After the attack o the World Trade Center, the French newspaper Le Monde headlined, "We Are All Americans." Now Steve Kurtz is being prosecuted for being in possession of bacteria that is commonly found in the human gut (among other things). Does this make us all terrorists in the eyes of Bush's DOJ? One wonders. Below is the latest news from Critical Art Ensemble.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MORE DECEPTION FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
US Attorney Misleads Public About “Danger” of Harmless Bacteria in Case of Professor Kurtz
March 13, 2007, Buffalo, NY—Today, in response to a local news report featuring a YouTube video about the Orwellian case of internationally acclaimed artist and SUNY Buffalo Professor Steven Kurtz, U.S. Attorney Terry Flynn deceived Buffalo viewers. Flynn claimed on WGRZ-
TV News that the Department of Justice is pursuing charges against Kurtz because harmless bacteria used in his art were “dangerous,” “not available to the general public,” and that Kurtz had “misled investigators.”
These outrageous allegations fly in the face of the prosecution’s own admissions in court, of the charges against Kurtz, and of scientific consensus about the harmless nature of Serratia marcescens, Bacillus subtilis, and gut Ecoli. The three bacteria were used in Kurtz’s participatory science-theater performances with Critical Art Ensemble, an art and theater group Kurtz co-founded in 1987 with his wife Hope Kurtz. Prior to Kurtz’s detention he and Critical Art Ensemble had safely used these bacteria in performances and projects at many of the world’s most important cultural institutions, including the London Museum of Natural History, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the London ICA, The New Museum in NYC, the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, and many others.
The bacteria cultures, frequently used by science hobbyists and in classrooms, are available from most science supply outlets and require no license or government authorization to obtain. These bacteria are not restricted by law, and are not governed by any government regulations. The prosecution admitted this in a pre-trial hearing on May 17, 2005 under questioning by Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder.
The other claim, that Kurtz mislead investigators, is also completely false. Kurtz cooperated with investigators until advised by his attorney to stop. Kurtz has not been charged with lying to the FBI or obstruction of justice.
CONTINUED PUBLIC PRESSURE CRITICAL
In order to counter the ongoing smear campaign by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the CAE Defense Committee has launched a new education fund. The CAE Education Fund will focus on producing and distributing information to the public that is factual and grounded in the realities of the case, as well as on creating other opportunities and events that will explain how supporters can help and how to keep public pressure on the DoJ. The current corruption scandal in which the DoJ has been transformed by the Bush administration into a conservative political enforcement agency makes such action more necessary than ever.
BACKGROUND TO THE CASE
As detailed in the short film “Steve Kurtz Waiting,” Kurtz’s surreal nightmare began when
his wife of 20 years died of heart failure. Medics arrived, became suspicious of Kurtz’s art, and called the FBI. Within hours the artist was detained as a suspected "bioterrorist" as dozens of agents in hazmat suits sifted through his work and impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, his cat, and even his wife’s body. Today Kurtz and his long-time science consultant Dr. Robert Ferrell, former Chair of the Genetics Department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, face up to 20 years in jail on trumped-up “mail fraud” and “wire fraud” charges.