LETTERS OF SUPPORT  
 

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Note: Thank you to everyone who is sending in letters. We are putting them up as quickly as we can. Keep them coming!


Letter to the Editor at the New York Times
http://www.collegeart.org/caa/advocacy/04NYTimesletter.html
June 2004

To the Editor,

David Staba's June 7th article highlights the vulnerability of the freedom of artistic expression since the enactment of the USA Patriot Act. Based on Staba's report, Steve Kurtz's detention and the grand jury investigation being faced by him and some fellow members of the Critical Art Ensemble appear unwarranted. Such actions adversely affect art and arts-related institutions and chill the right of Americans to question authority.

The College Art Association urges Congress to carefully review the USA Patriot Act. Since some of these provisions are likely to be abused, we strongly support not renewing the USA Patriot Act.

The artistic freedoms established by America have long been sources of national pride and have been emulated by other nations. Revoking the extreme measures incorporated into the USA Patriot Act will insure that the US once more becomes the standard against which we measure artistic freedom of expression throughout the world.

Ellen K. Levy, President
Susan Ball, Executive Director
College Art Association

Click here to read David Staba's article in the New York Times

CAA has also sent a letter to the US Attorney in Buffalo, NY involved in this case to express our concern that a Joint Terrorism Taskforce (JTTF) has issued grand jury sobpoenas to call members of the Critical Arts Ensemble before a grand jury. Our letter states that we fear that the JTTF's actions could exert a chilling effect on speech, including artistic freedom of expression.


Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, PA July 25, 2004

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is written by us as individuals rather than as representatives of Carnegie Mellon University . We are writing as concerned faculty and staff who are former colleagues of Steve Kurtz at Carnegie Mellon to protest the federal government’s pursuit of wire fraud charges against Steve Kurtz and Dr. Robert Ferrell as well as the larger investigation of them, other members of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and their collaborators.

While one might find justification for an initial investigation into the equipment and materials found in Professor Kurtz’ residence in the current climate of heightened surveillance and suspicion, it should have become quickly and readily apparent that CAE’s equipment and intentions are harmless.  They are oriented toward educational and artistic purposes, harmless, and certainly lack criminal intent.  Instead, this case continues to plague those who should be able to continue their professional research and production without such invasive, petty and costly harassment.  This entire scenario has become an embarrassing waste of prosecutorial and investigative resources, not to mention funding that could be re-directed to so many cultural and environmental deficits.

The undersigned know Steve Kurtz (or of him) and his impressive scholarly and creative record to varying degrees, as he taught here at Carnegie Mellon from 1995 to 2002, where he was granted tenure.  It is inconceivable to us that he, CAE members, and those working with them (particularly their efforts for the confiscated piece planned for the summer exhibit at Mass MOCA), pose any threat to public safety and security æ the concerns suggested by the “bioterrorism” language used in the original search warrant and subpoenas and that appear to have spawned this absurdly extended FBI investigation.

Carnegie Mellon has a history of interdisciplinary research within its own institution, the city in which it resides, and with professionals from an international arena.  We work hard to build bridges between the arts, humanities and sciences and have achieved remarkable success in making difficult ideas and developments in culture and technology accessible to the general public.  A democracy’s health depends on an educated populace and we would hope that our government would concur with this principle and refrain from interfering with its implementation.

This case has understandably raised significant alarm in the academic community, which is anxious about the potentially devastating and stifling consequences for the interdisciplinary research and practices that we value and think serve our fellow citizens well.  We regret this Orwellian turn as we may also become vulnerable, as Steve Kurtz and his collaborators have, to such overzealous scrutiny and legal wrangling.  We hope that this is not our government’s intent, in relation to Professors Kurtz and Ferrell’s research, or to our own.

The continuation of this case seems desperate, artificial and sadly politically motivated, as CAE has consistently provided well-articulated and creative alternative viewpoints to those of the mainstream.  They encourage critical thinking in an open virtual, cultural and physical environment and are generous in the ways that they share their ideas and creations (their publications are free and available on the web).  We find it unfortunate and entirely unnecessary that their work has been so severely interrupted and threatened by the legal actions taken.

We urge the prosecution to withdraw the charges immediately so that Professor Kurtz, the members of the CAE collective and their colleagues in the scientific community may resume their lives as creative and scholarly individuals living in a free world.

Sincerely,

Susanne Slavick
Head School of Art
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Art

Bob Bingham
Associate Professor of Art

Melissa Ragona
Visiting Faculty of Art

Dan J. Martin
Associate Professor, School of Drama
Director, Institute for the Management of Creative Enterprises

Judith Schachter Modell
Director, Center for the Arts in Society
Professor of Anthropology and History

Bruce Erikson
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art

Professor Kathy M. Newman
Associate Professor of English

Indira Nair
Vice Provost for Education
Professor, Engineering and Public Policy

Rick Gribenas
Exhibitions Coordinator, Regina Gouger Miller Gallery

Carol Kumata
Professor of Art

James Duesing
Professor of Art

Jenny Strayer, Director
Regina Gouger Miller Gallery

Jon Beckley
Professor of Art

M. Michelle Illuminato
Visiting Assistant Professor

Suzie Silver
Associate Professor of Art

Terry Hritz
School of Art Technician

David R. Shumway
Professor of English

Joseph Mannino
Associate Head
Associate Professor of Art

Clayton F. Merrell
Associate Professor of Art

Paul Eiss
Assistant Professor of Anthropology and History

Wayne Savage
Business Manager,
School of Art

Eric C. Sloss
Associate Director, Media Relations,
College of Fine Arts

Margaret Myers
Associate Director, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Jennifer Brodt
Administrative Associate, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Tim Collins
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Nathan Martin
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Carl DiSalvo
Research Associate, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Hans Meyer
Research Associate, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Jeff Maki
Research Associate, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Steffi Domike
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Karen Ferguson
Administrative Coordinator, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Rob Fisher
Distinguished Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Stephanie Flom
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Annabelle Joseph
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Noel Hefele
Research Associate, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Patricia Maurides
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Mathew Rosenbaum
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Faith Wilding
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry

Hyla Willis
Fellow, STUDIO for Creative Inquiry


California, June 15th, 2004

To whom it may concern,

We, the undersigned faculty and staff from arts, sciences and humanities departments across the University of California system are writing to express our serious concern and to protest the legal proceedings and possible indictment brought against our colleague, the State University of New York at Buffalo professor Steve Kurtz and the members of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and their collaborators in the scientific community by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

For the past two decades this highly respected interdisciplinary collective of artists, theorists and researchers has been working in and between the fields of contemporary art, media arts, biology and cultural theory. Their avantgarde research has in many instances led to the development of new methods of use and u nderstanding of biotechnology and media arts related issues in the artistic and educational fields. At the same time, by raising awareness of a number of theoretical, political and social issues pertaining to interconnections of art, science, and cultural studies, the group and their research have always been in the forefront of interdisciplinary contemporary and media arts practices.

We understand that since the start of the investigation a substantial amount of the artists' work and research materials - including biological material, books, manuscripts and computers - pertaining to research into media arts, biotechnology, art and genetics have been seized by the FBI. And that, despite a declaration by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State that the biological material seized posed no public safety risk, the prosecution continues.

While it is understandable that in the current climate such research might raise concern with authorities, it is also clear upon any rational investigation that the research purpose of the Critical Art Ensemble and their colleagues in the scientific community is nothing but peaceful, bona fide, and geared toward awareness raising activities that are undertaken with a cultural and artistic purpose.

