When art becomes terror

Last year I heard about the Critical art Ensemble at digitalfetival. They make concept art which is a genre that I have a very ambivalent relation to. On one hand some of it is just weird and far out for the sake of be weird and far out, and then there are gems, Critical Art Ensemble is one of the fine gems.

The stuff they make are relevant, questioning and thoughtprovoking. As with other concept art – it not the installation at the exhibit thats the most intriguing – but the questions it raises. At their website there are description of some of there works – enjoy www.critical-art.net

Besides Seeing the exhibition of “marching plague” I had the luck to hear Steven Kurtz speak, about Critcal Art Ensembles art and the current case. Because at the moment Steve Kurtz from the Critical Art Ensemble are facing criminal charges, they story is hard to believe – I mean that that this could happen, being charged for for making art. Heres the short introduction from The Critical Art Ensemble Defense fund.

What happened to Steve Kurtz?

On May 11, 2004, Steve Kurtz’s wife of 20 years, Hope, died of heart failure in their home in Buffalo. Kurtz called 911. Buffalo Police who responded along with emergency workers, apparently sensitized to ‘War on Terror’ rhetoric, became alarmed by the presence of art materials in their home which had been displayed in museums and galleries throughout Europe and North America. Convinced that these materials – which consisted of several petri dishes containing harmless forms of bacteria, and scientific equipment for testing genetically altered food – were the work of a terrorist, the police called the FBI.

The next day, as Kurtz was on his way to the funeral home, he was illegally detained by agents from the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force, who informed him he was being investigated for “bioterrorism.” At no point during the 22 hours Kurtz was held and questioned did the agents Mirandize him or inform him he could leave. Meanwhile, agents from numerous federal law enforcement agencies – including five regional branches of the FBI, the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Buffalo Police, Fire Department, and state Marshall’s office – descended on Kurtz’s home in Hazmat suits. Cordoning off half a block around his home, they seized his cat, car, computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife’s body from the county coroner for further analysis. The Erie County Health Department condemned his house as a possible “health risk.”

A week later, only after the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State had tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat, was Kurtz allowed to return to his home and to recover his wife’s body.

When the police realized that it wasn’t biowarfare but art he were producing, one might be quick to draw the logical conclusion : sorry for the misunderstanding, case closed. But no, it keeps rolling and Steve Kurtz is actually in danger af getting convicted and imprisoned for up to TWENTY YEARS! Its so insane, I’m lost for words.

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