Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a collective of internationally recognized artists who work in public, educational, academic and art contexts. For the past few years, their principal aim has been to help the general public to understand biotechnology. By making scientific research accessible to laypeople through participatory performance experiences, CAE aims to demystify what is safe and clarify what is dangerous about today's biotech industry.
CAE always undertake their work in a safe and considered way. The materials they use are strictly non-hazardous, can be legally obtained by anyone, and are commonly found in undergraduate-level biology labs. For more on CAE's projects and the biological agents and equipment they work with, please visit -- CAE DEFENSE FUND -- <www.caedefensefund.org>.
A federal grand jury will convene on June 15 in Buffalo, New York, to consider bioterrorism charges brought by the Joint Terrorism Task Force against CAE member and University at Buffalo professor Steve Kurtz. The grand jury is the latest installment in a bizarre investigation in which members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force seem to have mistaken CAE's latest art project for a biological weapons laboratory.
According to the subpoenas served to at least seven artists, the charges fall under Section 175 of the US Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, which has been expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act to prohibit the possession of "any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system" without the justification of
"prophylactic, protective, bona fide research, or other peaceful purpose"
(-- CAE DEFENSE FUND -- <caedefensefund.org>). Those served with subpoenas include two founding members of CAE (Steven Barnes, Dorian Burr, Beverly Schlee), two artists who have collaborated with CAE (Beatriz da Costa, Paul Vanouse), and at least two other artists. Many worry that the case could set a dangerous precedent by silencing a group of artists for work that stimulates vital public discussion. Many feel that with this case and others, the government is wildly overreaching its mandate to protect the public from terrorism.
"Groups like CAE stimulate the public debate that is necessary to a healthy democracy,"
said Claire Pentecost, an artist who has collaborated with CAE in the past.
"This isn't a case of one artist fighting for the freedom to express him or herself with images or speech that some of the public might find offensive. This is a case of a group of artists using performance to educate the public on issues that affect all of us in our daily lives. The government's actions suggest a criminalization of a citizen's right to acquire knowledge by completely legal means. This goes to the very heart of democracy."
A number of other recent cases suggest that that the PATRIOT Act and other recent "security" measures have made freedom of speech increasingly fragile in the U.S. A list of such cases will be available shortly at -- CAE DEFENSE FUND -- <www.caedefensefund.org>
ABOUT THE DEMONSTRATION: Please bring signs and banners if you can (see -- CAE DEFENSE FUND -- <caedefensefund.org>). This is a peaceful demonstration. As in all demonstrations, it's best to bring personal identification (driver's license, passport, student id, proof of address, etc.). Let someone know where you're going to be. Stick with a buddy.
DRIVING DIRECTIONS: From Interstate 90 take 33W into downtown all the way to the end. It will put you onto Oak St. Continue on Oak for 2 long blocks to Broadway. Go right on Broadway which runs right into Court St. The first square is Lafayette and then comes Niagara Square. There are paid parking lots all around this downtown area. Information on possible housing will be on the website shortly. MapQuest: Maps: Address <mapquest.com> map.adp?address=99+Court+St.&city=Buffalo&state=NY
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