We are both extremely concerned and disturbed that the prosecution of the CAE members and research colleagues associated with the CAE in general and of SUNY Buffalo Prof. Steven Kurtz in particular, is continuing. We see here a pattern of behavior that leads to the curtailing of academic freedom, freedom of artistic expression, freedom of interdisciplinary investigation, freedom of information exchange, freedom of knowledge accumulation and reflection, and freedom of bona fide and peaceful research. All of which are fundamental rights and cornerstones of a modern academic environment - an environment that is, in the case of the Critical Art Ensemble and in the case of many of our own practices geared toward the creation of the so called third culture, which lies between the discrete fields of art and science.

We also fear that the prosecution could possibly be motivated and biased by the very strong and eloquent political and cultural background of the Critical Art Ensemble works and writings.

And we consequently feel that it must be pointed out that the work of the CAE has always been carried out under constant public scrutiny, within academia as well as in the contemporary art and media arts worlds, and that their research has always been shared with the widest community, through publications and innumerable public presentations all over the world.

We are hereby reiterating, that the prosecution immediately cease legal action against Prof. Kurtz, the members of the CAE collective and their colleagues in the scientific community and return to them all scientific materials, research and artistic work so that they can continue with their research in peace.

Marko Peljhan
Assistant Professor
Department of Art, Media Arts and Technology
University of California Santa Barbara

Jordan Crandall
Assistant Professor
Visual Arts Department
University of California San Diego

Kip Fulbeck
Professor
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Laurel Beckmann
Assistant Professor
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Amy Alexander
Assistant Professor
Visual Arts Department
University of California San Diego

Greg Niemeyer
Assistant Professor for New Media
UC Berkeley Departments of Art Practice and Film Studies
University of California Berkeley

Catherine Lord
Professor
Department of Studio Art
University of California Irwine

Constance Penley
Professor of Film Studies
Director, Center for Film, Television, and New Media
Department of Film Studies
University of California Santa Barbara

Ken Goldberg
Professor of IEOR and EECS
University of California Berkeley

Katherine Sherwood
Professor
Department of Art Practice
University of California Berkeley

Bruce Yonemoto
Professor
Department Studio Art
University of California Irvine

Antoinette LaFarge
Associate Professor of Digital Media
Department of Studio Art
University of California Irvine

Philip N. Cohen
Department of Sociology
University of California Irvine

Curtis Roads
Professor
Media Arts and Technology, joint appointment in Music
University of California Santa Barbara

Adriene Jenik
Associate Professor
Computer & Media Arts
Visual Arts Department
University of California San Diego

Lorraine O'Grady
Assistant Professor
Studio Art and African American Studies
University of California Irvine

Paul Dourish
Associate Professor
Department of Informatics
University of California Irvine

Connie Samaras
Professor
Department of Studio Art
University of California Irvine

Yong Soon Min
Associate Professor
Chair, Department of Studio Art
University of California Irvine

David Theo Goldberg
Director
Humanities Research Institute
University of California Irvine

Anne Walsh
Assistant Professor
Department of Art Practice
University of California Berkeley

Graham Budgett
Lecturer SOE
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Renze Green
Professor
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Kevin Appel
Assistant Professor
Department of Studio Art
University of California Irvine

Jane Mulfinger
Lecturer
Department of Art and College of Creative Studies
University of California Santa Barbara

Inderpal Grewal
Professor and Director
Department Women's Studies
University of California Irvine

Alisa Ochoa
Lecturer
Department of Art and College of Creative Studies
University of California Santa Barbara

Jane Callister
Associate Professor
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Judith Wilson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
African-American Studies Program
Art History Department & Visual
Studies Doctoral Program
University of California Irvine

Akira Mizuta Lippit
Professor and Chair
Department Film and Media Studies
University University of California Irvine

Jeff Krueger
Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Marcos Novak
Professor
Media Arts and Technology, Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Simon Leung
Assistant Professor
Department of Studio Art
University of California Irvine

George Legrady
Professor
Media Arts and Technology, Department of Art
University of California Santa Barbara

Simon Penny
Professor
Studio Art, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Information and Computer Science
Director, Arts, Computation and Engineering (ACE)
University of California Irvine

Lisa Parks
Associate Professor
Department of Film Studies
University of California Santa Barbara


TO WHOM THIS MAY CONCERN

I am a Lecturer in Theatre Studies at Lancaster University (UK) and have published extensively in the areas of contemporary performance and new media theatre. I have been following the work of the Critical Art Ensemble over the last three years and met them in London last Summer when they performed at the Darwin Centre. I have just completed an article about them due to be published by a UK journal and their work forms a substantial part of my forthcoming book with Routledge.

I was appalled at hearing that the tragedy of the death of Professor Kurtz’s wife had led to his investigation. I was shocked that what is obviously material used for peaceful pedagogical and artistic reasons, i.e., a prop or teaching accessory, has been mistaken for a ‘biological weapon’. I cannot reconcile myself with this thought and the agony that this must have been causing Professor Kurtz, his family, friends and collaborators and urge those responsible to withdraw their accusations and offer a formal apology to Professor Kurtz.

As an international scholar I am also extremely concerned that this represents a severe attack to academic freedom and democracy.

Dr Gabriella Giannachi
Department of Theatre Studies
Lancaster University
UK


June 4, 2004 7:15:41 AM PDT

To whom it may concern,

The undersigned, an artist (LK) and an eminent biological scientist (ES), are writing to express our serious concern over legal proceedings brought against the highly respected artists group known as Critical Art Ensemble.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been directed towards providing the general public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides knowledge.
The work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using materials which are commonly available in scientific education and research practices.

It has come to our attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. We have been shocked and surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State which returned the result that the material seized posed no public safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

While it is perhaps understandable in the current international political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which have, throughout history, had pedagogical aims.

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health threat, we insist that the American Government immediately cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble collective.

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of the corner stones of the liberal democracies. The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

Yours faithfully,

Laura Karp
artist

Ethan Signer
Professor of Biology Emeritus

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


 

June 3, 2004

I met Steve Kurtz in 1995 while attending the MFA in Visual Arts program at Vermont College. Steve was both a teacher and advisor. It was at this time that I decided to abandon my studio practice in favor of an infrastructural, process-oriented art. By infrastructural I mean that I formed a corporation, created a business plan and called it art. I submitted my corporate charter and articles of incorporation as course work. Some of the faculty questioned whether or not the work should even be considered art. Steve Kurtz was one of several teachers who supported my efforts.

Like Steve, my background is also in technology and sociology. I changed the way I practiced art because I wanted my art to be relevant to the times and broad in its social impact. In 1996 I began work as a senior technical advisor for FedEx where I designed a software architecture that became an industry-wide reference model for supply chain integration and the creation of virtual companies. In 1998 I left FedEx to become the founder and Chief Technology Officer of GlobalESP, a peer-to-peer, grid computing software company. In 1999 I co-founded Transfinity, the first company to provide dial-up web acceleration. I did the work at FedEx and GlobalESP because I wanted to reduce the economic and organizational barriers to the production and global distribution of infrastructural capital. I created Transfinity in order to make rich Web content available over the Internet as cheaply as possible and to as many people as possible. I am currently working as an executive in a software company specializing in process performance measurement. Although all of these were for-profit companies with products, investors and customers, they were also the result of my artistic practice, a practice which Steve Kurtz was instrumental in forming.

Steve Kurtz represents a new kind of artist making a new kind of art. Most traditional visual art ends up in museums or hanging over peoples couches and headboards. In this complex society, process-oriented art has a much greater chance of positively affecting the choices that people have and make than do most other art forms. At this point in history, it is one of the most reasonable and meaningful things I can think of for an artist to do.

The twentieth century artist, Paul Klee, said, “Art does not render the visible, it makes visible.” For nearly twenty years, Steve Kurtz, working alone and with others, has created work the purpose of which is “to make visible” the complex structures that define the intersection of social and individual human identity. In this effort he belongs to a long-standing tradition that includes artists as diverse as Velázquez, Goya, Duchamp and Warhol.

