: owner-list@rhizome.org [mailto:owner-list@rhizome.org] On Behalf Of
    Rachel Greene
    Sent: Wednesday, June 02, 2004 12:00 PM
    To: Joy Garnett
    Cc: list@rhizome.org
    Subject: Re: RHIZOME_RAW: more on steve kurtz

    What do you think we can do to support Steve? Has anyone seen an FBI
    address where we can send letters of support or some such? A judge? I
    will see what I can find out from the folks at rtmark. - Rachel

    On Jun 2, 2004, at 9:56 AM, Joy Garnett wrote:

    >
    >
    > found this morning via reBlog
    > http://www.eyebeam.org/reblog/
    >
    > orig. from: http://joi.ito.com/
    >
    >>
    > June 02, 2004
    > Email from artist suspected by FBI of bioterrorism
    > 08:25 JST Art - Health and Medicine - US Policy and Politics
    >
    > In the comments on an earlier post on this blog about an artist
    > suspected by the FBI of bioterrorism, there was a great deal of
    > speculation about the incident and the facts. (Read the link above to
    > my previous post for the background.) I emailed the artist, Steven
    > Kurtz, asking him for the facts, and here is his reply.
    >
    > Posted with permission.
    >
    > Steve Kurtz
    > Hi Joi,
    >
    > Its a long and complex story.
    >
    > To shorten it:
    >
    > I was detained for 22 hours by the FBI
    > They seized my wife's body, house, cat and car.
    > These items were released a week later
    > In the house they seized computers, science equipment, chunks of
    > my library, teaching files,
    > I-D, and all my research for a new book.
    > The only thing I have gotten back is my wife's birth certificate
    > On Sunday, two members of CAE got summons to appear before a Grand
    > Jury. (This is bad. It
    > means I will be charged. Grand Jury is a closed court--only the
    > FBI gets to present its case).
    > The Grand Jury will meet on June 15
    > In all proabability, I will be arrested shortly thereafter.
    >
    > Best,
    > Steve/CAE
    >
    > more:
    > http://joi.ito.com/archives/2004/06/02/
    > email_from_artist_suspected_by_fbi_of_bioterrorism.html
    > +
    > -> post: list@rhizome.org
    > -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    > -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    > -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    > -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org web site is open to non-members
    > +
    > Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    > Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
    >

    +
    -> post: list@rhizome.org
    -> questions: info@rhizome.org
    -> subscribe/unsubscribe: http://rhizome.org/preferences/subscribe.rhiz
    -> give: http://rhizome.org/support
    -> visit: on Fridays the Rhizome.org web site is open to non-members
    +
    Subscribers to Rhizome are subject to the terms set out in the
    Membership Agreement available online at http://rhizome.org/info/29.php
  • joy garnett | Wed Jun 2nd 2004 12:35 p.m.
    a letter of support sounds easy; in the meantime it seems like the majors
    are finally picking up on this:

    /////////////////////

    The FBI's Art Attack
    Offbeat Materials at Professor's Home Set Off Bioterror Alarm
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8278-2004Jun1.html

    The Washington Post, June 2, 2004
    By Lynne Duke
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, June 2, 2004; Page C01

    NEW YORK -- "A forensic investigation of FBI trash." On the telephone,
    Beatriz da Costa says it wryly. Her humor sounds bitter. She's talking
    about the detritus of a terror probe at the Buffalo home of her good
    friends, the Kurtzes.

    She's talking about the pizza boxes, Gatorade jugs, the gloves, the gas
    mask filters, the biohazard suits: the stuff left by police, FBI, hazmat
    and health investigators after they descended on the Kurtz home and
    quarantined the place.

    The garbage tells a story of personal tragedy, a death in the Kurtz
    household, that sparked suspicions (later proved unfounded) of a biohazard
    in the neighborhood. And it tells a story of the times in which we live,
    with almost daily warnings about terror, and with law enforcement primed
    to pounce.

    Steve Kurtz, a Buffalo art professor, discovered on the morning of May 11
    that his wife of 20 years, Hope Kurtz, had stopped breathing. He called
    911. Police and emergency personnel responded, and what they saw in the
    Kurtz home has triggered a full-blown probe -- into the vials and
    bacterial cultures and strange contraptions and laboratory equipment.

    The FBI is investigating. A federal grand jury has been impaneled.
    Witnesses have been subpoenaed, including da Costa.

