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Friday, June 11, 2004
ARTISTS SUBPOENAED IN USA PATRIOT ACT CASE
Feds STILL unable to distinguish art from bioterrorism
Grand jury to convene June 15
Seven artists have been served subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury that will consider bioterrorism charges against a university professor whose art involves the use of simple biology equipment.
The subpoenas are the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force have mistaken an art project for a biological weapons laboratory (Background essay). While most observers have assumed that the Task Force would realize the absurd error of its initial investigation of Steve Kurtz, the subpoenas indicate that the feds have instead chosen to press their "case" against the baffled professor.
Two of the subpoenaed artists--Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes--are, like Kurtz, members of the internationally-acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an artists' collective that produces artwork to educate the public about the politics of biotechnology. They were served the subpoenas by federal agents who tailed them to an art show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. More recently subpoenas have been issued to: Adele Henderson, Chair of the Art Department at UB; Paul Vanouse, Professor of Art at UB; Andrew Johnson, Professor of Art at UB; And founding members of CAE, Dorian Burr and Beverly Schlee.
The artists involved are at a loss to explain the increasingly bizarre case. "I have no idea why they're continuing (to investigate)," said Beatriz da Costa, one of those subpoenaed. "It was shocking that this investigation was ever launched. That it is continuing is positively frightening, and shows how vulnerable the PATRIOT Act has made freedom of speech in this country." Da Costa is an art professor at the University of California at Irvine.
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." The equipment seized by the FBI consisted mainly of CAE's most recent project, a mobile DNA extraction laboratory to test store-bought food for possible contamination by genetically modified grains and organisms; such equipment can be found in any university's basic biology lab and even in many high schools (see "Lab Tour" at http://www.critical-art.net/biotech/free/ for more details).
The grand jury in the case is scheduled to convene June 15 in Buffalo, New York. Here, the jury will decide whether or not to indict Steve Kurtz on the charges brought by the FBI. A protest is being planned at 9 a.m. on June 15 outside the courthouse at 138 Delaware Ave. in Buffalo.
and also :
CONSTANT is a Brussels association founded in 1997 with the objective of promoting, to the public and among artists, creative and/or critical works using new media in dialogue with other forms of expression. To do this, Constant organises exhibitions, conferences, workshops, publishes texts, with a view to developing the current media discourse.
CONSTANT is een Brusselse vereniging die in 1997 is opgericht met als doel : het promoten van creatieve en/of critische nieuwe media kunst, naar een publiek en naar andere kunstenaars toe. Verschillende vormen van nieuwe media worden naast elkaar, tegenover andere kunsten geplaatst. Tentoonstellingen, symposia, workshops, publikaties volgen van zeer nabij het discours over de mogelijkheden en ook grenzen van de huidige media.
CONSTANT est une association bruxelloise, crée en 1997, qui a pour but de promouvoir auprès du public et des artistes, des oeuvres créatives et /ou critiques utilisant les nouveaux médias en dialogue avec d'autres formes d'expression. Pour ce faire, Constant organise des expositions, des conférences, des ateliers, publie des textes , en vue de développer les problématiques médiatiques actuelles.
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