I cannot speak on behalf of the companies in which I have worked. But I can speak on my own behalf. As long as I have known of Steve Kurtz and his work, he has been an artist and a teacher of the highest character and integrity. His art makes perfect sense to me as art. I cannot imagine that it could be perceived by others as anything else.

Respectfully,

Michael Harold



Date: June 4, 2004 7:17:01 AM PDT

To Whom it May Concern:

I consider Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble to be among the most important contemporary artists working at the intersection of aesthetics and cultural studies. I have taught and written about their texts on the nature of biology as a reigning metaphor in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The fact that some supplies (which would not be out of place in any science library in any university in the country) are the pretext for an investigation is deeply, deeply horrifying to me. Many artists today use a variety of materials to make works. Kurtz and his colleagues should be immediately exonerated and instead recognized as major artistic voices.

Yours sincerely,
--
David Joselit
Professor
History of Art
Yale University



June 4, 2004 5:01:17 AM PDT

To whom it may concern,

We, the undersigned artists, followed the work of the collective known as Critical Art Ensemble, are writing to express our serious concern over legal proceedings brought against members of this highly respected artists group.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been directed towards providing the general public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides knowledge.

The work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using materials which are commonly available in scientific education and research practices.

It has come to our attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. The international art scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State which returned the result that the material seized posed no public safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which have, throughout history, had pedagogical aims.

It comes as no surprise, given the current focus of their work, that the research tools included biological material. However, those of us in the art world who have worked with this artists' group also know that their work is undertaken with thorough research, in continuous consultation with members of the scientific community, in order to ensure that the artworks they produce are safe, but also real, in terms of the investigations they pursue. The work of CAE is internationally recognised as thorough, investigative, educative and safe. As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health threat, we insist that the American Government immediately cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble collective.

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of
the corner stones of the liberal democracies.

The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

Yours faithfully,

Gary Danner & Elisa Rose/STATION ROSE
Professors for Media Production at the University of Applied Sciences in Darmstadt, Germany


June 3, 2004 3:37:43 PM PDT

To whom it may concern,

The persecution of the Critical Arts Ensemble on grounds of suspected bioterrorism appears to be nothing more than thinly disguised suppression of dissent. Steve Kurtz, of the CAE, awakens to the tragedy of his wife's death & the state sees their opportunity to make some money off of it & to spread some TERROR of its own. It's so easy to imagine an eager DA sociopathically gloating over this opportunity to "make a name" for his or her self by prosecuting a case with major news-making potential. Who cares whether a person struck by grief might have their life rendered even more unhappy by the unscrupulous career pursuits of greedy & oppressive representatives of the Injustice Sytem, of the Police State. I find it close to impossible to believe that investigators really think that the CAE's purpose is bioterroristic. It's much more likely that they resent CAE's incisive scrutiny of the states's propaganda machine, of the state's obvious use of 'security' concerns to rob & suppress the people they definitely DON'T represent. When demonstrators get arrested because they have a cell-phone or a marker or some such only to find themselves facing bails for hundreds of thousands of dollars & incredibly trumped-up charges, the purpose of the state is clearly to propagandize
against dissent by misrepresenting it as much as they can get away with & to embroil the people alert enough to see through the lies in expenses & trials. This attack on the CAE is just more of the same old, same old. There's 'terrorism" involved alright. It's the usual terrorism exercised by the state as its NORMAL FUNCTION AGAINST THE PEOPLE. May these state terrorists fail now & forevermore.

Monty Cantsin,
neoist


June 3, 2004 7:21:41 PM PDT

To whom it may concern,

We, the undersigned artists, curators, critics, cultural producers, theorists and writers who have worked with or followed the work of the collective known as Critical Art Ensemble, are writing to express our serious concern over legal proceedings brought against members of this highly respected artists group.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognized artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been directed towards providing the general public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides knowledge.

The work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using materials which are commonly available in scientific education and research practices.

It has come to our attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. The international art scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York
State which returned the result that the material seized posed no public safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which have, throughout history, had pedagogical aims. Having worked with CAE in various settings throughout the world we have found CAE's approach has always been to understand and to know the topic that they are presenting. It comes as no surprise, given the current focus of their work, that the research tools included biological material. However, those of us in the art world who have worked with this artists' group also know that their work is undertaken with thorough research, in continuous consultation with members of the scientific community, in order to ensure that the artworks they produce are safe, but also real, in terms of the investigations they pursue. The work of CAE is internationally recognized as thorough, investigative, educative and safe.

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health threat, we insist that the American Government immediately cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble
collective. This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of the corner stones of the liberal democracies. The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

Yours faithfully,

Anthony Davis



June 4, 2004

To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Rachel Schreiber and I am the Director of the Masters in Digital Arts Program at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Maryland. MICA is one of the oldest art colleges in the country and is consistently ranked by U. S. News & World Report to be among the top 5 independent art colleges in the nation.

In the Fall of 2000 I invited Steve Kurtz to our institute to give a lecture on the work of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE). MICA’s visiting lecture program is a highly prestigious program, selectively inviting a limited number of internationally acclaimed artists each year to the college. I was familiar with the work of CAE via numerous exhibitions in the US and abroad, as well as through conference presentations and their publications. Steve Kurtz delivered a highly informative lecture on the topic of “tactical media,” a strategy that CAE has employed for many years that involves making use of existing media in order to critique current events and political issues.

CAE’s work may seem unconvential to those not working within the field of contemporary art. However, as a director of a graduate art program in technology, I have always found CAE’s work to be very much in keeping with the principles that are of central importance to me in my art practice as well as in my teaching: that art need not be a commercialized, precious object; that artists of our time function as social critics and therefore must produce work that responds to the world around us; and that artist must seek new forms for our work that engage with the same practices of mass media and mass culture. All of CAE’s projects are wonderful exemplars of these principles, and more.

I completely support the current work that CAE is doing and see it as being a valuable contribution to contemporary art practice. I have absolutely no hesitations in stating that it is being done for peaceful purposes only. I urge you to consider the work in the context of artistic practice only and to cease the pursuit of legal action against any of the members of CAE.

Sincerely,
Rachel Schreiber
Director, Masters in Digital Arts
Maryland Institute College of Art


June 3, 2004 10:42:33 AM PDT

To Whom It May Concern:

Accounts of the arrest of Steve Kurtz, a celebrated performance and installation artist, is a confirmation that our government has embarked upon the selective revocation of the Bill of Rights and the rule of law in the
United States. I met Steve Kurtz at a conference that the UC Digital Cultures Project sponsored at UCLA in the Fall of 2002. On-line record of the conference can be found at:
http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/humnet/arthist/AH_conference/schedule.html

Steve Kurtz, and his group, the Critical Arts Ensemble, have achieved international fame through their creative use of art to reflect upon the most basic political ideas of a civil society: for example, one of their
installation/ live performances asks, "how does the alarm about bio-terrorism, and the use of state power to protect against bio-terrorism, threaten our most basic civil liberties?" Given this artistic and political
interest, it is highly ironic that prosecutors and law enforcement would confuse an artist working to preserve our democracy for a terrorist, and would arrest and prosecute an artist who is keeping our political rights vibrant, by exercising them. Precisely because Steve Kurtz's art is political, his arrest looks like an attempt to intimidate those who would criticize our government. I hope all those who have violated Kurtz's civil liberties will be legally liable for this act of injustice, and will be reprimanded by those who have authority over them.

How could this happen in the United States of America? I don't know how law enforcement is justifying this scandalous behavior, but it is not difficult to grasp the under-lying cause. The misguided and unconstitutional Patriot Act has placed those vested with the force to enforce the law above the law. When those who are supposed to enforce the law and protect the rights of those they arrest consider themselves above the law, and thus exempt from the ordinary protections and safeguards of the law, we have the torture of Iraqis in Abu Greib prison in Iraq and the arrest of American citizens like Steve Kurtz in the United States. The bare suspicion of terrorism because justification for the revocation of the rights of American citizens.