    Kurtz and his late wife were founders of the Critical Art Ensemble, an
    internationally renowned collective of "tactical media" protest and
    performance artists. Steve Kurtz, 48, has focused on the problems of the
    emergence of biotechnology, such as genetically modified food. He and the
    art ensemble, which also includes da Costa, have authored several books
    including "Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media" and
    "Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas," both published
    by Autonomedia/Semiotext(e).

    The day of his wife's death, Kurtz told the authorities who he is and what
    he does.

    "He explained to them that he uses [the equipment] in connection with his
    art, and the next thing you know they call the FBI and a full hazmat team
    is deposited there from Quantico -- that's what they told me," says Paul
    Cambria, the lawyer who is representing Kurtz. "And they all showed up in
    their suits and they're hosing each other down and closing the street off,
    and all the news cameras were there and the head of the [Buffalo] FBI is
    granting interviews. It was a complete circus."

    Cambria, the bicoastal Buffalo and Los Angeles lawyer best known for
    representing pornographer Larry Flynt, calls the Kurtz episode a "colossal
    overreaction."

    FBI agents put Kurtz in a hotel, where they continued to question him.
    Cambria says Kurtz felt like a detainee over the two days he was at the
    hotel. Paul Moskal, spokesman for the Buffalo office of the FBI, says the
    bureau put Kurtz in a hotel because his home had been declared off limits.
    The probe, Moskal says, was a by-the-books affair from the very beginning.

    "Post-9/11 protocol is such that first-responders have all been given
    training about unusual things and unusual situations," Moskal says.

    And obviously, says Lt. Jake Ulewski, spokesman for the Buffalo police,
    what the cops eyeballed raised some alarms. "He's making cultures? That's
    a little off the wall."

    Erie County health officials declared the Kurtz home a potential health
    risk and sealed it for two days while a state lab examined the bacterial
    cultures found inside. Officials won't divulge what precisely was
    examined, but it turned out not to be a danger to public health. And the
    house was reopened for use.

    Still, federal authorities think something in that house might have been
    illegal, Cambria surmises. But Cambria denies there was anything illegal
    in the house. William Hochul Jr., chief of the anti-terrorism unit for the
    U.S. attorney's office in the Western District of New York, would not
    comment on the investigation.

    Kurtz, on Cambria's advice, isn't speaking to the press either.

    Da Costa, a professor at the University of California at Irvine who has
    flown to Buffalo to help out, says Kurtz is "depressed" and dealing with
    the loss of his wife, who died of a heart attack. Today the Buffalo arts
    community will memorialize her.

    Adele Henderson, chair of the art department of the State University of
    New York at Buffalo, where Kurtz has tenure, is among the people who've
    been questioned by the FBI.

    On May 21, she says, the FBI asked her about Kurtz's art, his writings,
    his books; why his organization (the art ensemble) is listed as a
    collective rather than by its individual members; how it is funded.

    "They asked me if I'd be surprised if I found out he was found to be
    involved in bioterrorism," she says.

    Her response? "I am absolutely certain that Steve would not be involved."

    They also asked about "his personal life," Henderson says, but she would
    not describe the questions or her responses.

    The investigation, she says, will have no bearing on Kurtz's standing at
    the university, where he is an associate professor. (Prior to Buffalo, he
    taught at Carnegie Mellon University.)

    "This is a free speech issue, and some people at the university remember a
    time during the McCarthy period when some university professors were
    harassed quite badly," she says.

    Nonetheless, considering the kind of art Kurtz practices and the kind of
    supplies he uses, "I could see how they would think it was really
    strange."

    For instance: the mobile DNA extracting machine used for testing food
    products for genetic contamination. Such a machine was in Kurtz's home.
    His focus, in recent years, has been on projects that highlight the
    trouble with genetically modified seeds.

    In November 2002, in an installation called "Molecular Invasion," Kurtz
    grew genetically modified seeds in small pots beneath growth lamps at the
    Corcoran Gallery of Art, then engineered them in reverse with herbicide,
    meaning he killed them.

    "We thought it was very important to have Critical Art Ensemble here
    because we try to have our visiting artist's program present work that
    takes our curriculum to the next step," says Denise Mullen, vice dean of
    the Corcoran College of Art and Design, whose Hemicycle Gallery hosted
    Kurtz's molecular exhibit.

    Beyond the cutting edge of art, she says, "we want work that is really
    bleeding edge."

