Global Festival of Art to Feature 2 UB Artists

Bio-artist Steve Kurtz and sound artist Mark Shepard to be in limelight

Release Date: May 19, 2006 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Lynn Hershman, one of the most influential and acclaimed filmmakers working today, has produced "Strange Culture." a documentary film about the recent experiences of noted bio-artist Steve Kurtz, associate professor of art at the University at Buffalo.

The film will receive its world premiere at "ZeroOne San Jose: A Global Festival of Art on the Edge," Aug. 7-13 in San Jose, Calif., in conjunction with the prestigious 13th International Symposium on Electronic Art.

ZeroOne is a serious biennial event devoted to the presentation of 200 of the world's most innovative, contemporary artists through exhibits, performances, workshops and events using the newest developments in contemporary art practice and revolutionary elements of digital culture

Another one of the 200 artists selected will be Mark Shepard, assistant professor of architecture and media study at UB.

He will present "Practical Sound Garden Toolkit," an open-source software platform that adds an aural layer to urban areas. The platform uses mobile technologies and wireless networks to produce virtual community "sound gardens" in public places. The platform will be published by Princeton Architectural Press.

Kurtz is a bio-artist and founding member of the internationally acclaimed Critical Art Ensemble, a collective of five artists working in various specialized media, who explore the intersections of art, technology, radical politics and critical theory. The Ensemble's Web site is

Bio-art redefines the connections between the artwork and living organisms by working with genetic engineering techniques and modified bacteria, to address the political context, social circumstances and ethics of the discipline of biotechnology and the industry it has spawned.

Kurtz has published several books on art and culture including "Digital Resistance," "Flesh Machine," and "The Electronic Disturbance." He has exhibited at major art venues here and abroad,

lectured and taught workshops on art and biotechnology at New York University, The Art Institute of Chicago, San Francisco State University and other institutions. He was a faculty member at Carnegie Mellon University before joining the UB faculty.

Hershman's film follows the events that began in May 2004, when Kurtz called for assistance after the sudden death of his wife, Hope, in their home in Buffalo. Police were called when EMTs saw found Petri dishes, bacterial cultures (later shown to be harmless), and scientific equipment, all of which Kurtz uses in art installations that examine practices, political context, social circumstances and ethical factors involved in the field of biotechnology.

The police, in turn, contacted the FBI, which sought charges against Kurtz for violations of the U.S. Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, as expanded by the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. This, in turn, set off an international movement among artists, civil rights activists and others who initiated a defense fund and held exhibitions and protests in many nations on his behalf. Although the initial charges were not upheld, the legal case is not yet resolved and Kurtz could face 20 years in prison.

Hershman is a groundbreaking artist whose exceptionally versatile and prize-winning work focuses on conceptual issues of gender, technology and identity in contemporary America. She is regarded as one of the most influential female artists working today.

She has worked for 35 years in many media, including drawing, painting photography, performance, robotics, digital art, video, film, interactive multimedia installations and artificial intelligence. Her art has been exhibited internationally at more than 200 major institutions, including the National Museum of Art, and she has received scores of major awards, commissions, fellowships and grants, including the 2003 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize in Science and Technology and the 1998 Flintridge Foundation Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts.

A major international museum retrospective of her work will tour nationally and internationally from 2006-08. Hershman is professor emeritus at the University of California at Davis and A.D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. See her Web site at for more information and selected work.

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