William B. Warner
Professor of English
Director, The Digital Cultures Project
Department of English
University of California/ Santa Barbara


June 3, 2004 3:02:23 PM PDT

Dear CAE Artists,
 
I have read of your predicament and send this letter in support of you and your position in this most ridiculous case.
 
It is important that artists pursue all kinds of enquiry when developing their work, and it is clear to me that you people are innocently pursuing an understanding of the relationship between the human body and the natural world.
 
Naturally, this direction of thought will lead you into the realms of the science of biology and the discourse that surrounds it. Biological apparatus then would be symbolic of that science, and a very normal thing to use in the creation of your work.
 
To be deprived as you have of a legitimate field of endeavour, and indeed, an important endeavour for the creation of an understanding of our relationship with the natural world – is nothing short of shameful.
 
Further, this disgraceful misuse of power and legislation intended for entirely other purposes smacks of fascism. I can think of no other terms for it.
 
I wish you the best of luck, and hope that sanity returns to your world soon. I have spent a lot of time in the USand I remember much that was good and the philosophical underpinning to the creation of your country …. Which was as far removed from the current situation as nature is from our urban bodies. … No doubt the metaphor you are developing.
 
Daniel Johnson,
Managing and Creative Director of Environmental Arts Ltd,New Zealand.



June 1, 2004

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing in reference to the artists Steve Kurtz, Beatriz da Costa, and Paul Vanouse that the FBI suspects of being bioterrorists. All these artists are well known and well respected in the international arts community. They are invited to speak throughout the country and world. Their work has been featured in various prestigious museums and art shows. Their teaching at State University of New York at Buffalo and UC Irvine is well known.

I think the agents may have been confused because they found biological research paraphenelia in their homes and studios. These artists are famous for their investigation of emerging technologies such as bioengineering and the like. In fact they are among the leaders internationally in these kinds of arts. I recently published a book called Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology for MIT Press in 2002. This is a survey of artists around the world working in these new experimental art forms. Kurtz, Vanouse, and daCosta are featured in the book.

I could understand that the field agents, who are probably unfamiliar with new biological art forms, might be suspicious at first on seeing the equipment. That heightened security mindedness is to be commended. But any check of the background of these artists should have quickly demonstrated that there was nothing malicious in what was found. I would hope the FBI analysts could quickly determine this. The artists have been doing this work under public scrutiny for 10 years. Continuing the investigation to this point shows the FBI to be incompetent or abusive. They are causing great personal and financial trauma to the artists. There are better places for the FBI to put their energies.

Stephen Wilson, PhD, MFA
Director, Conceptual/ Information Arts Program
Art Dept, San Francisco State University


June 3, 2004 8:14:37 AM PDT

Hello,

My name is Agricola de Cologne, media artist from Cologne/Germany. Firstly, I would like to express all my sympathy and solidarity for Steve Kurtz and CAE by writing this letter, particularly the human component is extraordinary depressing, but the legal component as well, as it is based on existing US law. Nobody would have been surprised if the artist would be living in one of the Third World countries ruled by a dictatorship.

On the other hand, this case can actually nobody be surprise who is watching the USA carefully from outside during the past years. What happend to Steve Kurtz is tragic in his personal case and I hope this situation will be de-escalating very soon, and he and his collegues will be able to continue their work as CAE, but it is only a symptom for the general conditions in USA, currently, and particularly intellectuals, artists and/or, generally, different minded people will be affected again and again.

The difference to one of these dictatorships is already now only marginal, and there is no difference also in this concern that each totalitarian sytem defines its right to exist by declaring itself as a superior moral instance.

As long as the majority of US citizens does not recognize the fatal conditions they are living in
and become active to change these conditions, there will no chance to bring USA back to the civilized countries.

signed by

Wilfried Agricola de Cologne
media artist from Cologne, Germany


June 3, 2004 3:00:04 PM PDT

To Whom it May Concern,

I would like to express my support for Critical Art Ensemble (Steve Kurtz, Beatriz da Costa, Steve Barnes, and Paul Vanouse) in the investigation being carried out under the USA Patriot Act.

I would also like to vouch for CAE's work as art, and not bioterror or terrorism of any kind.

I believe that the US Joint Terrorism Task Force has committed a gross error in its inability to distinguish art from bioterrorism. Critical Art Ensemble's art projects, while raising political issues, have for many years
been dedicated to fostering education and public awareness concerning biotechnology. Critical Art Ensemble is NOT engaged in bioterrorism.

An investigation such as this not only serves as an example of how the US Patriot Act threatens to limit civil liberties, but it will also have an adverse effect on the capacity of art to foster dialogue, encourage critical
thinking, and to serve as a voice of dissent.

In light of this error, I urge the federal grand jury, as well as the Joint Terrorism Task Force, to drop the charges.

Sincerely,

tobias c. van Veen
Doctoral Candidate, McGill Communications, Montreal
Concept Engineer, Society for Arts and Technology (SAT)


June 3, 2004 6:13:26 AM PDT

Dear Sirs,

This is a letter in protest against the case of three artists that have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury and that will consider bioterrorism charges against a university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment. Release them immediately.

I get more and more worried about the USA and in the Netherlands, one of the most loyal allies, I am not the only one. The country that in my youth was the example of liberty seems to be quickly becoming a police state, that takes worrying steps of control in order to fight terrorism.

The Partiot act is almost the opposite it stands for. Patriots used to be people who would stand up for their freedom. But now patriots are almost people who should comply to everything their government wants, otherwise they are not real American patriots. Anyone with critical notes to their government seem to be anti-patriots, misguided or dangerous. Democracy used to be about different voices and view points that were in dialogue.

But quite recently it has come to my attention that an artist possessing some stuff that might be used for biological warfare will be on trial because he owned the stuff. When actually he was preparing a art peace that would inform people of the dangers of biological warfare and biotechnology. How crazy can you get? His actions can even been seen as supportive of the Government actions against biowarfare, aren't they?

Might it be because the Anti Terrorism Task Force follows the law to the letter? It that case they would be in their right, but then millions of people would own dangerous stuff and especially many multinationals would be harboring the means for large scale poisoning of civilians everywhere.

So it can't be the letter of the law they follow here. Wasn't it that the artist also would point towards national politics of biotechnology? Wouldn't big (American) corporations not resent that? Does the fact that his art peace would awake people to dangers of biotechnology endanger the interests of mighty people have anything to do with it? Has the police also followed up on an inquiry of the ones who push the case forward against all common sense? Of course they didn't. Questioning the logic of a case is hardly the responsibility of the anti terrorist agents, isn't it?

In Europe many people worry about how the inner politics of the US develop. Some people, especially some Americans abroad, take the word fascism in their mouth, a new kind of nationalistic state fascism: support the leaders and their  economical interests in everything or suffer the consequences. The fact that more and more people start to think and believe things like this, tells me that the US government and their Patriot act is walking into shady and dangerous territory. Even if all these stories are untrue, why do they reappear everywhere? It is a signal of a shadow side that American anti terrorist acts threaten exactly what the American government wants to defend, or is supposed to defend: freedom. And that is worrying.

I would like to see that the US Goverment would release the artists in question, Steve Kurtz, Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes immediatly. Is it not in the interest of the world and the US that critical voices can't dare to speak their minds. As long as any debate is out in the open, there can be dialogue and change. It is when the state pushes the opposition into corners or even hiding that opposition tends to go underground. Only then it becomes dangerous.

