Waking up with his wife dead was only the beginning of Steve Kurtz's troubles. Within a few days of her untimely passing, the FBI had raided his Buffalo home. Health workers dressed in hazmat moon suits had turned the place into a quarantine zone. Now, in Kurtz's livelihood may be in jeopardy, too. And let's not even get into the legal bills.Kurtz is a University of Buffalo professor and artist specializing in biotechnology-inspired works: subversive remixes of big pharma corporate materials, kits to see if food is genetically modified. Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, New York's New Museum, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, DC displayed his art. The New York Times and Washington Post, among others, have looked on it favorably.Earlier this month, Kurtz woke up to find his wife, Hope, dead of apparent heart failure. In shock, he called the police. But when the officers came over, they saw strange things: test tubes, Bunsen burners, Petri dishes, and the like. So they brought in the local counter-terror task force, and the FBI.Kurtz was detained on the way to the funeral home. His house was cordoned off, while the county health department searched for chemical or biological agents and the local TV cameras rolled. And Kurtz's equipment was all confiscated, for further testing and investigation.The artist was planning to use some of that gear in a new show at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, slated to open Sunday. Now, that's not happening. Other works including a book in progress are also on hold. And Kurtz has a $10,000 mountain of legal bills; he's retained celebrity lawyer Paul Cambria (Larry Flynt and DMX's defender) to represent him.Some would say Kurtz had it coming; a 2002 workshop by his group in Halifax two years back lead to a scare with a feaux "bomb." But, to others, Kurtz's story is yet another example of how brittle rights can be in Ashcroft's age of terror.
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