The art world's been coming together to take care of its own while engaging the public as well: last week, an art auction in New York City raised almost $168,000 to fund the legal defense of artist Steve Kurtz and geneticist Robert Ferrell. Takashi Murakami, Alexis Rockman and Christy Rupp were just a few of the artists who donated work.
Kurtz is the founding member of Critical Art Ensemble, a collaborative that uses the techniques of science to create bio-art exploring the implications of emerging biotechnologies. Although all the materials and means employed by Kurtz and CAE are legal, and they've won international acclaim and support for their means of engagement with critical cultural issues, the Justice Department continues to pursue a case against him under bio-terrorism provisions of the Patriot Act; he and long-time collaborator Ferrell are also facing mail fraud charges.
CAE speaks out in this recent statement, When Thought Becomes Crime:
For experimental art, political art, tactical media, and independent media in the U.S. (and to some degree in other nations), the implications of Steven Kurtz' arrest are profound. The repressive forces of the state are directly targeting producers of cultural interventionist work...these attacks on civil grounds have undergone a horrific paradigm shift, and individual artists are being charged with criminal activity. The persecution works slowly and insidiously, through silencing artists, looting their work and their research, and constraining their movement. We are no longer seeing cultural conflict in action, but a proto-fascist attack upon free expression itself.
I'll add two more that they don't directly suggest: blog about it, and add links to these posts, news and other info to the stevekurtz deli.cio.us tag. Let's see how much attention and support we can build for Kurtz, Ferrell, and CAE.
It's peculiarly apt: contagious media for bio-art!
(Image, above: Tell Us What We Are Eating, by Christy Rupp, 2000. Handmade Watermarked Abaca paper with grape sections & seeds. Donated to last week's art auction fundraiser for CAE.)