The US has a long history of creating the enemies they were fighting, both Saddam Hoessein and Bin Laden among them. Please do everything to stop this from happening over and over again. Show the world the US can make a distinction between a critical patriot with his own opinion and a real terrorist.
Show the world there is an America that is worthy to believe in and support, an America where artists and intellectuals can speak out against their own state in any way they want. Or as I saw it in a Hollywood movie: democracy is giving room to speak to people who make your blood boil.

Please let these artists speak in freedom.

Extra note: it is also worrying that so little people in the world seem to wonder why these terrorists hate the USA in such a fanatical way? Their methods are disgusting, but the US should be more curious on how to improve relationships with other cultures rather than give itself the right that trash down every ally with force where they perceive any danger towards their (economical) interests. The war against terrorism lacks enormously in dialogue with other viewpoints. The case against these artists is proof how stupid and blind this whole war has become, and how urgently it needs clearer heads. We hope this message from across the ocean will help you to think at least a bit broader about this case and everything it relates to.

Please help me to broaden and lighten my viewpoint about American politics and war on terrorism.
I have added the critical news about this case that reached me underneath.

Yours truly, 

Floris Koot
Change agent, Creative consultant, FEO of FoolService


June 3, 2004 8:59:11 AM PDT

To Whom It May Concern

As a writer and independent scholar who has had frequent reason to draw on the work of Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), I would request that these charges be dropped immediately and that the FBI make a formal apology for their wrongful intervention in Mr Kurtz's life.

lynn hershman


June 4, 2004 1:57:25 PM PDT

To whom it may concern:

We are writing to express our surprise and deep concern over the legal actions directed against Steve Kurtz and other members of the Critical Art Ensemble, a respected artist collective whose project Genterra our
Foundation helped to fund in 2002.

The Critical Art Ensemble creates in an area between traditional artistic practices and the larger realms of social issues, education and advocacy. In recent years, much of their work has addressed the social implications of biological research conducted by commercial enterprises. The resulting artworks sometimes mimic the methods of biological research, but always in a safe and considered way, using materials that are commonly available in scientific education and research practices.We understand that after the tragic fatal heart attack of Mr. Kurtz’s wife, the Federal Bureau of Investigation detained Mr. Kurtz without charge,
quarantined and autopsied the body of his wife, and seized the artists' work and research material. We further understand that the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State has determined that the material seized posed no public safety risk, and that Mr. Kurtz’s wife had died of natural causes. However the FBI has continued their investigations and now seek to charge members of the collective under the United States Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

It is perhaps understandable, even reasonable, in the current political climate that artwork like that created by the Critical Art Ensemble might trigger an investigation by the authorities. However, very soon after that
investigation began it must have become clear that Mr. Kurtz and his collaborators were guilty of nothing more than creating artworks designed to provide the public with a greater understanding of issues having to do with biological research. This is not a crime in the United States of America.

Creative Capital has been aware throughout our association with the CAE that they are creative, serious, conscientious, and very well regarded in their field, both nationally and internationally. They are not dangerous. The actions of the government in this case raise issues of personal and artistic freedom. These are the very values we are now trying to bring into being in other parts of the world.

Mr. Kurtz has lost his wife, been detained, frightened, had his personal possessions taken from him, his life disrupted, and his livelihood and reputation threatened. We encourage the authorities to immediately cease
legal action against Mr Kurtz and other members of the Critical Art Ensemble, and to do everything possible to ensure that the reputation of the group is restored.

Yours faithfully,

Ruby Lerner,
Executive Director


June 5, 2004 6:40:43 AM PDT

Letter of supportTo whom it may concern,

I am writing to express my serious concern over legal proceedings brought against the highly respected artists group known as Critical Art Ensemble.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been directed towards providing the general public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides knowledge. The work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using materials which are commonly available in scientific education and research practices.

It has come to my attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. I am shocked and surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State which returned the result that the material seized posed no public safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

While it is perhaps understandable in the current international political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which have, throughout history, had pedagogical
aims.

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health threat, we insist that the American Government immediately cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble collective.

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of the corner
stones of the liberal democracies. The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

Sincerely,

Sheila Pinkel
Professor of Art
Pomona College


June 5, 2004 7:57:21 AM PDT

To whom it may concern:

This is an absolute outrage. To hear of yet another exploitive misuse of the Patriot Act is nauseating.
The Patriot Act was established to protect us from terrorists.
I have to wonder which terrorists? The internal terrorists that abuse the Bill of Rights and control dissemination of information, in seemingly every critcial form, from publications to televison to cinema to art to music?
Those terrorists?
Or the terrorists that we sent overseas to rape the women of Abu Grhaib?
The terrorists that  torture and humiliate the prisoners, of a nation that is allegedly compliant with the statutes of the Geneva convention?
Which terrorists?
The terrorists that rip families apart to send our loved ones to be killed in a war that important allies do not support?
What are we proctecting here?
Our country was based on  the constitution. Our country is no country without our constitution.
In the abuse of that constitution vis a vis the Patriot Act we pose a larger threat to our country than any foreign entity.
If you asked me if an artist could have his possesions seized, the body of his wife held and his home stolen away for reasons of self-expression and freedom of speech, I would have told you no, not in America.
How saddened I am that that is apparently no longer true.
Who will protect us from our protectors?

A. Smith


June 5, 2004 8:03:12 AM PDT

My name is Tim McCorry and I am the chairperson of the Western New York Bill of Rights Campaign (WNYBORDC). Many members of our campaign are alarmed by the recent investigation of Steve Kurtz, as well as the subpoena's of members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble <http://www.critical-art.net/> (CAE). Members of this the CAE will be required to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against Steve, whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment.

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." Many artists, scientists, researchers, educators and others have already written in support of Steve and the work of Critical Art Ensemble. In addition, a rally is being planned on the date of the grand jury hearing. If you live in Buffalo or within a few hours' drive, join us outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave., at 9 a.m. on June 15.

On that same day, the WNYBORDC ( www.wnybordc.org) will bring over one thousand signed petitions to the President of the Common Council of the City of Buffalo to symbolically reject the USA Patriot Act. The WNYBORDC has already drafted a resolution that says this federal law, hastily passed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, infringes upon the Bill of Rights. Our resolution calls for the repeal of portions of the Patriot Act and other recent laws that "curtail civil liberties and civil rights." Please read our resolution and let us know what you think.

Resolution: http://www.wnybordc.org/resolut.html <http://www.wnybordc.org/resolut.html>

If you are interested in joining the more than 100 organizations that have already become co-sponsors, please e-mail me at the following address, stating that your organization is willing to co-sponsor our resolution.

mccorrta@buffalostate.edu

In addition to looking for co-sponsors, we are also conducting a petition campaign designed to show support for our resolution. We are asking you to show your support by printing out the petition, getting signatures, and sending the petition forms to the WNYBORDC. We will reimburse postage.

Petition: http://www.wnybordc.org/documents/petition.pdf <http://www.wnybordc.org/documents/petition.pdf>

Send completed petitions to:
WNYBRDC.
100 South Elmwood Avenue, Second Floor
Buffalo, New York 1420

Let’s join New York City as well as the more than 270 cities, towns and counties that have passed similar resolutions. Let’s work together to make sure that Steve's civil rights and our civil liberties are protected in Western New York!

Sincerely,

Tim McCorry
Chairperson of the Western New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign
(www.wnybordc.org)


            

 

To Whom it May Concern:

 

I consider Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art Ensemble to be among the most important contemporary artists working at the intersection of aesthetics and cultural studies.  I have taught and written about their texts on the nature of biology as a reigning metaphor in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.  The fact that some supplies (which would not be out of place in any science library in any university in the country) are the pretext for an investigation is deeply, deeply horrifying to me.  Many artists today use a variety of materials to make works.  Kurtz and his colleagues should be immediately exonerated and instead recognized as major artistic voices.

