Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Card-carrying member

The other night I went to see this really good little documentary called Strange Culture at Northwest Film Forum. Slick had told me about he because he just got his PhD (congrats to Dr. Slick) at the University of Buffalo, where the film's subject was teaching when his Kafkaesque nightmare began. A quick summary: Steve Kurtz is an artist with a collective called the Critical Art Ensemble (lord, forgive them that name) who explore "the intersections between art, technology, radical politics, and critical theory." The film didn't show as much as I would have liked about their art, but it seems to be multimedia and provocative with a strong satirical streak (the Yes Men get a nod in the credits). In 2004 Steve and his wife Hope Kurtz were assembling a show for MassMOCA which was concerned with the implications of GMO food when Steve woke up to find his forty five year old Hope dead. Naturally grief-stricken he called 9-11. When the ambulance came one of the paramedics noticed there were some petri dishes lying around. The FBI was called and, boy, did the FBI come. Rather than accept Kurtz's easily verifiable explanation about the bacteria's being non-harmful art project stuff that anyone can obtain legally with a credit card and an internet connection, they focused on more important questions, like "Is this Arabic writing?" It was Arabic writing...on an invitation to an art show. Next thing he knows his house is trashed, his wife's body is being shipped to Quanitco, and he's in jail on terrorism charges. Fortunately the grand jury laughed at that crap, but he's still facing trumped charges of mail and wire fraud and could do real time. It's a nightmare born from the bowels of the PATRIOT ACT. The ACLU rep who spoke after the show made me remember why I like the ACLU so much. But I didn't realize how much I respect the ACLU until the next day, when I saw who their latest client is: Larry Craig (I don't know if he's technically a client, but they filed a brief supporting him). I've shot my mouth off about being a "free speech absolutist" but it never occurred to me that it's protected speech to solicit someone for sex in public as long as you're going to do the deed in private. Damn, now that's absolutist. I love it. Their apolitical defense of justice is hope-inspiring in these days of Alberto Gonzalez's "loyal Bushies." Why not become a member now?


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