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<nettime> FREEDOM, TERROR & SEMIOTIC DEMOCRACY
Konrad Becker on Sun, 20 Jun 2004 15:18:01 +0200 (CEST)


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<nettime> FREEDOM, TERROR & SEMIOTIC DEMOCRACY



World-Information.Org
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WORLD-INFO FLASH 17 ON FREEDOM, TERROR & SEMIOTIC DEMOCRACY
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++ US Artist Faces Terrorism Charges  ++ http://world-information.org ++

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++ FOUNDING MEMBER OF CRITICAL ART ENSEMBLE AND WORLD-INFORMATION.ORG
CONSULTANT FACES TERRORISM CHARGES ++

Steve Kurtz, a renowned artist and Associate Professor in the Department of
Art at the State University of New York's University at Buffalo whose work
addresses the implications of information and bio technologies, was arrested
by a joint terrorism task force on 12 May, 2004. In a tragic antecedent,
Kurtz's wife had died unexpectedly in the early morning of  the previous day
due to a cardiac arrest. Critical Art Ensemble have been working on projects
designed to expose the strategies of the biotech industry and to enable a
critical public debate on bio technologies, whose life-transforming power
contrasts sharply with the lack of a public discourse. Kurtz' tools included
laboratory material needed to show transgenic contamination of food
products. The materials pose no danger and Steve Kurtz has successfully used
them in international art shows for years. Although the materials represent
devices and substances that are commercially available and can be legally
obtained by anyone, Steve Kurtz's home was searched by a hazmat squad and
declared a danger zone.

A founding member of the renowned Critical Art Ensemble, Steve Kurtz now
faces an indictment based on laws that severely curtail fundamental rights
using the fight against terrorism as a pretext. The 'Patriot Act' serves as
justification for a campaign not only against immigrants, but also against
critical journalists, scientists, and recently also artists. Steve Kurtz has
publicly denounced the patenting of the biosphere and the role played by
corporations, and recently examined the transgenetic contamination of food
products. His attempt to use artistic means to make the genetic manipulation
of the food chain and the practices of the bio industry visible have meant
that state authorities dazed by paranoia now view him as a "terrorist".
Eight other members and associates of Critical Art Ensemble received
subpoenas.

As part of an international response, the Free Bitflows conference,
organized by World-Information.Org's partner organization Public Netbase on
3 - 4 June, 2004, issued a declaration in support of Kurtz. An international
audience of artists, academics and cultural workers condemned the actions
taken by the US justice authorities against Steve Kurtz in the strongest
possible terms. They demanded an immediate stop of the repressive steps
taken against Steve Kurtz as well as his full vindication and restoration as
an artist. The petition was handed over to the US representative in Vienna
on 15 June as part of a protest at the US Embassy.

On the same day a Grand Jury hearing began which will decide whether Kurtz
will be formally indicted. Chances are that he will be, given that "the
Grand Jury courts have been traditionally used to eliminate social and
political resistance", according to one CAE member. These courts have no
obligation to hear contradicting evidence, and therefore are expected to
subscribe to the police's version of events, "I could indict a ham
sandwich", in the words of the attorney general.

Critical Art Ensemble's theoretical work and analysis of technologically
saturated societies has been of crucial importance in the emergence of
post-ideological forms of critique. Steve Kurtz and the Critical Art
Ensemble have been contributors to World-Information.Org from the project's
beginning in 1999. As a cultural intelligence provider,
World-Information.org was affected by CAE's theoretical work in a decisive
way, and the group was present with their art projects at all
World-Information.Org events, including their famous presentation of Cult of
the New Eve in Brussels in 2000. The fact that Steve Kurtz has become the
object of aggressive police maneuvers shows that his art does in fact touch
the nerve of occult power in the techno state. As a matter of fact, even
assuming the most evil intentions, nothing of what Kurtz did or possessed in
a material way could be categorized as criminal. His 'offence' can only be
constructed on a symbolic level. On this level, behavior that is formally
perfectly legal seems to violate symbolic restrictions of the information
containment architecture. Coupled with government-nurtured security paranoia
Kurtz as a critical artist becomes the target of state repression that
neither adheres to principles of freedom of thought nor freedom of
expression.

His case shows the urgency of an open debate about the meaning of semiotic
democracy, while illustrating the lack of checks and balances that could
restrain semiotic repression.

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++ LINKS  ++

Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund
>>> http://www.caedefensefund.org/

Critical Art Ensemble
>>> http://www.critical-art.net/

Institute for New Culture Technologies/t0
>>> http://www.t0.or.at/t0/caedefense/english

Washington Post
>>> http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8278-2004Jun1.html

Guardian Unlimited
>>> http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1236288,00.html

The Scientist
>>> http://www.biomedcentral.com/news/20040615/03/

Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics
>>> http://www.cognitiveliberty.org/news/cae_arrest1.html

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##
The Institute for New Culture Technologies/t0 is the carrier of
World-Information.Org Zwischenquartier, Burggasse 21 A-1070 Vienna, Austria
phone: ++ 43.1.522 18 34
fax: ++ 43.1.522 50 58
email: info-office {AT} world-information.org http://world-information.org

Under the patronage of UNESCO.
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