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Tuesday, June 08, 2004
 
Somethin' Ain't Right Here!

The local museum of Modern Art, Mass MoCA, has had one of its exhibit removed because of the threat of bio-terrorism.

Now I'm not one to worry about black helicopters or anything like that, it really bothers me when an artist whose exhibit on genetically modified food contains "simple biology equipment" is being considered for indictment under the Patriot Act and the FBI is swooping in and confiscating his ensemble's museum installation.
On June 15 a federal grand jury will consider bioterrorism charges against Steve Kurtz, a Buffalo, N.Y. university professor who was working on an exhibit for Mass MoCA and belongs to the internationally acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble. The exhibit included the use of simple biology equipment, such as Petri dishes.

An FBI agent from Buffalo handed subpoenas to two of four ensemble artists, Beatriz da Costa and Steve Barnes, on May 30 outside the Holiday Inn in North Adams while the duo was in town for the opening of Mass MoCA's latest season, said Nato Thompson, associate curator. Both da Costa and Barnes are scheduled to testify.

Because materials intended for the art project were seized, an empty space and a sign explaining the situation stand in Mass MoCA where the exhibit would have been.
...
Early on the morning of May 11, Kurtz woke up to find wife, Hope, 45, dead of an apparent cardiac arrest, and called 911. Police arriving on the scene became alarmed when they found biological materials, according to the Associated Press.

Agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force then cordoned off and searched Kurtz's home.

Although Kurtz maintains the material was art intended for Mass MoCA, the materials police found -- one of Kurtz's colleagues said it included lab equipment used for DNA extraction and amplification, as well as three types of bacteria -- were enough to trigger fears of bioterrorism.

Crews in protective suits spent two days removing materials from Kurtz's home, testing for ricin, anthrax and plague.

Da Costa told the Associated Press that the bacteria Kurtz was using in his exhibit included E. coli, bacillus globigii and serratia, which she said were "completely harmless" and commonly used in research.
...
Although [Kurtz's] house was closed for two days, the New York Commissioner of Health opened the home after that time, based on preliminary reports, said Moskal.
So, the tests came back clean enough to allow Kurtz's house to be occupied again, but they still want to charge him with bio-terror. I've got news for the FBI, I've potentially got e coli growing on the ground beef in my fridge.

Unless there is a *major* piece of the puzzle missing here, we have the Patriot Act being abused to shut up a lefty creative type who expresses his opinion through art.

We really are living in the Twilight Zone, aren't we?
 
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