Kurtz only briefly mentioned his four year ordeal with the Department of Justice (this is also a good article about it), and only as a single exemplar of his overall thesis that the role of art is to push back against the social mechanisms of what he’s termed “expression management.”
In staging this mock bioweapon release in front of the U.S. Embassy, what Kurtz found was that his own internal microfascisms were causing him to attempt to derail his own project by listing things he was sure they wouldn’t be allowed to do: march and then assemble in front of the embassy, then use a city tower to release the smoke with the (harmless) biological sample in it, and then bring skin samples from the participants to a lab for testing.
What he found instead was that the Leipzigers, despite Germany’s decades longer ordeal with terrorism (from not just Islamists, but also neo-Nazis and Communists), were quite willing to support the project. When the sponsoring Leipzig arts institution asked, the city gave them use of the tower, and permission to march to and in-front of the embassy, with no fuss. The biological laboratory in the city was equally obliging.
It’s a very interesting post about the intersection of art with ‘the policeman within.’ The lecturer in question has certainly had enough encounters with the policemen to have developed an interesting orientation towards their relationship with society.
In security engineering work, we often have to overcome internal filters, such as “why would anyone do that?” I think that powerful art, like that of Banksy or Wendy Richmond has an ability to transform the way we see the world for the better. It’s a shame when our artists need to contend with arrest for doing things which are not illegal, but merely confusing to our armed public servants.