    In Buffalo, in the aftermath of the bioterror probe that has found no
    terror, activist artists have scooped up the refuse from the Kurtz front
    yard and taken it away, perhaps, says da Costa, to create an art
    installation.
    +
    -
  • joy garnett | Fri Jun 4th 2004 9:48 a.m.
    Complete updates, including exact nature of charges, explanation of a
    Grand Jury, who was subpoenaed, an official letter of support and more
    recent press from the LA Weekly here:

    http://caedefensefund.org/
    or:
    http://flatearth.media.mit.edu/cae_defense/index.html
  • joy garnett | Fri Jun 4th 2004 9:51 a.m.
    Here are some contrasting reactions to the Kurtz case...

    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2004 13:26:28 -0400 (EDT)
    From: bruces@well.com
    Subject: Re: disturbing story

    *I heard it. That sure is one top-notch Scandal
    in Bohemia. I don't know the guy. Do you know him?

    *What if he poisoned his spouse? That's not exactly
    unheard-of activity, in the art world or anywhere else.
    In fact, whenever a woman's found dead, the cops
    generally make a beeline for the husband or boyfriend.
    The charge is pretty weird, but the suspicion isn't.

    Bruce S

    /////////

    thread: nettime date: 2004-06-03
    from: animas999@yahoo.com time: 09:42:38
    subject: <nettime> TACTICAL OUTRAGE

    There has been a staggering amount of email exchange
    about the Steve Kurtz case on a wide variety of
    list-serves in the past two weeks and it is highly
    unlikely that anyone in the artistic communities
    receiving these messages agrees with the FBI.
    Letters from individuals denouncing the FBI moves
    would best be
    directed at public officials, law enforcement and the
    media, rather than continuing to preach to the
    converted.

    It is a bit surprising that so many seem to
    believe that the FBI really thinks CAE broke a law -
    the history of repression of 60s "radicals"
    demonstrates that law enforcement can and does work to
    concoct illegality when a climate of fear and the
    criminalization of dissent is the ultimate goal. The
    demonizing of biotech artists in the present is the
    equivalent of the crackdown on white student radicals
    of the late 60s. The FBI then like now worked with
    other branches of government, from the CIA to the IRS,
    generate wide reaching campaigns against leftists
    WITHOUT THEIR HAVING DONE ANYTHING WRONG. That is why
    it is strategically more effective to look at the big
    picture rather than treating Kurtz like a single
    martyr.

    Several people have already raised the important point
    that the Kurtz case is only one of many many instances
    of unwarranted and excessive repression by law
    enforcement targetting intellectuals, artists,
    activists and journalists. I join them in expressing
    hope that all the artists who are concerned about
    CAEs current travails demonstrate equal concern for
    the other "cultural interventionists" in the US and
    abroad who have suffered even greater and more
    systematic repression and who do not have the same
    degree of access to the media, famous lawyers or
    supporters with money to contribute to their defense.
    I hope I never have to post another story on nettime
    about artists and activists in Latin America, for
    example, who are getting shot at, arrested, jailed
    without trial,or otherwise mistreated ALL THE TIME
    only to have those reports garner no other response
    than a dry comment on how multinational corporations
    are more violent that right wing populist regimes or
    what have you.

    Numerous other stories have been circulating about the
    recent arrest of Animal Rights activists in New Jersey
    on terrorism charges, about the arrest and torture of
    anti-globalization activists in Guadalajara, about the
    brutal treatment of Arab journalists working for NBC
    in Iraq at the hands of US soldiers, and about
    the unprompted arrival of undercover cops in yellow
    cabs to the "Majority Whipped" opening at White Box
    Gallery in NYC last month to shut down an event
    designed as a warm up for the Republican National
    Convention. "Art veterans" of battles with the US
    government during the culture wars of the early 90s
    will recall that the fetishizing of Mapplethorpe and
    Serrano turned out to be a very stupid move -- because
    it left the rest of the arts community completely
    vulnerable to the repercussions of those highly
    publicized skirmishes. As a result of those
    individualistically oriented tactics, we now live in
    an artworld that has completely introjected and
    naturalized the conservative cultural views of the
    backlash against institutional critique, civil rights
    inspired interrogations of gender,class and race, and
    all forms of art that addresses the social.

    Learn from the past so as not to repeat it.

    Coco Fusco

    __________________________________
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  • Steve Kudlak | Fri Jun 4th 2004 11:16 a.m.
    Giggle, this is the problem with americanas being so
    stupid and not having basic biological knowledge.
    I mean anyone with any knowledge of biology and read
    the case would find such an assertion.

