Steve Kurtz presents "Strange Culture", a documentary by Lynn Hershman

Steve Kurtz presents "Strange Culture", a documentary by Lynn Hershman

Christ Church, 35 State St., Troy

April 4, 2008 7:00 PM - 12:00 AM

7 PM,  Friday, April 4
Christ Church United Methodist
35 State Street, Troy, NY
Admission to this event is by donation

($10 suggested, $5 student/low income)

Renowned artist and SUNY Buffalo professor Steve Kurtz presents a benefit screening of "Strange Culture," a documentary about an attempt by the Justice Department to frame him as a bio- terrorist. 

This is a joint event between the BioArt Initiative at RPI and the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY. It is also the final event of the Art, Freedom, Democracy series, which was jeopardized by the City of Troy's order to close The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The order to close the Sanctuary for code violations came just hours after the opening of the series, which focuses on government intimidation and censorship under the guise of counter-terrorism. Christ Church United Methodist agreed to provide refuge for the remaining three of four presentations in the series.

Lynn Hershman Leeson's new film "Strange Culture" is a brilliantly conceived documentary that breaks conventional rules out of necessity to tell the story. Artist and college professor Steve Kurtz was preparing for a MASS MoCA exhibition that lets audiences test whether food has been genetically modified when, days before the opening, his wife tragically died of heart failure. Kurtz called 911, but when police arrived, they became suspicious of his art supplies and called the FBI.

Dozens of agents in haz-mat suits sifted through his home and impounded his computers, books, cat, and even his wife's body. The government held Kurtz as a suspected terrorist, and, nearly three years later, the charges have not been dropped. He still faces up to 20 years in prison.

Because Kurtz cannot talk about certain aspects of the ongoing case, Leeson enlists actors, including 2008 Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton, Josh Kornbluth, and Peter Coyote, to interpret the story. Leeson skillfully weaves dramatic reenactment, news footage, animation, testimonials, and footage of Kurtz himself into a sophisticated documentary about post-9/11 paranoia and the risks artists face when their work questions government policies.

"Strange Culture" premiered at Sundance and has gone on to win many awards at film festivals internationally. The Hollywood Reporter called it "a strange and compelling Kafka-esque account of an American artist caught up in Bush's war on terror." FilmThreat called the film "a brilliant statement on artistic freedom and the dangers it faces."

Steve Kurtz, the subject of the documentary and the ongoing legal case, is a founding member of the award-winning art and theater collective, Critical Art Ensemble (CAE). Since its formation in 1987, CAE has been frequently invited to exhibit and perform projects examining issues surrounding information, communications and bio-technologies by museums and other cultural institutions. These include The Whitney  Museum and The New Museum in NYC; The Corcoran Museum in Washington D.C.; The ICA, London; The MCA, Chicago; Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt; Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; and The London Museum of Natural History. The collective has written 6 books, and its writings have been translated into 18 languages.

This event is made possible by volunteer labor and hundreds of small donations from patrons of The Sanctuary for Independent Media, and is a co-presentation with RPI's BioArt Initiative.

One hundred percent of proceeds from this event will directly benefit Steve Kurtz's ongoing legal battle. The CAE Defense Committee, in consultation with the defense attorneys, estimates they are at least $60,000 short of being able to pay Professor Kurtz's legal fees through trial.


The Sanctuary for Independent Media is a telecommunications production facility dedicated to community media arts, located in an historic former church at 3361 6th Avenue in north Troy, NY. The Sanctuary hosts screening, production and performance facilities, training in media production and a meeting space for artists, activists and independent media makers of all kinds.

NOTE: The Sanctuary has been closed by the City of Troy; current events being hosted by Christ Church.

The BioArt Initiative is a collaborative research project between RPI's Arts Department and the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS). This project proposes to lay the foundation establishing RPI as a premiere institution for the synthesis of emerging biotechnological research and media art practice. The potential for creating a mutually supportive and critically engaged culture between art, engineering and science exists at RPI to a degree that is possible in only a select few universities worldwide. The initiative brings together RPI's cutting- edge biotechnology resources with its world-class electronic arts community.

The mission of Christ Church United Methodist is to glorify God through thoughtful and artistic worship, by reaching out to those in need, and by actively engaging important social issues.  Christ Church is a congregation with a rich history of nearly 200 years that looks forward to an exciting future. The people of Christ Church combine a desire for serving the city of Troy with a passion for making disciples of Christ. We are a congregation of diverse backgrounds united by our common mission of serving God where we are. # # #



The film:


Hollywood Reporter review:

FilmThreat review:

Variety review:

Hi res stills:

Background and extensive links about the Kurtz case:

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