The Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is an internationally-recognized group
of five artists and intellectuals whose work examines and critiques
biotechnology, information technology and media studies. The arrest and
pending indictment of CAE member Steve Kurtz on "bioweapons" charges
reveals the current fragility of freedom of thought and freedom of
expression. The CCLE urges all our supporters to read the following press
release and contribute what you can to Dr. Kurtz's legal defense. //
May 25, 2004
| HELP URGENTLY NEEDED FOR LEGAL DEFENSE |
Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called
911early 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
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
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
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
"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.
For more information on the Critical Art Ensemble, please visit
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>.