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<nettime> lettrist digest [mcdonlad-crowley/kluitenberg, dasgupta]
nettime's_dot_matrix on Fri, 4 Jun 2004 20:34:16 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> lettrist digest [mcdonlad-crowley/kluitenberg, dasgupta]

CAE  - request to sign open letter of protest
     Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl>
Letter of support for Steve Kurtz
     Rana Dasgupta <eye {AT} ranadasgupta.com>

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Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004 16:33:11 +0200
From: Eric Kluitenberg <epk {AT} xs4all.nl>
Subject: CAE  - request to sign open letter of protest

Helsinki / Amsterdam, June 4, 2004

Dear friends and colleagues,

We are sure that many of you have been following the deeply worrying 
events around the subpoenas that have been serfed to members of the 
US-based arts collective Critical Art Ensemble. We, Amanda McDonald 
Crowley and Eric Kluitenberg, have taken the initiative to write an 
open letter of protest asking for an immediate cesation of legal 
proceedings against our esteemed and distinguished colleagues. We 
think that this case signals a most worrysome trend in public 
political life in the United States and cannot be left unaddressed.

We ask all of you who have worked with the Critical Art Ensemble in 
recent years, and others who feel offended by this unacceptable 
infringement on artistic freedom, to contact us to sign this letter 
of protest as members of a deeply concerned professional community.

Please find the letter below. if you wish to sign send us an e-mail 
stating your name, your profession, your institutional affiliation 
(if you have one) and possibly a url that best represents your work 
or professional activity.

Thank you.

Amanda McDonald Crowley
amc {AT} va.com.au

Eric Kluitenberg
erick {AT} balie.nl


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 

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 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 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 CAE in various settings throughout the world we 
have found CAE's approach has always been to understand and to know 
the topicthat they are presenting.  It comes as no surprise, given 
the current focusof 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 termsof the 
investigations they pursue. The work of CAE is 
internationally recognised as thorough, investigative, educative and 

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 

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

Yours faithfully,

Amanda McDonald Crowley,
cultural worker/ curator, currently executive producer ISEA2004
(International Symposium of Electronic Art 2004),

Eric Kluitenberg
Head of the Media Program
De Balie - Centre for Culture and Politics
Amsterdam, The Netherlands



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Date: Thu, 03 Jun 2004 13:14:56 +0530
From: Rana Dasgupta <eye {AT} ranadasgupta.com>
Subject: Letter of support for Steve Kurtz

D-383 Defence Colony
New Delhi 110 024

June 3rd 2004

To Whom It May Concern

*Re: Protest against charges against Steve Kurtz, Ph.D., Assistant 
Professor, Department of Art, University of Buffalo*

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 
like to attest to its seriousness and importance, and to protest against 
the absurd and shameful charges brought against Mr Kurtz by the FBI.  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.

A major element of Mr Kurtz's work has been to consider in a serious way 
the ethical questions raised by new biotechnologies - an undertaking 
acknowledged by all public figures (including President George W. Bush 
and Pope John-Paul II) to be crucial for a sane future.

This work has taken as its starting-point the notion that ethical 
standards cannot be developed in private by "experts", but that they 
must be developed through genuinely public dialogue and debate.  For 
this reason, it has always been conducted with great attention to 
openness and transparency.  If the FBI were to consult the group's 
publications, public presentations and exhibitions, and online 
documents, it would discover that their ideas and activities have been 
conducted entirely in the public domain.  Moreover, since public safety 
is precisely the question at stake in their work, this issue has always 
taken prime importance, and they have always addressed it in 
consultation with eminent scientists from leading U.S. institutions.  
There is nothing covert, suspicious, or irresponsible about their work.

I have never met Steve Kurtz.  However, I have followed closely the 
publications and art works of the Critical Art Ensemble for several 
years, and I have also had occasion to see public presentations by 
Beatriz da Costa, in which she answered extensive questions about the 
nature and guiding principles of the group's work.  I can say on the 
basis of this engagement, not only that Steve Kurtz and the CAE are 
honest in their exploration of these pressing issues, but that their 
work is among the most important contributions to public debate in this 

The attempt to denigrate this valuable work by throwing ignorant and 
melodramatic names at it is absurd and shameful, and highly embarassing 
for those doing the throwing.

The suspicions of the FBI are based on little more than the observation 
that Steve had laboratory equipment in his house.  This equipment is 
easily obtained, there is nothing illegal about possessing it, and the 
most cursory of Internet searches would have revealed exactly why it was 
there.  To subject him to this treatment on such a basis of so trivial 
an observation represents a serious breach of the principles of freedom 
of expression and the presumption of innocence.

In the /Washington Post/'s coverage of this story, Lt. Jake Ulewski, 
spokesman for the Buffalo police, is quoted as saying about Mr. Kurtz, 
"He's making cultures? That's a little off the wall." 

Is it now possible to detain someone and subject them to criminal 
charges just because some ignorant observer thinks what they do with 
their time appears "a little off the wall"? 

The society of homogeneity and conformity that is implied by such a 
scenario is one in which no one takes responsibility for asking or 
answering its more difficult questions.  Steve Kurtz and the CAE have 
always been open about their commitment to doing just that.  In an open, 
forward-thinking and just society, such an honourable enterprise would 
invite praise, not censure.

Yours Faithfully

Rana Dasgupta
Writer and independent scholar

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