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Indepth Arts News:

"In Conversation with Steve Kurtz: American Artist Investigated for Bioterrorism"
2005-01-07 until 2005-01-15
InterAccess Media Arts Centre
Toronto, ON, CA Canada

InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre presents artist and professor Dr. Steven Kurtz in his first public appearance after a scheduled court hearing in Buffalo, New York on January 11, 2005. This hearing follows eight months of investigation by the FBI and US Joint Terrorism Task force for bioterrorism-related offenses. The Toronto event will be held at Ryerson University’s Centre for Computing and Engineering (243 Church Street, Toronto) on January 15, 2005 at 7:30pm.

Kurtz is a founding member of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an art collective interested in exploring the intersections of art, technology and science. CAE’s artistic projects and writings intend to provide the public with information and performances pertaining to biotechnology research. CAE's most recent project includes a mobile DNA extraction laboratory for testing food products for the presence of genetically modified organisms.

On May 11, 2004, Kurtz called 911 after discovering that his wife had suffered a cardiac arrest in her sleep and died. The police arrived and, after stumbling across test tubes and petri dishes Kurtz was using in a current artwork, called in the Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Soon agents from the Task Force and FBI detained Kurtz, cordoned off the entire block around his house and impounded Kurtz's computers, manuscripts, books, equipment and even his wife's body for further analysis. The Buffalo Health Department condemned the house a health risk.

The Commissioner of Public Health for New York State tested samples from the home and announced there was no public safety threat.  

While most observers assumed the Task Force would realize that its initial investigation of Kurtz was a terrible mistake, the Task Force has continued its investigation and changed the charges from bioterrorism to mail and wire fraud. Also indicted in this case is Dr. Robert Ferrell, professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh, for providing the innocuous organisms to Kurtz. Both men face a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison. Artists and scientists worldwide have rallied around Kurtz during his investigation.  

Kurtz’ appearance in Toronto offers the public the opportunity to hear Kurtz and Gregg Bordowitz, spokesperson for the CAE Defense Fund. They will speak about the work of CAE and the importance of creative freedom and privacy rights to educating the public about the effects of “militarized” biotechnology practices. A moderated discussion period will follow Kurtz's talk, led by Sally McKay.  

InterAccess is pleased to present this talk and discussion with Kurtz as a fundraiser for the CAE Defense Fund. Admission is pay what you can (suggested donation of $5) and ninety percent of all proceeds will go to the defense fund. The remaining monies will be used to offset costs of the speaking engagement. InterAccess thanks the New Media faculty at Ryerson University for their support of this event.

For more information and discussion on this case, visit www.caedefensefund.org.

InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre is a not-for-profit artist-run production centre and gallery that enables artists and the general public to explore the intersections of art and technology. Through artist talks, exhibitions, workshops and other events, InterAccess aims to expand the cultural space of technology.

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