    I'm sorry I am bilogist by training and if this wasn't so dangerous
    a situation with regard to someone's rights it would be
    laughable. I mean all these task forces on this that and
    the other thing >should< know what are dqngerous biological
    agents and what aren't I mean yeasst is a biological agent
    for heaven's sake and bnrewing is an act of culturing that
    agent to get active chemicals out of it!

    Gasp! I used to think that people on the well prided themselves
    as being intelligent, thoughtful and reasonable. Now I see they
    can be just as stupid and lacking in basic science knowledge
    as the rest of the good ole USA with its fine tradition of
    snti-intellectualism. Unless it is muttered from some TV actress
    with nice legs who is playing a coroner or something.

    This is the big problem we have had our lives turned over
    to stupid people who don't know what they are doing or
    how to think clearly and evaluate anything. Bacteria don't
    usually cause cardiac arrest! But here we another case of
    people being inthe mode of "I have made up my mind don't
    confuse me with the facts".

    Are the Buffalo police just stupid? Is the Joint Terrorism
    Task Force stupid? SOunds like it to me! There is a bloody
    university there that this poor guy is at, that has a biology
    department, which should have a microbiologist there would
    could tell you what is dangerous and what isn't. In fact there
    should be 100 in 100km of Buffalo who should be able to be
    consulted and give one a pretty good idea what is dangerous and
    what isn't. And that is the real questions because we share
    the planet with many billions of bacteria and "biological agents"
    some of which are essential for survival.

    The question is not whether people 1960s, 1970s or 1980s or
    2000 era radicals, the question is whether they were up to
    dangerous things with dangerous microbial critters. The critter
    in this case is Serratia Marcencens which hardly gets near
    pathogenic (able to make you sick for the uniformed who don't
    like words with too many letters!; If you want to see a list
    of nasty critters, here is a reasonable one:
    http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/slctagnts_list.html#y

    I sincerly hope that someone will make these stupid anti-terrorism
    people look stupid and make them the laughingstock they so
    surely deserve. If they were intelligent, knew what they were
    talking about or had real information then I might be tempted
    to think of them as better than armed, stupid dangerous people,
    who have nothing better to do then make the lives of freedom
    loving americans miserable because they actually exercised some
    of that wonderful freedoms we are always told we have brave twenty year
    olds somewhere in the world fighting and dying to preserve.

    Have Fun,
    Sends Steve

    P.S. Gack! I am sorry to be some flaming, but it really does
    get irritating. This is much worse than Officer O. who is a
    hardcore Christian in Ohio who stops kids and questions about
    witchcraft, this is something that deals with our basic rights
    to live and express ourselves freely.

