Wednesday, April 04, 2007

ARTIST FACES 20-YEAR CHARGES IN POLITICALLY MOTIVATED CASE

For his master’s thesis project, artist Joshua Kinberg devised a “wireless bicycle” equipped with cellphone, laptop and spray tubes that could squirt messages received over the Internet onto the sidewalk or street.

In 2004, artist Steve Kurtz was accused of bioterrorism.

Steve Kurtz's wife Hope died of a heart attack May 11. Steve, an associate professor of art at University at Buffalo, called
911. The police who came saw some of the materials for an art exhibit on genetic modification and called the FBI. The FBI
came in, cordoned off half the block, confiscated Hope's body, Steve's computer, his notebooks, his art supplies and
their cat. They took him into custody. Two days later they let him and the cat go and whoever had the wife’s body released
for burial. There was no supposition of foul play in the death.

Kurtz is a member of the highly-regarded Critical Arts Ensemble, a group that does confrontation art works designed
to make people think about the role corporations play in modern life. Federal prosecutors subsequently convened a grand jury, with Kurtz as its target, presumably on charges of bioterrorism. To everyone who knows anything about Kurtz, his associates or his work, this appears lunatic. But this is John Ashcroft’s Justice Department and it’s only a few months since they tasted blood in nearby Lackawanna.

FBI agents have been talking to almost everyone connected with Steve Kurtz in any way, shape, or fashion. They’ve
interviewed museum curators in Massachusetts and the state of Washington, colleagues in New York and California, and
students. Federal prosecutors have convened a grand jury to go after Kurtz. There were reports last week that, on the
advice of counsel, Kurtz’s two associates in the Critical Arts Ensemble and five of the other six witnesses called by the
grand jury refused to testify.

And that has led to a good deal additional confusion. Someone asked us, "If they’re refusing to testify, they must be guilty,
right?" Someone else asked, "Why are his friends tossing him to the wolves rather than helping him? Why don't they just
go in there and tell them he's innocent?" And another person, a research scientist, asked, "Why wouldn’t they want to go in
there and just tell them the truth? Get the truth out, that can’t hurt anybody."

The answer to the first question is no, their refusal to testify has nothing to do with guilt or innocence. The answer to the
second question is, testimony to the grand jury by other members of the CAE would not, in all likelihood, be helping
Steve Kurtz. And the answer to the scientist is, "Grand juries aren’t about truth, and you don’t control what you say in
there anyway." You get to answer only the questions the prosecutor wants you to answer.

. and is still under indictment for mail fraud and wire fraud
rhizome.org - Review of CAE's Marching Plague by Randall Packer
guardian unlimited - Art becomes the next suspect in America's 9/11 paranoia (No time to grieve)

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