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The use of biotechnology in artistic practice

Debate and discussion of any biological questions not pertaining to a particular topic.

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The use of biotechnology in artistic practice

Postby twinkle28 » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:47 am

I am a Northwestern University student currently studying agitational practices in art. One thing that I am interested in is the use of biotechnology and science in art and I have heard many in the art world discuss their viewpoints but I am curious about the opinion on the matter of those on the other side, the scientists such as you. One specific example I can give is Critical Art Ensemble. This is a collective that deals in utilizing biotechnology in their practice in order to make it real to the average person and show them that they can be involved in discussion of the developments too. In their presentations they do actual scientific tests from DNA testing to experiments with lab altered organisms and testing food for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). One of the members of Critical Art Ensemble, Steven Kurtz, was arrested in 2004 on suspicion of bioterrorism. That year his wife died of heart failure and upon discovering her, Kurtz called 911 and the paramedics seeing all of the scientific equipment became suspicious called the police who the called the FBI who proceeded to arrest Kurtz on charges of bioterrorism. They seized not only Kurtz’s computer, petri dishes, and other scientific equipment, but also his wife’s body. Kurtz was illegally detained without being read his Miranda rights and in the end everything that Kurtz had in his possession was deemed completely safe, but $10s of thousands worth of his research was not returned to him and the case, as of yet not resolved, has become a federal case of mail fraud. I am curious as to what the response of the scientific community is to this case as well as the more general debate of whether science and art can or should mix. I am researching this as my final project in this class and would love to hear from all of you.

Some possible discussion topics could be:
1. The responsibility associated with the use of biotechnology and whether artists should be allowed to use it for non research purposes and without working towards its advancement.
2. The accessibly of biotechnology and science to those not in the scientific community.
3. The relationship between art and science. Is there one?
4. Any reactions that you have to this topic are what I am interested in, no matter what tangents they may take.

Thank you!
twinkle28
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Postby Vagabond » Tue Feb 27, 2007 1:10 pm

hey well as usual and this does not surprise me (even though I try and stay up on current events) but this sound like one of those situations where the mass media has completely failed the public. I for one have never heard of this case or situation. Was it widely publicized? Did I just miss it? Any way I can not really comment on the case it self as far to say that if what you have provided is the entire truth then I feel bad for Kurtz. But as I do not know anything about this I can not take a stand.

As for you topics lets see with out typing too much :

1. I do not see why not but why not become affiliated with a lab and not only produce art but advance it. There have been many absolutely awesome images produced by science.
2. Again I dont really have a prob with this accept that something can get out of hand. Chemicals genetically modified organisms and such. If someone is not trained and does not have the facilities to properly do experiments/art then I can easily see problems (could be devastating).
3. Sure I see no problem with a relationship (though not sure we are talking about the same relationship.)
4. I would like to learn a bit more about this both sides and such... for example what was actually retrieved from his house. Was his wife’s death related to anything in the house? etc . . .
---------------------------------------

You know dog spelled backwards is god.
Coincidence? I think not. . .
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Postby twinkle28 » Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:41 pm

This was a publicized case but not in a lot of mainstream media so it's one of those things that it seems to me mostly people in the art world are aware of. His wife's death was not cat all related to anything that he was working on. All of his experiments were conducted with completely safe organisms and caused no harm to anyone. AS for what they confiscated it was a lot of laboratory equipment and bacteria cultures as well as a manuscript for a book he was writing. One example of an art work he was about to display in an exhibition with Critical Art Ensemble was called Free Range Grains where they had developmed laboratory tests that could find Genetically Altered Organisms within produce that people brought to the show. The items for this were confiscated. Also to see more about this case the Critical Art Ensemble set up the CAE Defense Fund to help raise money and awareness of this case so if you go to that website you can find out a lot more on the case.
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