    >
    >
    > Here are some contrasting reactions to the Kurtz case...
    >
    >
    > ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    > Date: Thu, 3 Jun 2004 13:26:28 -0400 (EDT)
    > From: bruces@well.com
    > Subject: Re: disturbing story
    >
    >
    > *I heard it. That sure is one top-notch Scandal
    > in Bohemia. I don't know the guy. Do you know him?
    >
    > *What if he poisoned his spouse? That's not exactly
    > unheard-of activity, in the art world or anywhere else.
    > In fact, whenever a woman's found dead, the cops
    > generally make a beeline for the husband or boyfriend.
    > The charge is pretty weird, but the suspicion isn't.
    >
    >
    > Bruce S
    >
    >
    >
    > /////////
    >
    > thread: nettime date: 2004-06-03
    > from: animas999@yahoo.com time: 09:42:38
    > subject: <nettime> TACTICAL OUTRAGE
    >
    >
    > There has been a staggering amount of email exchange
    > about the Steve Kurtz case on a wide variety of
    > list-serves in the past two weeks and it is highly
    > unlikely that anyone in the artistic communities
    > receiving these messages agrees with the FBI.
    > Letters from individuals denouncing the FBI moves
    > would best be
    > directed at public officials, law enforcement and the
    > media, rather than continuing to preach to the
    > converted.
    >
    > It is a bit surprising that so many seem to
    > believe that the FBI really thinks CAE broke a law -
    > the history of repression of 60s "radicals"
    > demonstrates that law enforcement can and does work to
    > concoct illegality when a climate of fear and the
    > criminalization of dissent is the ultimate goal. The
    > demonizing of biotech artists in the present is the
    > equivalent of the crackdown on white student radicals
    > of the late 60s. The FBI then like now worked with
    > other branches of government, from the CIA to the IRS,
    > generate wide reaching campaigns against leftists
    > WITHOUT THEIR HAVING DONE ANYTHING WRONG. That is why
    > it is strategically more effective to look at the big
    > picture rather than treating Kurtz like a single
    > martyr.
    >
    > Several people have already raised the important point
    > that the Kurtz case is only one of many many instances
    > of unwarranted and excessive repression by law
    > enforcement targetting intellectuals, artists,
    > activists and journalists. I join them in expressing
    > hope that all the artists who are concerned about
    > CAEs current travails demonstrate equal concern for
    > the other "cultural interventionists" in the US and
    > abroad who have suffered even greater and more
    > systematic repression and who do not have the same
    > degree of access to the media, famous lawyers or
    > supporters with money to contribute to their defense.
    > I hope I never have to post another story on nettime
    > about artists and activists in Latin America, for
    > example, who are getting shot at, arrested, jailed
    > without trial,or otherwise mistreated ALL THE TIME
    > only to have those reports garner no other response
    > than a dry comment on how multinational corporations
    > are more violent that right wing populist regimes or
    > what have you.
    >
    > Numerous other stories have been circulating about the
    > recent arrest of Animal Rights activists in New Jersey
    > on terrorism charges, about the arrest and torture of
    > anti-globalization activists in Guadalajara, about the
    > brutal treatment of Arab journalists working for NBC
    > in Iraq at the hands of US soldiers, and about
    > the unprompted arrival of undercover cops in yellow
    > cabs to the "Majority Whipped" opening at White Box
    > Gallery in NYC last month to shut down an event
    > designed as a warm up for the Republican National
    > Convention. "Art veterans" of battles with the US
    > government during the culture wars of the early 90s
    > will recall that the fetishizing of Mapplethorpe and
    > Serrano turned out to be a very stupid move -- because
    > it left the rest of the arts community completely
    > vulnerable to the repercussions of those highly
    > publicized skirmishes. As a result of those
    > individualistically oriented tactics, we now live in
    > an artworld that has completely introjected and
    > naturalized the conservative cultural views of the
    > backlash against institutional critique, civil rights
    > inspired interrogations of gender,class and race, and
    > all forms of art that addresses the social.
    >
    > Learn from the past so as not to repeat it.
    >
    > Coco Fusco
    >
    > __________________________________
    > Do you Yahoo!?
    > Friends. Fun. Try the all-new Yahoo! Messenger.
    > http://messenger.yahoo.com/
    >
    > # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
    > # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
    > # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
    > # more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
    > # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net
    >
    > +
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    >
  • joy garnett | Fri Jun 4th 2004 12:08 p.m.
    re: letters of support (see below)

    this will be the last cross-post from me for a while -- by a bizarre quirk
    of fate I am spending the weekend in...Buffalo.

    best,
    jg

    ///////////////
    posted on nettime June 4, 2004

    CAE - request to sign open letter of protest
    Eric Kluitenberg <epk@xs4all.nl>
    Letter of support for Steve Kurtz
    Rana Dasgupta <eye@ranadasgupta.com>

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    Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 16:33:11 +0200
    From: Eric Kluitenberg <epk@xs4all.nl>
    Subject: CAE - request to sign open letter of protest

    Helsinki / Amsterdam, June 4, 2004

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    We are sure that many of you have been following the deeply worrying
    events around the subpoenas that have been serfed to members of the
    US-based arts collective Critical Art Ensemble. We, Amanda McDonald
    Crowley and Eric Kluitenberg, have taken the initiative to write an
    open letter of protest asking for an immediate cesation of legal
    proceedings against our esteemed and distinguished colleagues. We
    think that this case signals a most worrysome trend in public
    political life in the United States and cannot be left unaddressed.

    We ask all of you who have worked with the Critical Art Ensemble in
    recent years, and others who feel offended by this unacceptable
    infringement on artistic freedom, to contact us to sign this letter
    of protest as members of a deeply concerned professional community.

    Please find the letter below. if you wish to sign send us an e-mail
    stating your name, your profession, your institutional affiliation
    (if you have one) and possibly a url that best represents your work
    or professional activity.

    Thank you.

