Art and Law III

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) & Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA)

Opening: 2. October 2009, 8PM
Artist Talk: 4. October 2009, 4PM
Exhibition duration: 3. October - 15. November 2009, Fri-Sun 2-6PM, and by appointmrnt

FilmScreening/ Round Table: In connection with the exhibition, Art Laboratory Berlin in cooperation with Arsenal - Institute for Film and Video Art e.V. will screen the film Strange Culture (2007) by Lynn Hershmann Leeson on November 2 at 7.30 PM at the Arsenal Cinema, Berlin, followed by a panel discussion. The film documents the events of May 2004 and their aftermath.

Photo copyright 2009 by Michael J. Mulley

03.10.2009 - 15.11.2009

Art and Law III
Seized - Critical Art Ensemble
& Institute for Applied Au

Art Laboratory Berlin is pleased to announce the exhibition Seized (October 3 – November 15, 2009) by Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and the Institute for Applied Autonomy (IAA) as the third part of our series Art and Law:

The opening of our exhibition SEIZED takes place in an artistically and politically frenetic time. Berlin has just been energized by the Artforum and other art fairs, we are asked to elect a new Bundestag(national elections are taking place ) and the public ceremonies of the German Unification Day are upcoming. Our project fits into this area of tension: As an art exhibition it brings up questions about artistic freedom of expression and governmental repression, reflects about the interdependancy between politics and business and


presents 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 stand.

The 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 Steve’s wife Hope died entirely unexpectedly because of an undiagnosed heart defect. Emergency responders from the Fire Department who answered Kurtz’s call saw a chemistry laboratory, which was part of preparations for an upcoming show, in the couple’s house. The Fire Department found this suspicious and informed the FBI. During the three-day-raid the authorities not only confiscated Kurtz’s computers, archives, artworks and a set of books he was using for research on his upcoming book project, but also his wife’s 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 Kurtz’s 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 exhibition’s 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 CAE’s 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.

Critical 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.

The 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 others.

Strange 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 Electronica.

Catalog: SEIZED. Critical Art Ensemble & Institute for Applied Autonomy. Berlin 2009
Regine Rapp und Christian de Lutz für Art Laboratory Berlin (Hrsg.):
44 p., color, text in English and German
ISBN: 978-3-9813234-0-5
9,00 EUR

sponsored by:
This exhibition and the catalogue were made possible by an anonymous donor whose wish it is to support projects in the defence of democracy.