Here’s the short of it: Steve Kurtz is an artist. The “authorities” end up visiting his house, for an unrelated reason. They see weird equipment, leading them think he’s a terrorist. Now he’s in trouble with the law. Jim Fetterley and Angie Waller created a video documenting Kurtz’s story:
On May 11, Steve Kurtz phoned 911 to report his wife of 20 years was unresponsive. When paramedics came to his house, one of them noticed that Kurtz had laboratory equipment, which he used in his art exhibits. The paramedics reported this to police and the FBI sealed off his house.
Authorities later said that Kurtz’s wife had died of “heart failure,” but he wasn’t allowed to return to his home for two days while the FBI confiscated his equipment, and biological samples. They also carted off his books, personal papers and computer.
The contradiction between the charges for possessing harmful substances and the county health commissioner assessing that no hazardous substances were found in the house leaves only the conclusion – that ideas, when misunderstood or disagreeable, are toxic.
Kurtz is one of the founders of the Critical Art Ensemble, a group whose beginnings in filmmaking over a decade ago have evolved into public performances and videos that educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. All of CAE’s museum and public performances are meant to not only inform the public about the ways their lives are affected by biotechnology, but also to dispel public paranoia that is generated by the media and a lack of understanding.
Steve became the victim of this paranoia, and through the extended powers of the US Patriot Act, he still awaits trial for mail fraud. If found guilty, could face up to twenty years.
One must ask, if everything is a bomb or a bio-weapons lab, how can artists and technical people create? This story certainly has a chilling effect.
As an aside, the use of showing web pages and highlighting text in the video is a simple technique that I’ve seen more and more lately. It is interesting to see aesthetic style develop from technological necessity.