    Amanda McDonald Crowley
    amc@va.com.au

    Eric Kluitenberg
    erick@balie.nl

    ----------------

    To whom it may concern,

    We, the undersigned artists, curators, critics, cultural producers,
    theorists and writers who have worked with or followed the work of
    the collective known as Critical Art Ensemble, are writing to express
    our serious concern over legal proceedings brought against members of
    this highly respected artists group.

    Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally
    recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art
    contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most
    recently their work has been directed towards providing the general
    public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with
    biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides
    knowledge.

    CAEs work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using
    materials which are commonly available in scientific education and
    research practices. Their main motivation is to provide the public
    with the tools needed to make informed choices.

    It has come to our attention that there was a recent seizure of a
    substantial amount of the artists work and research material. The
    international art scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the
    US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the
    materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State
    which returned the result that the material seized posed no public
    safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now
    seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological
    Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act as expanded by the USA Patriot Act.

    Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international
    political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with
    American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon
    investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an
    awareness raising action undertaken with cultural, artistic and
    educational agendas. Indeed CAEs work is quite in keeping with
    mainstream art practices, which have, throughout history, had
    pedagogical aims.

    Having worked with CAE in various settings throughout the world we
    have found CAEs approach has always been to understand and to know
    the topicthat they are presenting. It comes as no surprise, given
    the current focusof their work, that the research tools included
    biological material.However, those of us in the art world who have
    worked with this artistsgroup also know that their work is
    undertaken with thorough research, incontinuous consultation with
    members of the scientific community, in orderto ensure that the
    artworks they produce are safe, but also real, in termsof the
    investigations they pursue. The work of CAE is
    internationally recognised as thorough, investigative, educative and
    safe.

    This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that
    the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of
    artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of
    the cornerstones of the liberal democracies.

    As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public
    health threat, we demand that the American Government immediately
    cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble
    collective.

    The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

    Yours faithfully,

    Amanda McDonald Crowley,
    cultural worker/ curator, currently executive producer ISEA2004
    (International Symposium of Electronic Art 2004),
    Australia/Finland
    http://www.isea2004.net

    Eric Kluitenberg
    Head of the Media Program
    De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics
    Amsterdam, The Netherlands
    http://www.debalie.nl

    Signatories:

    name/profession/position/country/url

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    Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 13:14:56 +0530
    From: Rana Dasgupta <eye@ranadasgupta.com>
    Subject: Letter of support for Steve Kurtz

    D-383 Defence Colony
    New Delhi 110 024
    India

    June 3rd 2004

    To Whom It May Concern

    *Re: Protest against charges against Steve Kurtz, Ph.D., Assistant
    Professor, Department of Art, University of Buffalo*

    As a writer and independent scholar who has had frequent reason to draw
    on the work of Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), I would
    like to attest to its seriousness and importance, and to protest against
    the absurd and shameful charges brought against Mr Kurtz by the FBI.
    I would request that these charges be dropped immediately and that the
    FBI make a formal apology for their wrongful intervention in Mr Kurtzs
    life.
    A major element of Mr Kurtzs work has been to consider in a serious way
    the ethical questions raised by new biotechnologies - an undertaking
    acknowledged by all public figures (including President George W. Bush
    and Pope John-Paul II) to be crucial for a sane future.

    This work has taken as its starting-point the notion that ethical
    standards cannot be developed in private by "experts", but that they
    must be developed through genuinely public dialogue and debate. For
    this reason, it has always been conducted with great attention to
    openness and transparency. If the FBI were to consult the groups
    publications, public presentations and exhibitions, and online
    documents, it would discover that their ideas and activities have been
    conducted entirely in the public domain. Moreover, since public safety
    is precisely the question at stake in their work, this issue has always
    taken prime importance, and they have always addressed it in
    consultation with eminent scientists from leading U.S. institutions.
    There is nothing covert, suspicious, or irresponsible about their work.

    I have never met Steve Kurtz. However, I have followed closely the
    publications and art works of the Critical Art Ensemble for several
    years, and I have also had occasion to see public presentations by
    Beatriz da Costa, in which she answered extensive questions about the
    nature and guiding principles of the groups work. I can say on the
    basis of this engagement, not only that Steve Kurtz and the CAE are
    honest in their exploration of these pressing issues, but that their
    work is among the most important contributions to public debate in this
    arena.

    The attempt to denigrate this valuable work by throwing ignorant and
    melodramatic names at it is absurd and shameful, and highly embarassing
    for those doing the throwing.

