This what a bioterrorist looks like, according to the FBI.
Dr. Steven Kurtz (right) is a Professor of Art at SUNY Buffalo and member of Critical Art Ensemble (CAE), an art and theatre collective co-founded by Kurtz and his late wife, Hope.
In May 2004, the Kurtzes were preparing a piece called Free Range Grains, which allowed participants to test food for the presence of genetically modified organisms, when Hope died of heart failure in her sleep. The local police who responded to Kurtz’ 911 call deemed the couples’ home lab suspicious and contacted the FBI, who apprehended Kurtz on his way to the funeral home the next day. Kurtz was illegally detained for questioning by the FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force for 22 hours while agents in Hazmat suits entered his house and seized his cat, car, computers, manuscripts, books, equipment, and even Hope’s body from the county coroner.
The justice department initially wanted to charge Kurtz under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act, but a federal Grand Jury rejected the charges and instead indicted Kurtz for mail and wire fraud. These charges are based on $256 of harmless bacteria that Kurtz legally obtained through CAE collaborator Robert Ferrell, former head of the Department of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health. If Kurtz is found guilty, he could serve up to 20 years in prison—the same potential sentence as the original charges of bioterrorism.
This upcoming Thursday and Friday (November 22-23), A Space gallery is organizing two events to support Kurtz’s case and the right to artistic freedom. On Thursday at 8:00 p.m., there is a screening of Strange Culture in the Price Family Cinema at the York University Keele campus, followed by a Q&A with Dr. Steven Kurtz himself. On Friday, there will be a gala benefit at SPIN gallery featuring both a live and silent auction of donated artworks, plus a keynote speech by Naomi Klein. Tickets are $80/$40 for A Space members and can be purchased here.