[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Re: [BKARTS] Patriot Act takes and artist
I just received this and thought to pass it on to the list in light of
the comments of support.
June 2, 2004
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Beatriz da Costa, mailto:media@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
ARTISTS SUBPOENAED IN USA PATRIOT ACT CASE
Feds STILL unable to distinguish art from bioterrorism
Grand jury to convene June 15
HELP URGENTLY NEEDED - SEE BELOW
Three artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a
grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a
university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology
The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre
in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken
art project for a biological weapons laboratory (see end for
background). While most observers have assumed that the Task
would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of
Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen
press their "case" against the baffled professor.
Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve
like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art
Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to
educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were
served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art
at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third
Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University
Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.
The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly
case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate),"
Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that
investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is
frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made
of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the
University of California at Irvine.
According to the subpoenas, the FBI is seeking charges under
175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989,
been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law
the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery
without the justification of "prophylactic, protective, bona fide
research, or other peaceful purpose." (See
http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/175.html for the 1989 law
http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/patriot/sec817.html for its
PATRIOT Act expansion.)
Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is
to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other
"peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted
CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to
store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically
grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any
basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see "Lab Tour"
http://www.critical-art.net/biotech/free/ for more details).
The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in
New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict
Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being
9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in
The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in
ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of
but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the
To make a donation, please visit http://www.caedefensefund.org/
Letters of support:
Letters and petitions of support from biologists, artists, and
especially those in positions of responsibility at prominent
institutions or companies, could be very useful. See
http://www.caedefensefund.org/ for a sample letter of support.
Legal offers and letters of support:
If you are a lawyer, offers of pro bono support or offers to
amicus briefs would be very helpful.
Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife,
dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived
after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was
in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned
the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's
computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's
further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the
a health risk.
Only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State
tested samples from the home and announced there was no public
threat was Kurtz able to return home and recover his wife's body.
the FBI would not release the impounded materials, which included
artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of
While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that
initial investigation of Steve Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the
subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press
"case" against Kurtz and possibly others.
To donate to the CAE Defense Fund, and for up-to-date information
the case, please visit http://www.caedefensefund.org/
For more information on the Critical Art Ensemble, please visit
To join a list about the case, please visit
Articles and television stories about the case:
On advice of counsel, Steve Kurtz is unable to answer questions
regarding his case. Please direct questions or comments to
Worldwide Springback Bind-O-Rama and Online Exhibition
Full information at <http://www.philobiblon.com>
ENTRY DEADLINE -- September 1, 2004
Book_Arts-L FAQ and Archive at: <http://www.philobiblon.com>