    The suspicions of the FBI are based on little more than the observation
    that Steve had laboratory equipment in his house. This equipment is
    easily obtained, there is nothing illegal about possessing it, and the
    most cursory of Internet searches would have revealed exactly why it was
    there. To subject him to this treatment on such a basis of so trivial
    an observation represents a serious breach of the principles of freedom
    of expression and the presumption of innocence.

    In the /Washington Post/s coverage of this story, Lt. Jake Ulewski,
    spokesman for the Buffalo police, is quoted as saying about Mr. Kurtz,
    "Hes making cultures? Thats a little off the wall."

    Is it now possible to detain someone and subject them to criminal
    charges just because some ignorant observer thinks what they do with
    their time appears "a little off the wall"?

    The society of homogeneity and conformity that is implied by such a
    scenario is one in which no one takes responsibility for asking or
    answering its more difficult questions. Steve Kurtz and the CAE have
    always been open about their commitment to doing just that. In an open,
    forward-thinking and just society, such an honourable enterprise would
    invite praise, not censure.

    Yours Faithfully

    Rana Dasgupta
    Writer and independent scholar
    www.ranadasgupta.com

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    # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
    # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
    # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
    # more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
    # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net
  • joy garnett | Fri Jun 4th 2004 1:30 p.m.
    one last, from Wired:

    Twisted Tale of Art, Death, DNA
    By Mark Baard
    02:00 AM Jun. 04, 2004 PT

    http://www.wired.com/news/medtech/0,1286,63637,00.html?tw=rss.TOP
  • joy garnett | Mon Jun 7th 2004 8:48 a.m.
    The New York Times
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/07/nyregion/07buffalo.html?pagewanted=all&position=

    Use of Bacteria in Art Leads to Federal Inquiry
    By DAVID STABA
    Published: June 7, 2004

    BUFFALO, June 6 - The F.B.I. agents in hazardous-material suits are gone
    from Steven Kurtz's house here.

    He has buried his wife, Hope, whom Mr. Kurtz, an art professor at the
    University of Buffalo, found dead in their home last month. But the
    attention of federal investigators, drawn after his wife's death to Mr.
    Kurtz and the tools of his unusual means of artistic expression, has not
    ended.

    Civil liberties advocates and supporters of Mr. Kurtz say the case is a
    matter of the authorities' misdirecting post-Sept. 11 investigative zeal
    and in the process, trampling First Amendment rights to artistic
    expression. Fellow members of his art ensemble, which describes itself as
    "dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical
    politics and critical theory,'' call it frightening.

    On May 11, Mr. Kurtz phoned 911 after waking to find Hope Kurtz, 45, his
    wife of 20 years, unresponsive. One of the paramedics who arrived at the
    Kurtz home noticed laboratory equipment used in Mr. Kurtz's artwork. That
    observation triggered a series of events that led to F.B.I. agents
    shuffling through the home in hazardous-material suits and confiscating
    the equipment and biological material. They also carted off his books,
    personal papers and computer.

    The authorities searched the house for two days before announcing that
    there was no public health risk and that no toxic material had been found.
    Mr. Kurtz was allowed to return home on May 17, and his wife's death was
    attributed by the authorities to heart failure.

    An F.B.I. spokesman, Paul Moskal, referred all questions to the United
    States attorney's office in Buffalo. William J. Hochul Jr., the lead
    terrorism prosecutor for the office, declined to comment on the case,
    citing Justice Department policy regarding current investigations.

    Mr. Kurtz, 46, is not talking to reporters, either. His fellow artists and
    his lawyer are speaking on his behalf.

    "No one likes the whole force of the whole federal government to come down
    around their shoulders," said Mr. Kurtz's lawyer, Paul J. Cambria, who
    represented Larry Flynt, the Hustler magazine publisher, in his Supreme
    Court case over censorship. "He feels he's being unfairly treated and
    would like it all to be over."

    But members of the art collective Mr. Kurtz founded, the Critical Art
    Ensemble, say it is far from over.

    A member of the collective, Beatriz da Costa, an art professor at the
    University of California, Irvine, said she was leaving her hotel to attend
    an art show in North Adams, Mass., last Sunday when a stranger called out
    to her.

    "I heard someone say my name," she said. "I turned around and an F.B.I.
    agent was there and served me with the subpoena." She was summoned to
    appear before a federal grand jury in Buffalo on June 15.

