Steven Kurtz update – the case goes on

Artblog contributor and activist Colette Copeland (whose installation “Abortion Dialogues” is up now at Carbon 14 Gallery — I recommend a visit!) brought to our attention last summer the plight of artist and activist Steven Kurtz whose use of bacteria in an art project led to his seizure and prosecution for terroristic activities. See Colette’s post.

The case, dangling in the wind as all things legal and courtly has not moved far over the last year. Yesterday, in Buffalo, the case’s judge, Judge Kenneth Schroeder seems to have voiced some sympathy for the defendant by calling into question the prosecution’s charge — which now has been changed to “mail and wire fraud” since apparently the prosecutors couldn’t make the case for the bioterrorism charge. (that’s Kurtz in the white lab coat from a Critical Art Ensemble piece “Genterra”)

The bacteria which forms the basis for all the charges is Serratia marcescens and it was sent to Kurtz through the mail via the assistance of a scientist colleague, thus the mail and wire fraud charge. The alleged danger of Serratia forms the basis of the government’s argument for making this a criminal case according to the press release I got. But Judge Schroeder got the prosecution to admit there are no EPA or OSHA or any federal regulations about the bacteria which the defense has claimed all along is harmless.


Kurtz’s defense lawyer Paul Cambria called for dismissal of the case but it’s not clear what will happen even with Judge Schroeder’s sympathetic probing of the prosecution’s case yesterday. Read more about the whole long drawn out affair at the Critical Art Ensemble Defense Fund site here. (image is detail of a banner from the CAE website)

Quoting from the press release:


Whatever the outcome of today’s hearing, it will not come quickly: rulings in such hearings typically take two or three months. The defense has so far cost $60,000 for Kurtz alone; as for the taxpayer bill, it is well into the millions.

Here’s a link to yesterday’s Newsday story. Kurtz is part of the art group the Critical Art Ensemble.

The whole government harrassment of this artist is an example of hitting a fly with a sledgehammer. Shameful.