artistic strategies, which try to undercut this. America, country
of freedom, was the setting for the events which underlie this exhibition.
It shows that it is not self-evident for artists, even in a democracy,
to criticize the structures of power and to publicly take a firm
exhibition SEIZED deals with the FBI raid on the home of CAE member
and art professor Steve Kurtz in Spring 2004 and the four year law
case that followed. In May 2004 Steves wife Hope died entirely
unexpectedly because of an undiagnosed heart defect. Emergency responders
from the Fire Department who answered Kurtzs call saw a chemistry
laboratory, which was part of preparations for an upcoming show,
in the couples house. The Fire Department found this suspicious
and informed the FBI. During the three-day-raid the authorities
not only confiscated Kurtzs computers, archives, artworks
and a set of books he was using for research on his upcoming book
project, but also his wifes corpse. Steve himself was interrogated
for 22 hours with the aim of charging him with bioterrorism
and even murder. Later the charges were changed to to wire
and mail fraud, which finally, in 2008, was dropped due to
all evidence of a crime being "insufficient on its face."
In their installation Body of Evidence the artists turn the perpetrator-victim-relationship
upside-down. As the FBI had stolen their artistic material, they,
in return, confiscated the debris left behind on Steve Kurtzs
lawn by the FBI agents - pizza boxes, Gatorade bottles, hazmat suits
and biological sample bags, as well as written notes and a single
cigar butt. The exhibitions curators Regine Rapp and Christian
de Lutz write about this in the exhibition catalogue:
The display of the notes and papers which the
federal agents wrote during their raid resembles a strategy of counter-appropriation
in which CAE and IAA convert those objects left behind as evidence
for their own investigation. All in all, this turns the case
inside out and subverts the power structure. The items confiscated
are exchanged for items left behind, which in turn form the basis
for the exhibition. In a strange act of reciprocity, the artists
are able to invert the whole investigator/perpetrator system. The
blank space created by the seizure of CAEs artworks is filled
by the debris of the state; and with this the absence of the seized
objects is made more tangible.
Besides the complex installation Body of Evidence the exhibition
documents works and performances by CAE, on which Steve and Hope
were working just before the raid, such as Free Range Grain (2003-2004)
or Molecular Invasion (2002-2003). In addition, Art Laboratory
Berlin, in collaboration with the arsenal institut
für film und videokunst e.v, will present the film Strange
Culture by Lynn Hershman Leeson, at the Arsenal Cinema on November
2, at 7.30 PM, followed by a panel discussion. The film documents
the events of May 2004 and their aftermath.
An exhibition catalogue has been published.
Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of tactical media practitioners
of various specializations including computer graphics, software,
wetware, film/video, photography, book art and performance. CAE
was founded in 1987 and has produced a wide variety of projects
for an international audience at diverse venues ranging from the
street, to the museum, to the Internet.
CAE is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2007 Andy
Warhol Foundation Wynn Kramarsky Freedom of Artistic Expression
Grant honoring two decades of distinguished work, and has been invited
to exhibit and perform in many of the world's cultural institutions-including
the Whitney Museum and the New Museum in NYC; the Corcoran Museum
of Art in Washington, DC; the London Museum of Natural History;
the ICA, London; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Musée d'Art
Moderne de la Ville de Paris; der Volksbüne, Berlin; ZKM, Karlsruhe;
El Matadero, Madrid; Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; Museo
de Arte Carrilo Gil, Mexico City and many more.
Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA) was founded in 1998 as
an anonymous collective of engineers, designers, artists and activists
united by the cause of individual and collective self-determination.
Toward this end, the IAA has produced numerous projects under its
flagship initiative, Contestational Robotics. These include several
tele-operated robotic graffiti writers; I-See, which gained worldwide
media attention as a web-based navigation service to help users
avoid surveillance; and Terminal Air, an installation and website
that visualizes the movements of airplanes believed to have been
used in the CIA's "Extraordinary Rendition" program.
The IAA has won numerous awards for its work, including the 2000
Prix Ars Electronica Award of Distinction and several Prix Ars Electronica
Honorable Mentions; and a Rhizome New Media Fellowship. The collective's
work has been exhibited in museums, galleries, and public spaces
internationally, including ZKM, Karlsruhe; the World Information
Organization, Amsterdam; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona;
the Australian Centre for the Moving Image; and Mass MoCA among
Culture documents the surreal nightmare of internationally-acclaimed
artist and professor Steve Kurtz which began when his wife Hope
died in her sleep of heart failure. Police who responded to Kurtz's
911 call deemed Kurtz's art suspicious and called the FBI. Within
hours the artist was detained as a suspected "bioterrorist"
as dozens of federal agents in Hazmat suits sifted through his work
and impounded his computers, manuscripts, books, his cat, and even
his wife's body. The film Strange Culture stars Tilda Swinton, Peter
Coyote, Thomas Jay Ryan, Josh Kornbluth and Steve Kurtz, and was
shown in the 2007 Berlin Film Festival.
Lynn Hershmann Leeson is a filmmaker and new media artist
who has been awarded the Siemens-Medienkunstpreis award from the
ZKM, Karlsruhe, as well as the Golden Nica Prize at the 1999 Ars
SEIZED. Critical Art Ensemble & Institute for Applied Autonomy.
Regine Rapp und Christian de Lutz für Art Laboratory Berlin
44 p., color, text in English and German