    Ensemble members heard reports that F.B.I. agents had questioned museum
    curators and administrators at university art departments with connections
    to the group. The group produces Web sites, books and touring shows and
    orchestrates 1960's-style "happenings," aimed at showing the impact of
    technology and its representation on modern life.

    "We knew there was an investigation going on - they were talking to people
    and they weren't giving him his stuff back," said Steven B. Barnes of
    Tallahassee, Fla., another founding member of the group, who was
    subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury along with Ms. da
    Costa. "Those things had nothing to do with public health."

    Ms. da Costa said her subpoena indicated the grand jury is looking into
    "possession of biological agents."

    She said the bacteria E. coli, which can be fatal in some forms and
    harmless in others, was used in a Critical Art Ensemble production called
    "GenTerra," which looked at genetic engineering of organisms from the
    perspective of a fictional corporation.

    "I know everything we did was legal," Ms. da Costa said. "We didn't buy it
    illegally or make it ourselves. We worked in cooperation with a
    microbiology lab in Pittsburgh to create a transgenic E. coli that was
    completely harmless." Transgenic cells include genes or DNA transferred by
    genetic engineering from a different type of living thing.

    The bacteria's benign nature was one of the central themes of the work,
    which allowed audience members to expose themselves to the material.

    "We were kind of demystifying the whole procedure and trying to alleviate
    inappropriate fear of transgenic science and redirect concern toward the
    political implications of the research," Mr. Barnes said.

    Mr. Kurtz's fellow artists believe federal prosecutors will try to show
    that his possession of E. coli and other forms of bacteria - harmless or
    not - violated a federal law. The statute they refer to was expanded and
    strengthened by the Patriot Act passed after Sept. 11, 2001, and
    subsequent anthrax scares in Washington and elsewhere. It prohibits the
    possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system of a type
    or in a quantity that, under the circumstances, is not reasonably
    justified by a prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other
    peaceful purpose."

    Supporters maintained that the "peaceful purpose" exception should have
    snuffed out the investigation well before it got to the grand jury.

    "Once they established that nothing in that house was toxic and that he
    had no connections to anyone but legitimate artistic and educational
    institutions, this should have been dropped," Mr. Barnes said. "Everything
    he's ever done has been in the public sphere. There's no secret or private
    work. The transgenic bacteria was part of a show that's been traveling
    across the country for two years."

    A spokesman for the New York Civil Liberties Union said the initial phases
    of the Kurtz investigation were handled properly. The group had previously
    criticized the Buffalo offices of the United States attorney and the
    F.B.I. for their handling of the case of six men from the neighboring city
    of Lackawanna who pleaded guilty last year to attending a Qaeda terrorist
    training camp in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001.

    John Curr III, assistant director of the Buffalo chapter of the civil
    liberties union, said of the Kurtz investigation, "Given the set of
    circumstances when it happened, I don't think there was an overreaction.
    Unless there's some golden nugget of information that they're not sharing,
    we feel they're overreacting now.''

    "The code even makes a stipulation about a 'peaceful purpose,' '' Mr. Curr
    went on. "I don't think anybody could make the argument he was doing
    anything that wasn't peaceful.''

    Mr. Barnes said: "We're not an activist group. We're what we refer to as
    tactical media. We're mainly interested in issues of cultural
    representation, how things are represented to the public, and what's the
    ideology and the subtext to how something is being represented."

    The group's works, many of which can be seen online at
    www.critical-art.net, include Web sites and mock newspaper ads touting
    fictional biotech companies, and shows in which the audience has the
    chance to drink beer containing human DNA.

    "That's the essence of the First Amendment," said Mr. Cambria, Mr. Kurtz's
    lawyer. "It allows people to be different and express themselves in unique
    and creative ways. It's unsettling any time that the government comes down
    on someone because of the message they're trying to send or because
    they're different, because they're not cookie-cutter individuals in the
    eyes of clean-cut, blazer-wearing people. He's to be applauded for his
    individuality."

    Up until the moment he and Ms. da Costa were served with their subpoenas,
    Mr. Barnes said he was confident no reason would be found to prosecute Mr.
    Kurtz.

    "I was optimistic that when they saw what was going on and talked to
    enough people, they were going to realize there was no threat and no
    crime," Mr. Barnes said. When he was subpoenaed, he said his reaction was:
    " 'They're really going to do this. They're going to push this.' I was
    also a little disturbed to realize I was being followed."

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