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Sitting here editing the latest issue of Filmmaker, I came across this interview segment from Andy Bichelbauer, the “Yes Man” featured in Chris Smith’s outrageously entertaining political doc The Yes Men forthcoming this fall from United Artists.

The Yes Men are a group of political performance-art provocateurs who infiltrate government and NGO-type events and pose as World Trade Organization officials. But lately the group has been having problems dealing with the implications of the Patriot Act, which broadly construes a variety of behaviors as potentially terrorist acts. Within the art world, the first casualty is that of Steve Kurtz, a Buffalo art professor and member of the Critical Art Ensemble. In a truly disturbing case, after his wife died of a cardiac arrest in her sleep, Kurtz found himself in jail when the police officers who arrived at his home found supposed “bio-terrorism equipment” — the Petri dishes and lab cultures Kurtz was using for a new art piece dealing with genetically modified foodstuffs.

Currently, Kurtz’s students are being subpoenaed and the case will be presented before a grand jury at the end of June. Follow the link in Bichelbauer’s quote for more info.

Filmmaker: Andy, are you concerned that given the rising of the Yes Men it will be more difficult for you to infiltrate these organizations? Or are they just as defenseless as they’ve always been?

Bichlbaum: Right now we’re so busy trying to deal with this FBI USA Patriot Act situation that I don’t know what I think about anything else. We’ve found ourselves conscripted by the current situation described at length at www.rtmark.com. Basically, the FBI has decided to target this artist [Steve Kurtz]. He’s going up before a grand jury in Buffalo on June 15 and he’s a close friend.

Filmmaker: What can people do to support him?

Bichlbaum: Financial donations: The CAE Defense Fund has so far received over 200 donations in amounts ranging from $5 to $400. This is a wonderful outpouring of sympathy, but a drop in the bucket compared to the potential costs of the case. To make a donation, please visit The CAE Defense Fund. Letters or petitions of support from biologists, artists, and others, especially those in positions of responsibility at prominent institutions or companies, could be very useful. See www.caedefensefund.org for a sample of legal offers and letters of support. If you are a lawyer, offers of pro bono support or offers to write amicus briefs would be very helpful.”

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