Tuesday, January 18, 2005


originally uploaded by Art or Idiocy?.
By now the story of Steve Kurtz has spread within the art and academic communities, and it's a shocking, enraging situation. Dr. Kurtz's wife died suddenly last May, and as if that weren't horrific enough, a progressively worsening series of events started from EMT workers reporting Kurtz's scientific equipment to the FBI, who then detained the artist, took possession of his wife's body and confiscated his belongings because they suspected him of bioterrorism. Of course, Kurtz's work with the group Critical Art Ensemble is widely known and highly regarded, and in recent years has addressed the advent of genetic engineering, its corporate implementers, and educating people about it. (Check out more of their work on their website: http://www.critical-art.net). While the government initially tried to charge Kurtz in bioterrorism-related actions, that soon proved to be too egregiously incorrect, and they have now moved on to mail fraud charges, claiming to have caught the artist and his scientist colleague in this technicality. While this may seem like an appropriate demotion of charges, it in fact remains quite serious and carries draconian penalties -- i.e. huge fines, decades in prison -- under the Patriot Act. It occurs to me: isn't mail fraud the flimsy technicality the government used in days of yesteryear to ensnare the mafia when more serious charges couldn't be proven? And doesn't this highlight how flimsy the government's case is against Steve Kurtz now?

As Dr. Kurtz experiences his journey into the heart of darkness of the Patriot Act and its chilling ramifications for all of us, I'm sure he would echo a very different Kurtz's sentiment: "The horror! The horror!"

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