This past July, Dr. Steven Kurtz, member of the performance-based Critical Art Ensemble was arraigned on four counts of mail and wire fraud, and, if convicted, could serve up to 80 years in federal prison. Kurtz, who is an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Buffalo, along with Dr. Robert Ferrell, Professor of Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh has been a major figure in a federal investigation suspecting the experimental biological projects of the CAE as potential bioterrorism.
Kurtz's home was raided last May after seeking medical attention for his wife, who had suffered a cardiac arrest during the night. Upon further investigation by authorities, the scientific equipment and raw materials used in projects like Free Range Grains, which uses gentically modified forms of corn seed.
Charges were based not on bioterrorism, but misrepresentation of standard forms which help the government track the exchange of lab materials that include the benign bacteria strains used by CAE for their artwork.
Prior to the government’s exhaustive investigation, Free Range Grains was slated for exhibition at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASSMoCA) as part of their current exhibit, The Interventionists: Art in the Social Shere. In place of the exhibit, MASSMoCA now features a growing display of news-items related to the case.