The aspect of manipulation of organisms for artistic ends (also see bit on
New Scientist story below) seemed nightmarish and chilling to me, until I
wondered--does it make a difference whether one does these experiments as
a scientist or an artist?
"Art, but not as we know it"
New Scientist vol 181 issue 2436 - 28 February 2004, page 44
"Why would you give a cactus human hair? Or grow wings for pigs? And as
for redesigning the butterfly... Artists are appropriating biotechnology
for their own ends. New Scientist tracked down three of them working in
this wild new place: Laura Cinti, Oron Catts and Marta de Menezes"
On Thu, 3 Jun 2004, Michael H Goldhaber wrote:
> This sounds completely nightmarish and chilling.
> -------- Original Message --------
> Subject: <nettime> ARTISTS SUBPOENAED IN USA PATRIOT ACT CASE
> Date: Wed, 2 Jun 2004 21:28:59 -0400 (EDT)
> From: CAE Legal Defense Fund <[log in to unmask]>
> Reply-To: CAE Legal Defense Fund <[log in to unmask]>
> To: "nettime-l-bbs.thing.net" <[log in to unmask]>
> June 2, 2004
> FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
> Contact: Beatriz da Costa, mailto:[log in to unmask]
> 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 federal
> 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 investigation
> in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken an
> art project for a biological weapons laboratory (see end for
> background). While most observers have assumed that the Task Force
> would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of Steve
> Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to
> press their "case" against the baffled professor.
> Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes--are,
> 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 show
> at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The third artist,
> Paul Vanouse, is, like Kurtz, an art professor at the University at
> Buffalo. He has worked with CAE in the past.
> The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly bizarre
> case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate)," said
> Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that this
> investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is positively
> frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made freedom
> 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 Section
> 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has
> been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act. As expanded, this law prohibits
> the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system"
> 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 and
> http://www.ehrs.upenn.edu/protocols/patriot/sec817.html for its USA
> PATRIOT Act expansion.)
> Even under the expanded powers of the USA PATRIOT Act, it is difficult
> to understand how anyone could view CAE's art as anything other than a
> "peaceful purpose." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted mainly of
> CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to test
> store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified
> grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any university's
> basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see "Lab Tour" at
> http://www.critical-art.net/biotech/free/ for more details).
> The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in Buffalo,
> New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict Steve
> Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being planned at
> 9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in
> HELP NEEDED
> Financial donations:
> The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in amounts
> ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of sympathy,
> but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the case.
> To make a donation, please visit http://www.caedefensefund.org/
> Letters of support:
> Letters and petitions of support from biologists, artists, and others,
> 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 write
> amicus briefs would be very helpful.
> Early morning of May 11, Steve Kurtz awoke to find his wife, Hope,
> dead of a cardiac arrest. Kurtz called 911. The police arrived and,
> after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was using
> in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.
> Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned off
> the entire block around his house, and later impounded Kurtz's
> computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even his wife's body for
> further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the house as
> a health risk.
> 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 able to return home and recover his wife's body. Yet
> the FBI would not release the impounded materials, which included
> artwork for an upcoming exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of
> Contemporary Art.
> While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that its
> initial investigation of Steve Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the
> subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their
> "case" against Kurtz and possibly others.
> To donate to the CAE Defense Fund, and for up-to-date information on
> 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
> mailto:[log in to unmask]
> (MAKE SURE TO CUT BELOW LINES OFF WHEN FORWARDING, or your personal
> profile will become known to everyone.)
> # distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
> # <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
> # collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
> # more info: [log in to unmask] and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
> # archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: [log in to unmask]