studioNotes Blog
Thursday, June 17, 2004
  Jessica Phrogus Goes to Washington

Washington DC was mind blowingly wonderful. Here I was walking to the very center of our country's heart. It was such a honor for me. After a day to get there on a plane, with a time change and plane change, metro was 3 blocks from the hostel, but I took a cab anyways and got in room and 11 pm. I went on a fun trolley around the area and got off at the Memorial sites for Washington, Lincoln and all the soldiers. It was muggy and I couldn't walk much, but did see that and just rode around town -- that took all day. Then went to the hostel and slept till 2 am when some girls came in room, then I woke up and was wide awake, so just went down to common room and read paper. The clerk at the hostel carried my bag up since I was on the 6th floor and the elevator was out, then he put me next to the air conditioner. A really nice guy. I worked on slides and leisurely got ready, took a shower and all. I was nervous and excited.

I felt I didn't really deserve it, but the government has made other worse mistakes. We went into the White House and I was able to walk there from my youth hostel (3 blocks away). I immediately met a really nice man who was a director of this museum and he encouraged me to socialize and give out my cards. I didn't go into my egotistical shell (for once) and met some really wonderful folks. Half of them were artists and half were all the folks supporting the Art in Embassies Program. There was a 4- or 5- string band dressed in uniform playing and docents in each of the rooms and a huge spread of food and drink. I started rapping with this a man who was an upper muckety muck about how my art caused a lot of controversy with it being about freedom of speech and drug out a copy of the letter and reply from one of the consulates. This was a good conversational piece.

Everyone was so gracious and lively and happy. Then Ms Bush gave a speech and she really looked great, better in person than in photos. I got lots of cards, but can't find them now. One artist and I talked and ended up walking out together. It turns out she works in DC and knows the consulates in Caracas and is now talking with them about me coming there. God, I feel like I am in heaven, there is nothing else I want and more wonderful stuff keeps happening. We (Cynthia &I) are emailing now. My computer was down for a month with some weirdo virus.

Anyways, after the morning do at the White house I went home and laid down for a while and tried to get my head to quit spinning from the feeling of Cinderella at the Ball.
Okay, now that is the morning of second day. I took a city bus to the State Dept Bldg and we had a big panel discussion in the room where they have all these meetings I think I have seen on TV. It was ok, but understandably guided along a certain path or track. Then we went up to the top floor and there were more of the uniformed musicians and another huge spread of food and alcohol. I had met a caterer on the bus, so I felt more comfortable at the event. Colin Powell, his wife and many others shook hands in a reception line. Powell then gave a warm speech to the group of probably 150 people and we all talked. The rooms were like the White House, early American antiques everywhere. I spent most of the time out on the balcony as I like big views...People were very friendly, maybe my odd colored red hair signaled someone who might be interesting to check out, I don't know.

Then I went home to hostel and slept 14 hours. The next day I took my bag and checked out and went to the Women's Museum and had a fancy lunch and pretended all my friends were there and drank tea to all of us. Could you feel it? I gave my slides to some people there and rolled around in a wheelchair. Then I went to airport and spent about a million hours to get home cause the airplane schedules were messed up.

[Jessica Phrogus is a painter, printmaker and ceramic tile artist based in Oakland California. She was invited to the White House because one of her works is in The Art in Embassies Program, which was celebrating 40 years of existence. The program has shown works by Louise Bourgeois, Dale Patrick Chihuly, Nancy Fried, Felix González-Torres, Joseph Havel, Bryan Hunt, Jesús Moroles, Bruce Nauman, Isamu Noguchi, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, John Ruppert, George Rickey, Joel Shapiro, Judith Shea, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Doug and Mike Starn, Therman Statom, James Surls, William Tucker, and Robert Wilson.]

 
  Grand Jury Trial Begins for Artist who Used Bacterial Cultures and Lab Equipment

As reported in New Scientist, Steven Kurtz, of the University of Buffalo, New York state, is facing inditment because he used bacterial strains and DNA amplification in his art. The case began after the sudden death of his wife from a heart attack. According to the article, "Paramedics, who arrived too late to save her when she stopped breathing, spotted Kurtz's bacterial cultures and lab equipment. They alerted the FBI, who confiscated his computer, books, ID and lab equipment." The also impounded his wife's body, his car and his house. It was determined that his wife's death had nothing to do with the materials and house, car and body were released a week later.

The paper reports: "Kurtz claims the three strains he kept are harmless. He says his Escherichia coli strain lives in abundance in the human intestine, the Serratia marcesens is generally used to test bacterial soap and Bacillus globigii is commonly found in the soil. The DNA equipment is the same as that found in all university biology labs, he argues."

Kurtz is a member of the Critical Art ensemble, a group that has "been producing performances and theory that merge political realities with technology and theater since 1987." According to http://caedefensefund.org/index.html CAE is under investigation for their use of scientific equipment to produce art projects that question the relationship between commerce, politics and biotechnology. Thus far eight subpoenas have been issued to: Adele Henderson, Chair of the Art Department at UB; Andrew Johnson, Professor of Art at UB; Paul Vanouse, Professor of Art at UB; Beatriz da Costa, Professor of Art at UCI; Steven Barnes, FSU; Dorian Burr, Beverly Schlee and Claire Pentecost.

Persons interested in helping the artist and the cause can refer to http://caedefensefund.org/support.html

 
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