CINDY WEBER: ‘I am an American’

New Sciences of Protection Conference: Exhibition on the theme ‘Designing Safe Citizens’ by Cindy Weber.

On 21 September 2001 – ten days after 9/11 – the Ad Council in the United States launched its ‘I am an American’ advertising campaign. The exhibition unsettles the Ad Council’s smooth presentation of post 9/11 American patriotism through interviews with those for whom, very recently, US citizenship has been anything but ‘safe.’ These include the son of undocumented immigrant Elvira Arellano, Greg and Glenda Avery, Hurricane Katrina evacuees who became ‘internally displaced’ refugees, and James Yee, a US army Muslim chaplain wrongly accused of being a terrorist spy. The pieces show how the fantasy of unity, wholeness and security pedalled by the designers of safe citizenship in the US remain just that, fantasies. The exhibition disarticulates and rearticulates what it means to be a US citizen in a post 9/11 context, enactments neatly summed up in Cindy Weber’s provocative reversal the US motto “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, One) to read, ‘out of one, Many.’
The original Ad Council release

Greg and Glenda Avery: We are americans

James Yee: I am an American

Thank you to our fabulous Joseph Rigby for this great summary

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Strange Culture at the Designing Safe Living conference

Next month during the Designing Safe Living conference in Lancaster, director Lynn Hershman-Leeson‘s film about the artist Steve Kurtz called ‘Strange Culture’ will be screened on Friday, July 11th. Lynn will then be giving an interview live on Second Life after the screening.

Strange Culture examines the case of artist and professor Steve Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE). The work of Kurtz and other CAE members dealt with genetically modified food and other issues of science and public policy. After his wife, Hope, died of heart failure, paramedics arrived and became suspicious when they noticed petri dishes and other scientific equipment related to Kurtz’s art in his home. They summoned the FBI, who detained Kurtz within hours on suspicion of bioterrorism.

As Kurtz could not legally talk about the case, the film uses actors to interpret the story, as well as interviews with Kurtz and other figures involved in the case. Through a combination of dramatic reenactment, news footage, animation, and testimonials, the film scrutinizes post-9/11 paranoia and suggests that Kurtz was targeted because his work questions government policies. At the film’s close, Kurtz and his long-time collaborator Dr. Robert Ferrell, former chair of the Genetics Department at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, await a trial date.

As of late May, 2008, the Buffalo Prosecutor has declined to reopen the case within the 30 day window in which he was allowed to do so. So, Steve Kurtz is free.