What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.” Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence

Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero.

Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs.

What?

Many in the international art community were quick to condemn the severity of the U.S. government's investigation, especially since Kurtz was the person who notified authorities and allowed Homeland Security forces into his home, following his wife's death, caused by an enlarged heart.

Why?

At a protest held in Buffalo's McKinley Square, many were of the opinion that Kurtz was being singled out for punishment because of the Critical Art Ensemble's political writings. His right to create art employing a medium of non-lethal, biologically manipulated material, was, after all, the right of all artists to create an art that reflects upon the society and culture of the artist.

The Anti-Author's “Real Deal”

After reading the Electronic Civil Disobedience manifesto, one can see how some of the political ideas of these critical theorists/artists could be called “unpopular," but is this group so radical as to merit a smack down from the powers that be? Is Professor Kurtz being prosecuted to send a message to his friends on the left?

Well, the answers to these questions seem to be a qualified yes and yes. They are qualified because it remains unclear whether anyone in law enforcement has read the manifesto carefully enough to realize that the ivory tower radical chic of CAE does not represent a clear and present danger to society. Yes, Kurtz is being singled out because the notion of “fair use” of genetic code scares the daylights out of everybody.

In attempting to confront the “fear factor” surrounding genetic modification through performance art, Kurtz and his group have accomplished their goal of provoking a response. From here on out, everything is part of “the nomadic work,” including any jail time Kurtz may receive as a result. The attack on the bunkers of power appear to have claimed their first casualty, a human individual named Kurtz. And that's the Anti-Author's “Real Deal.”

Physical Space Still Exists And Can Be Used Electronic Civil Disobedience was published in 1996, and it has a quaint, “the internet can change everything” optimism. As such, the politics of place belongs firmly in the dustbin of history, alongside the concept of the author, of course. So while we aren't told who authored a particular essay, such as “Resisting the Bunker,” we might not need to know.

The author of the essay, "ECD” (or the anti-author, as the case may be) states that physical civil disobedience cannot disrupt power because power has become fluid and no longer resides in physical, monumental structure. So according to this theory, the protest in support of Kurtz in Buffalo was utterly useless.

Radical Chic Vs. Hacker Culture

The author goes on to formulate a strategy for cells of resistance comprised of six individuals with a hacker at the center creating benign virus code that would disrupt corporations, but not individuals. It also called for revolutionary indoctrination of the hacker community to satisfy that unscratchable itch for ideological purity which tends to afflict the collective hindquarters of many of our esteemed colleagues on the left.

While admitting that hacker culture is distinct and far removed from the struggles of the old new left, the author seems unwilling to allow history to simply run do its job with these new young Hegelians. As we now know in hindsight, the political philosophy of hacker culture has yet to be distilled, although it seems to be developing a vaguely libertarian flavor as represented by groups such as Slashdot and EFF. The real troublemakers on the horizon are guns for hire, particularly in places such as Russia. More Jesse James than Che Guevara.

Prescribing computer hacker cultural theory reminds me of Michael Calleri's rule for directors contemplating long, focused computer monitor shots on film: Don't do it! Why? Because maybe Windows 3.1 isn't quite as sexy in 2004 as it seemed in 1994. Maybe Mr. Director is clueless about computers and superimposes a lot of images on the hacker's monitor that make no sense. The violation of Calleri's computer rule may be the author of ECD's greatest offense.

So the notion of ECD has fatal flaws. The six-man cell strategy that was basically appropriated from Che seems to be working in Iraq, however.

Attention Slackers: “Obey!”

Other essays in the book have happily stood the test of time, however. One essay titled “Slacker Luddites” may have been an inspiration for the movie “Office Space.” It captures the X-gen, slacker/hacker ambivalence toward both careerism and political engagement. In spite of the reactionary agenda of the George W. Bush administration, much of that ambivalence remains under a tranquil narcissistic surface.

Young people seem much more prepared to engage in “electronic civil obedience” (i.e. loyalty to Microsoft, first person shoot 'em ups, reality TV, bogus unscientific TV polling, etc.) than in highly risky and illegal hacking “actions” that will somehow harm only corporate powers. This essay seemed to be the most prescient in this regard.

Resistance Is “Useless”

Another essay, “The Technology of Uselessness,” contemplates nuclear weapons, among other useless things, and argues that the weapons' real usefulness rested in their uselessness. To use them would be to end life on Earth as we know it, so the only way they could be useful is if they were useless.

A similar argument might be made about the Department of Homeland Security. If terrorists do not strike American soil, they must be doing their job and probably deserve more money, but if terrorists do strike, then the department needs to spend more money so that mistakes won't be repeated. Either way, one could argue that the Department of Homeland Security exists to spend more money.

The Political Utility of Useless Violence Continuing that logic, one could argue that the country is safer with troops stationed in the Persian Gulf because they are easier targets for terrorists than are civilians in the United States. So if the goal is to make the country safer, then our troops should be used as decoys for terrorists.

Using troops as decoys for extended periods of time is not a novel concept. It implies, however, that in the current environment, they are of no use unless they are deployed. As time goes by, they may be unable to quell the lawlessness that passes for resistance to U.S. occupation. Either way, their main utility seems to lies in uselessness.

The Return of the Mythic Hero of the American Heartland: George W. Bush The return of this country to the philosophy of the domestic security state may be an overreaction to the events of Sept.11, 2001, or it may represent a return to a natural state of affairs following a period of civil unrest, uncontrolled inflationary pressures, and Democratic Party hegemony at the end of the twentieth century.

The sense of entitlement, assurance, and messianic purpose with which George W. Bush is approaching a second term was not foreseen in the critical theory of the CAE. The inventors of that theory seem to have underestimated the power of “late capital” to create and project the illusion of a mythic hero. Repression and anti-intellectualism, omnipresent in the background of these Critical Art Ensemble essays, have moved to the foreground in the current political environment. From “nomadic art tactics” to borrowing a book from your local library, people engaging in politically charged actions must be prepared for the consequences, as irrational as they might be. Critical theory presupposes certain academic rules and etiquette, but as they say, math yields to brute force.

Behold the American Colossus with one foot in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan as it pisses all over your flaccid French philosophic constructs. Reviewed By: John McMahon

An Anti-Author Whose Identity is Known to the Department of Homeland Security

To celebrate the fact that John Ashcroft's Department of Justice still has access to every American citizen's bookstore and library records, we decided to go to our public library and check out the Critical Art Ensemble's revolutionary manifesto titled Electronic Civil Disobedience, and other unpopular ideas.

Who?

The Critical Art Ensemble was recently in the news because UB Art Professor and CAE member Stephen Kurtz was held for questioning and charged with mail fraud in relation to various strains of bacteria that he obtained and used in performance art exhibits aimed at raising awareness of genetic modification