 

Yours sincerely,

--

David Joselit

Professor

History of Art

Yale University

PO Box 208272

New Haven, CT  06520

phone: (203)432-2666

fax: (203)432-7462

 

 

June 3, 2004

 

Beatriz da Costa

Assistant Professor of Art

University of California at Irvine

 

Beatriz,

  

I met Steve Kurtz in 1995 while attending the MFA in Visual Arts program at Vermont College. Steve was both a teacher and advisor. It was at this time that I decided to abandon my studio practice in favor of an infrastructural, process-oriented art. By infrastructural I mean that I formed a corporation, created a business plan and called it art. I submitted my corporate charter and articles of incorporation as course work. Some of the faculty questioned whether or not the work should even be considered art. Steve Kurtz was one of several teachers who supported my efforts.

 

Like Steve, my background is also in technology and sociology. I changed the way I practiced art because I wanted my art to be relevant to the times and broad in its social impact. In 1996 I began work as a senior technical advisor for FedEx where I designed a software architecture that became an industry-wide reference model for supply chain integration and the creation of virtual companies. In 1998 I left FedEx to become the founder and Chief Technology Officer of GlobalESP, a peer-to-peer, grid computing software company. In 1999 I co-founded Transfinity, the first company to provide dial-up web acceleration. I did the work at FedEx and GlobalESP because I wanted to reduce the economic and organizational barriers to the production and global distribution of infrastructural capital. I created Transfinity in order to make rich Web content available over the Internet as cheaply as possible and to as many people as possible. I am currently working as an executive in a software company specializing in process performance measurement. Although all of these were for-profit companies with products, investors and customers, they were also the result of my artistic practice, a practice which Steve Kurtz was instrumental in forming.

 

Steve Kurtz represents a new kind of artist making a new kind of art. Most traditional visual art ends up in museums or hanging over peoples couches and headboards. In this complex society, process-oriented art has a much greater chance of positively affecting the choices that people have and make than do most other art forms. At this point in history, it is one of the most reasonable and meaningful things I can think of for an artist to do.

 

The twentieth century artist, Paul Klee, said, “Art does not render the visible, it makes visible.” For nearly twenty years, Steve Kurtz, working alone and with others, has created work the purpose of which is “to make visible” the complex structures that define the intersection of social and individual human identity. In this effort he belongs to a long-standing tradition that includes artists as diverse as Velázquez, Goya, Duchamp and Warhol.

 

I cannot speak on behalf of the companies in which I have worked. But I can speak on my own behalf. As long as I have known of Steve Kurtz and his work, he has been an artist and a teacher of the highest character and integrity. His art makes perfect sense to me as art. I cannot imagine that it could be perceived by others as anything else.

 

Respectfully,

 

Michael Harold

 

Dear friends, dear artworld,

 

the unbelievable mail below reached me yesterday. Artists of the Critical

Art Ensemble (USA) are being accused of "bioterrorism" by the FBI. The

accusations seem to be based on materials for an upcoming exhibition at the

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art - "a mobile DNA extraction

laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by

genetically modified grains and organisms".

 

Precise Informations below. Amongst the artists subpoenaed now is Beatriz Da

Costa, Professor for arts at the University of California in Irvine. She

lived in Hamburg for a long time, and I met her last January in New Delhi,

where she was giving a workshop at Sarai Media Lab.

 

All necessary Informations are in the text below, as well as adresses and

suggestions what you can do. Espescially letters by artists and persons with

institutional backgrounds can be helpfull.

 

Greetings,

 

Christoph SchĢfer

--

Park Fiction

info@parkfiction.org

www.parkfiction.org

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

I am writing to express my serious concern over legal proceedings brought

against the highly respected artists group known as Critical Art Ensemble.

 

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognised

artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise

awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been

directed towards providing the general public with awareness and

understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not

alarmist but rather provides knowledge. The work is always undertaken in a

safe and considered way, using materials which are commonly available in

scientific education and research practices.

 

It has come to my attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial

amount of the artists' work and research material. I am shocked and

surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an

analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York

State which returned the result that the material seized posed no public

safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now seeking to

charge members of the collective under the US Biological Weapons

Anti-Terrorism Act.

 

While it is perhaps understandable in the current international political

climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American

authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the

aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action

undertaken with a cultural and artistic agenda. Indeed it is quite in

keeping with art practices, which have, throughout history, had pedagogical

aims.

 

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health

threat, we insist that the American Government immediately cease legal

action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble collective.

 

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the

actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic

expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of the corner

stones of the liberal democracies. The good reputation of Critical Art

Ensemble must be immediately restored.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sheila Pinkel

Professor of Art

Pomona College

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

I  am writing to express my  serious concern over legal proceedings brought

against members of the highly respected artists group Critical Art Ensemble,

who I  have  followed the work of for many years. In my former function as

director of international Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria, I have

invited CAE and worked with them.

 

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally

recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art

contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most

recently their work has been directed towards providing the general

public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with

biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides

knowledge.

 

It has come to my attention that there was a recent seizure of a

substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. The

international art scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the

US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the

materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State

which returned the result that the material seized posed no public

safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now

seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological

Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

 

Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international

political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with

American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon

investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an

awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic

agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which

have, throughout history, had pedagogical aims.

 

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public

health threat, I insist that the American Government immediately

cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble

collective.

 

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that

the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of

artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of

the corner stones of the liberal democracies.

 

The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

 

Yours faithfully,

 

Dr. Katharina Gsöllpointner

media art theoretician

Vienna, Austria

 

To whom it may concern,

 

We, the undersigned artists, curators, critics, cultural producers,

theorists and writers who have worked with or followed the work of

the collective known as Critical Art Ensemble, are writing to express

our serious concern over legal proceedings brought against members of

this highly respected artists group.

 

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally

recognised artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art

contexts to raise awareness of a range of social issues. Most

recently their work has been directed towards providing the general

public with awareness and understanding of issues to do with

biological research. Their work is not alarmist but rather provides

knowledge.

 

The work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using

materials which are commonly available in scientific education and

research practices.

 

It has come to our attention that there was a recent seizure of a

substantial amount of the artists' work and research material. The

international art scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the

US Federal Bureau of Investigation, following an analysis of the

materials by the Commissioner of Public Health for New York State

which returned the result that the material seized posed no public

safety risk, have continued with their investigation and are now

seeking to charge members of the collective under the US Biological

Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act.

 

Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international

political climate that such research might raise alarm bells with

American authorities, it would have also been clear, upon

investigation, that the aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an

awareness raising action undertaken with a cultural and artistic

agenda. Indeed it is quite in keeping with art practices, which

have, throughout history, had pedagogical aims.

 

Having worked with CAE in various settings throughout the world we

have found CAE's approach has always been to understand and to know

the topic that they are presenting. It comes as no surprise, given

the current focus of their work, that the research tools included

biological material. However, those of us in the art world who have

worked with this artists' group also know that their work is

undertaken with thorough research, in continuous consultation with

members of the scientific community, in order to ensure that the

artworks they produce are safe, but also real, in terms of the

investigations they pursue. The work of CAE is internationally

recognised as thorough, investigative, educative and safe.

 

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public

health threat, we insist that the American Government immediately

cease legal action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble

collective.

 

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that

the actions of the American government undermine the freedom of

artistic expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of

the corner stones of the liberal democracies.

The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored.

 

Yours faithfully,

ann wu

 

student

 

To Whom It May Concern,

 

the work of the Critical Art Ensemble always had a big impact on my critical thinking. They do not just belong to longest running, but also to the smartest groups i ever came across with. I request that the charges made against Steve Kurtz and the other artists be dropped immediately!

