Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Lynn Hershman Leeson

Strange Culture

Strange Culture

Lynn Hershman Leeson. Strange Culture, 2006.

documentary, 75 minutes written and directed by Lynn Hershman Leeson photo: Charlie Kuttner, 2006 Lynn Herschman Leeson returns to Sundance ("Teknolust" premiered at the 2002 Festival) with "Strange Culture," a brilliantly conceived documentary that breaks conventional rules out of the necessity to tell the story. Artist and college professor Steve Kurtz was preparing for a MASS-MoCA exhibition that lets audiences test whether food has been genetically modified when, days before the opening, his wife tragically died of heart failure. Distraught, Kurtz called 911, but when medics arrived, they became suspicious of his art supplies and called the FBI. Dozens of agents in haz-mat suits sifted through his home and impounded his computers, books, cat, and even his wife's body. The government held Kurtz as a suspected terrorist, and, nearly three years later, the charges have not been dropped. He still faces up to 20 years in prison. Because Kurtz cannot legally talk about the case, Leeson enlists actors, including Tilda Swinton, Josh Kornbluth, and Peter Coyote, to interpret the story. Leeson skillfully weaves dramatic reenactment, news footage, animation, testimonials, and footage of Kurtz himself into a sophisticated documentary about post-9/11 paranoia and the risks artists face when their work questions government policies.— Shari Frilot


activism, video, Steve Kurtz, CAE, documentary, 9/11

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