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Smart Shout Out Against Censorship
Emily Gertz, 12 Jul 04

One question WorldChanging loves to explore is how networks and new technologies can be used to enable progressive political and social change.

The Bureau of Inverse Technology, an artist's collaborative group, has long explored the more shadowy intersections of technology, private life, public acts, and surveillance. (Jamais wrote awhile back about feral robot dogs, a BIT-related project.) Lately their work is moving towards the realm of the participatory panopticon.

BIT recently launched Kurtz 911, a shout out line for the public to voice support for internationally-respected artist Steve Kurtz. Kurtz is an art professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a member of the art collective Critical Art Ensemble, which creates works exploring the relationships between commerce, politics and biotechnology.

In late May, Kurtz awoke to find his wife dead of cardiac arrest. He dialed 911 for help. When the police arrived and saw his art supplies, which include biology lab equipment, they decided he might be a bioterrorist. The ensuing law enforcement juggernaut--"War on Terror" anxiety run amok--has been documented on many other web sites.

Net Art News writes about Kurtz 911,

A follow-up to its anti-terror line, which accumulates reports on civil liberty infringements, The Bureau of Inverse Technology has just launched the Kurtz shout out line in response to the persistent injustices served to artist Steve Kurtz and his collaborator Robert Ferrell. The Bureau writes the line was set up 'to capture the public outcry at the persecution of this man, the criminalization of dissent and the intimidation of academic inquiry.' By turning any phone (cell/home/booth) into a networked microphone, the Bureau encourages individuals, who might otherwise not feel authorized, to publicly state their opinions, digressions and raw sentiments on this incendiary case.

Messages to the line are uploaded on BIT's website "for public listening, syndication, annotation and response. Uploads will be broadcast into the SUPERSONIC exhibition in Southern California through a massive horn, HORN MASSIVE, reverberating on the other side of the country."

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There is also an interesting forum being started about online censorship in South Korea (especially related to blogs being censored) at

Posted by: oso on 12 Jul 04

Networks seem particularly vulnerble to state suppression. What is striking and frightening about Kurtz's situation is the level of attempted suppression being brought to bear on critical thinking and artmaking in the U.S.

Want to mention that the CAE Defense Fund is raising money to help with legal costs: A very real way to help out, in addition to shouting out.

Posted by: Emily Gertz on 12 Jul 04

It is great that people are creatively and constructively speaking out, giving a "smart shout", opposed to a dumb riot. The U.S. Patriot Act (at least those parts affected) will not be missed when it "sunsets".

All that said I've heard the argument in quite black and white terms lately and would like to pointout that it was a flight trainer who felt he had a suspicious request that lead to the detainment of Zacharia Mousoui and the "gut instinct" of a U.S. border guard that prevented the Los Angeles portion of the Millenium bombing.

So maybe some forward thinking is needed to give a moderate answer to homeland security.

Posted by: Michael Phoenix on 12 Jul 04



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