 

Nils Krause

artist, germany

 

Dear Steve, dear friends,

 

 

Being inside the evil. One morning I woke up by believing in a terrible

message which was falling from the serverlist " Spectre ". It was regarding

Steve Kurtz and his biogenetic tools as a matter of art when his wife has

just died and all likened to the terrorism by the FBI; their aggressive and

violent raid in his house was just after the death of Hope by a heart

attack.

 

After all I thought on the contrary to be front of a radical tactical call

to a special opus, an interventionist strategy curated by " Critical Art

Ensemble " against Patriot Act -within the framework of their demonstration

tittled " The Interventionists: art in the Social Sphere", at MASS MoCA. But

before I knew that the worst could arrive inside as outside. It is to say

how I wish whole heartedly that Steve's wife would be still alive. Hope was

she really dead this morning of May 11?

 

Following, I do not know really of what in this strange event hapenning and

growing up inclusing more artists: may be a strange competition of

circumstance between the signs, the projects, the persons, seized in the

simultaneous black strategy of actual. In anyway a tragedy.

 

To be true or not to be true. In the same mirror of materialistic vision

there is a commun view of both symbolic event of criticism and social and

political pressure as real for the same

active phenomena: evil. The first part protects us as the homoeopathic

therapy of the

second part. Or we are missing our precious freedom to show the things as

otherness. While being mortal we shall not re-find it otherwise by living.

What accounts is to keep our creativity as a critical predictive glass to

safe humanity. While the unbearable society always shows itself by its

obscenity in front of the death.

 

A tragedy. I think of Steve, his great sadness redoubled by the traumatism

of suffering a material and psychological violence by FBI without repect.

 

I am afraid of the same as Europeans under Euro Patriot Act to be in

progress since december 2003.

 

Please, believe in my affection and in my united and whole support. I feel

at your disposal any service except the money, because I self-produce all

our works what leaves not enough resource.

 

If you want that I re-write my protest (below), please, send me by mail the

good text and I shall sign up.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Aliette Guibert

Editing Director

http://www.criticalsecret.com

 

 

To whom it may concern:

 

I am a graduate student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the Digital Media program.   This past year, I have explored the work of CAE with my peers and professors and have maintained a continuous dialogue about their ideas and practice.   We have been excited and inspired by the artists of CAE and believe that the current accusations by the FBI and governmental agencies to be ridiculous and outrageous.  I know I speak on behalf of my department and my institution in defense of art and cultural critique as forms of free speech.   I urge those with authority to drop this case and to seriously reevaluate the Patriot Act as it is unjust and unconstitutional.

 

Sincerely,

 

Lauren Holt

MFA Candidate

RISD 2005

 

 

To whom it may concern,

 

I, the undersigned  cultural producer, theorist and writer, who have worked

with and followed the work of the collective known as Critical Art Ensemble,

am writing to express my serious concern over legal proceedings brought

against members of this highly respected artists group.

 

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognised

artists who work within pedagogic frameworks and art contexts to raise

awareness of a range of social issues. Most recently their work has been

directed towards providing the general public with awareness and

understanding of issues to do with biological research. Their work is not

alarmist but rather provides knowledge. This latter feature of their

practice is clearly the most troublesome to the enforcement agencies of the

current American political climate.

 

CAE's work is always undertaken in a safe and considered way, using

materials which are commonly available in scientific education and research

practices. Their main motivation is to provide the public with the tools

needed to make informed choices.

 

It has come to my attention that there was a recent seizure of a substantial

amount of the artists' work and research material. The international art

scene was shocked and surprised to learn that the US Federal Bureau of

Investigation, following an analysis of the materials by the Commissioner of

Public Health for New York State which returned the result that the material

seized posed no public safety risk, have continued with their investigation

and are now seeking to charge members of the collective under the US

Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act as expanded by the USA Patriot Act.

 

Whilst it is perhaps understandable in the current international political

climate that such research might raise alarm bells with American

authorities, it would have also been clear, upon investigation, that the

aims of CAE are not a terrorist act, but an awareness raising action

undertaken with cultural, artistic and educational agendas. Indeed CAE's

work is quite in keeping with mainstream art practices, which have,

throughout history, had pedagogical aims.

 

Having worked with Steve Kurtz and CAE as an editor of the upcoming reader

Immaterial Labour:  Work, Reserach and Art, I have found CAE's approach has

always been to understand and to know the topic that they are presenting. It

comes as no surprise, given the current focus of their work, that the

research tools included biological material. However, those of us in the art

world who have worked with this artists' group also know that their work is

undertaken with thorough research, incontinuous consultation with members of

the scientific community, in orderto ensure that the artworks they produce

are safe, but also real, in terms of the investigations they pursue. The

work of CAE is internationally recognised as thorough, investigative,

educative and safe.

 

This matter is one that raises serious concerns internationally that the

actions of the American government undermine the freedom of artistic

expression, a fundamental democratic right, which is one of the cornerstones

of the liberal democracies.

 

As the materials have been tested and been shown to pose no public health

threat, we demand that the American Government immediately cease legal

action against members of the Critical Art Ensemble collective.

 

The good reputation of Critical Art Ensemble must be immediately restored

from the odious machinations of far-right bureaucratic violence.

Yours faithfully,

Marina Vishmidt

Editor,

de-,dis-,ex -

Black Dog Publishing,

London

 

I write as a British scientist and academic, and as someone who is

proud that his father took part in the D-Day landings which we

commemorate today. Thousands died, amongst them thousands of

Americans, on this day 60 years ago to liberate Europe from Nazi

tyranny. Today I read that the United States Government is

prosecuting an academic and artist for "terrorism" because of his

artistic production. This is the act of a dictatorship not a democracy.

Free people the world over will oppose this latest, characteristic

outrage by the Bush regime, designed to intimidate opposition and

crush critical thought. The anti-democratic clique that currently rules

the United States must not be allowed to get away with this.Chris Sinha

Professor of Psychology of Language

Head of Department of Psychology

King Henry Building, King Henry I Street

Portsmouth PO1 2DY

Tel. +44 (0)2392 84 6312

Fax +44 (0)2392 84 6300

 

 

Hi, I'm a college student in the Northwest...

 

I've known about CAE for some time and it really, really, gets me that these

people are harassing you all because they found the petri dishes and test

tubes for your next performance piece. The fact that they found out about it

and charged you, Prof. Kurtz, on the day of your discovery of your wife's

death is an abomination.

 

Sincerely,

    John S. Madziarczyk, 24, student at The Evergreen State College, WA

 

 

A quien pueda interesar:

 

Nosotros, los abajo firmantes, artistas, comisarios, críticos, productores culturales y escritores que hemos trabajado con o seguido la obra del colectivo Critical Art Ensemble, escribimos para expresar nuestra seria preocupación por el proceso legal abierto contra miembros de este respetado grupo de artistas.

 

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) es un colectivo de artistas internacionalmente reconocidos que trabajan dentro de marcos pedagógicos y contextos artísticos para crear conocimiento sobre diversos temas sociales. Recientemente su trabajo se ha dirigido hacia la difusión entre el público general de temas relacionados con la investigación biológica. Su obra no es alarmista sino divulgativa.

 

El trabajo de CAE es siempre abordado de manera segura y consciente, empleando materiales comunmente disponibles para la educación científica y las prácticas de investigación. Su principal motivación es proveer al público de las herramientas necesarias para decidir informadamente.

 

Ha llamado nuestra atención que se haya producido la reciente requisa de un conjunto considerable de obra y material de investigación de estos artistas. La escena internacional del arte está asombrada y sorprendida de saber que el FBI, después de un análisis por parte de la Comisión de Salud Pública del Estado de New York que concluyó que el material requisado no suponía un riesgo para la seguridad pública, haya continuado la investigación y ahora acuse al colectivo según la Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act (medidas contra el terrorismo con armas biológicas),  ampliadas por el Patriot Act.

