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Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism
Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body
May 25, 2004

Feds Unable to Distinguish Art from Bioterrorism
Grieving Artist Denied Access to Deceased Wife's Body

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| For donations contact:  CAEdefense@rtmark.com |
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Steve Kurtz was already suffering from one tragedy when he called 911
early 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 made at  http://www.rtmark.com/CAEdefense/


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 FBI.

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 of events.

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 equipment.

"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

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.


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

Articles about the case:

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>.