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How and who defines patriotism?


Post by Colette Copeland


For those of you who are not familar with the Steve Kurtz case, this is another example of the abuses of the Patriot Act and how our freedom is slowly being taken away from us.

Here is a brief recap: Steve Kurtz is part of the established Critical Art Ensemble and teaches at University of Buffalo. His wife died, and when the paramedics came to take away her body, they became suspicious of his studio/lab and called the FBI. [ed. note–see website for examples of Kurtz’s work and links to information about the legal matter]

Agents in HazMat suits came and confiscated all of his artwork and his studio/lab materials, arresting him on charges of bioterrorism.

I have seen two articles (one in the NY Times Metro section today) which listed E-coli, but in the other information, the substance is not listed. The government has kept his wife’s body for evidence and he has not been allowed to give her a proper burial.

His work is socially critical of bio-engineering and its relationship to capitalism, the economy and food, so he is percieved as a threat. Since the government could not prove its case for bioterrorism, it seems that in order to save face, they are indicting him with fraud. (two images are from Kurtz’s work Genterra, 2001)



In the past month, there is also the case of the Boston College student Joe Previtera who was arrested for protesting the U.S. Iraqi prison photos by ‘performing’ outside of a military recruiting office. He was wearing a black hood and had stereo speakers attached to his hands. Apparently his passive performance sufficiently riled up the military so that they are pursuing prosecution more severely than for the prison perpetrators in Iraq.

Ok–so perhaps it was not the most intelligent decision to put speaker wires on your hands and don a black hood and hang outside of the recruitment office. Clearly, the military does not get the idea of performance art. However, he was not creating a threat.

There is also the case of Daniele Perna, who was forced to delete his digital photographs of the Path station in NJ, while on his way to the beach.

As an artist, I am outraged that these breaches of freedom are occurring on a daily basis. As a parent of two small children, I am fearful that if I am outspoken or don’t comply with the new regime, my children will be affected. I am posting this as a means to create awareness and hopefully to promote a dialogue of what we can do as artists and citizens to protect our civil liberty and freedom.

Colette Copeland is a regular contributor to artblog