 

Si bien es tal vez comprensible en el actual clima político internacional que tal investigación pueda levantar sospechas de las autoridades de EE UU, también debería haberse aclarado, tras la investigación, que los objetivos del CAE no son realizar un atentado terrorista, sino una acción divulgativa emprendida en un contexto cultural, artístico y educativo. La obra de CAE está en armonía con prácticas artísticas habituales que han tenido, a lo largo de la historia, objetivos pedagógicos.

 

Quienes han trabajado con ellos saben que el enfoque de CAE ha sido siempre comprender y conocer el tema que presentan. No sorprende, dado el campo en que desarrollan su trabajo actualmente, que sus herramientas de investigación incluyan material biológico. También es sabido que su obra siempre se desarrolla mediante cuidadosos estudios, en continua comunicación con miembros de la comunidad científica para asegurar que las obras que producen son seguras, pero también reales. La obra de CAE se considera en todo el mundo  cuidadosa, investigadora, educativa y segura.

 

Este asunto ha provocado la alarma al considerar que el gobierno americano está minando la libertad de espresión artística, un derecho democrático fundamental y una de las piedras angulares de las democracias liberales.

 

Toda vez que los materiales han sido analizados y se ha demostrado que no suponen una amenaza para la salud pública, exigimos que el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de América cese inmediatamente la acción legal contra los miembros del colectivo Critical Art Ensemble.

 

La reputación de CAE debe ser inmetiatamente restituida.

 

Sinceramente,

 

Amanda McDonald Crowley,

cultural worker/ curator, currently executive producer ISEA2004

(International Symposium of Electronic Art 2004),

Australia/Finland

http://www.isea2004.net

 

Eric Kluitenberg

Head of the Media Program

De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

http://www.debalie.nl

 

Firmas:

 

Dante Smirnoff / artista / EspaĖa / http://www.dantesmirnoff.com

June 6 2004

 

To whom it may concern,

 

 

We are writing on behalf of the faculty of L’Ecole Superieure Des Beaux Arts of Aix en Provence (France). We wish to express the surprise and anxiety that we all felt upon hearing the news of the bizarre affair involving the seizure of artistic equipment belonging to  Critical Art Ensemble, Steve Kurt’s convocation before the federal jury, and the subpoenas served to four artists members of CAE including Beatriz Da Costa.

 

We are very familiar with the work of Beatriz Da Costa who was a student in our institution and where she obtained her masters degree with top grades in 2001. Apart from underlining the importance of her artwork, we also wish to vouch for her absolute honesty and integrity.

 

We would also like to point out the importance of CAE’s artistic production as seen from an international view point, indeed our institution (as many other European institutions) has closely followed the work of CAE over recent years. CAE is widely considered as being a model example of the way in which art can respond to social issues, their writings have been translated into French and published and there work presented in major art venues.

We consider that these events represent a grave danger and an attack on freedom of speech and artistic expression. We fail to understand how such an episode is possible in a democracy such as the USA. We sincerely hope that the mistake will be recognized forthwith and that the parties concerned will be free to continue with their work.

In the meantime we will take every opportunity to publicize this matter as widely as possible.

For the Faculty of ESBAA

Peter Sinclair                 Jean Cristofol               Jean Paul Ponthot
Professor                        Professor                      Director


To Whom It May Concern:

 

I must admit that when I first learned by email about the events of May 11

and 12, I wondered if this was someone’s poor idea of an prank. Or, if not

an internet prank, then an unfortunate but perhaps understandable

overreaction by police and Federal Bureau of Investigation officers trying

to do their jobs. Early internet reports seemed to confirm the latter: they

said that Steve Kurtz, who fully cooperated with the police, was

well-treated.

 

However, when the FBI continued the investigation, even after determining

that seized materials posed no threat to public safety, and after having

plenty of time to determine just what kind of art Kurtz does, whatever

credibility the process once had disappeared. Use of scientific equipment to

create art goes back many centuries. By pressing the investigation the FBI

contributes nothing to public welfare or to legitimate efforts to control

bioterrorism, and only creates one more scandal. What is happening looks

like lawlessness in the name of law.

 

Now we learn that members of Critical Art Ensemble have received summons to

appear before a Grand Jury, which will meet on June 15. Grand juries are not

open to the public or to the press. Those who are summoned cannot be

accompanied by counsel. Furthermore, subpoenas can be delivered to allow

little or no time for witnesses to learn their legal rights.

The government should immediately cease legal action, make formal apology to

Steve Kurtz, and pay him for whatever expenses he has incurred.  These

things would not make up for what happened, but at least they would not make

matters worse.

Sincerely,

George Gessert


Carta de apoyo a Steve Kurtz y Critical Art Ensemble
(traducida del original de Amanda Crowley y Eric Kluitenberg)

Aquien pueda interesar:

Nosotros, los abajofirmantes, artistas, comisarios, críticos, productores culturales y escritores que hemos trabajado con o seguido la obra del colectivo Critical Art Ensemble, escribimos para expresar nuestra seria preocupación por el proceso legal abierto contra miembros de este respetado grupo de artistas.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) es un colectivo de artistas internacionalmente reconocidos que trabajan dentro de marcos pedagógicos y contextos artísticos para crear conocimiento sobre diversos temas sociales. Recientemente su trabajo se ha dirigido hacia la difusión entre el público general de temas relacionados con la investigación biológica. Su obra no es alarmista sino divulgativa. El trabajo de CAE es siempre abordado de manera segura y consciente, empleando materiales comunmente disponibles para la educación científica y las prácticas de investigación. Su principal motivación es proveer al público de las herramientas necesarias para decidir informadamente.

Ha llamado nuestra atención que se haya producido la reciente requisa de un conjunto considerable de obra y material de investigación de estos artistas. La escena internacional del arte está asombrada y sorprendida de saber que el FBI, después de un análisis por parte de la Comisión de Salud Pública del Estado de New York que concluyó que el material requisado no suponía un riesgo para la seguridad pública, haya continuado la investigación y ahora acuse al colectivo según la Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act (medidas contra el terrorismo con armas biológicas), ampliadas por el Patriot Act.

Si bien es tal vez comprensible en el actual clima político internacional que tal investigación pueda levantar sospechas de las autoridades de EE UU, también debería haberse aclarado, tras la investigación, que los objetivos del CAE no son realizar un atentado
terrorista, sino una acción divulgativa emprendida en un contexto cultural, artístico y educativo. La obra de CAE está en armonía con prácticas artísticas habituales que han tenido, a lo largo de la historia, objetivos pedagógicos.

Quienes han trabajado con ellos saben que el enfoque de CAE ha sido siempre comprender y conocer el tema que presentan. No sorprende, dado el campo en que desarrollan su trabajo actualmente, que sus herramientas de investigación incluyan material biológico. También es sabido que su obra siempre se desarrolla mediante cuidadosos estudios, en continua comunicación con miembros de la comunidad científica para asegurar que las obras que producen son seguras, pero también reales.

La obra de CAE se considera en todo el mundo cuidadosa, investigadora, educativa y segura. Este asunto ha provocado la alarma al considerar que el gobierno americano está minando la libertad de espresión artística, un derecho democrático fundamental y una de las piedras angulares de las democracias liberales.

Toda vez que los materiales han sido analizados y se ha demostrado que no suponen una amenaza para la salud pública, exigimos que el Gobierno de los Estados Unidos de América cese inmediatamente la acción legal contra los miembros del colectivo Critical Art Ensemble. La reputación de CAE debe ser inmetiatamente restituida.

Sinceramente,

Amanda McDonald Crowley,
cultural worker/ curator, currently executive producer ISEA2004
(International Symposium of Electronic Art 2004),
Australia/Finland
http://www.isea2004.net

Eric Kluitenberg
Head of the Media Program
De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
http://www.debalie.nl

 

                Atte

Maria Mayela Castro

Miguel Blasica

(artist)