Hope Kurtz (19592004)by Christina Hung
Hope Kurtz, original member of internationally renowned art collective Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is to be included in the 2005 Autonomedia Calendar of Jubilee Saints: Radical Heroes for the New Millennium, along with Josephine Baker, Samuel Beckett, Emma Goldman, Francisco Goya and a pantheon of other radical cultural and political heroes. In it, Hope is described as a "Loyal comrade/anarchist/radical poet, writer, and brilliant editor."
Hope Kurtz worked behind the scenes of the CAE collective by contributing to the conceptual basis for their work. It is through her brilliant editing that their work articulates challenging concepts to a multifarious audience—many of whom might not otherwise come into contact with such radical thought. The Ensemble collectively authored several books including Electronic Civil Disobedience and other unpopular Ideas, The Molecular Invasion, and Flesh Machine, all published by Autonomedia and distributed under an "Anti-copyright" agreement.
Though I have only my friendship with Hope on which to base the following assumption, I suspect that it’s in large part Hope’s influence that makes CAE’s writing so accessible to people like me: people who might otherwise blanch at the first sighting of a word like "pancapitalism." Were it not for the clarity of the context in which a word like that appears within CAE’s writing, I for one might give up my attempts to digest contemporary theory on the spot. As it is, Hope’s motto "Never Surrender" might well describe her commitment to equality and justice, as well as her commitment to reaching those who are apt to give up in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles to our own intellectual growth: obstacles such as oppressive regimes, FBI investigations, copyright and IP claims (as well as the occasional complex, challenging idea embodied in a single word like "pancapitalism").
As a friend who will miss her dearly and one who was profoundly influenced by her creative work, I would like to add the following items to this portrait of Hope Kurtz, brilliant editor, poet and anarchist:
Hope was a fiercely loyal friend who had a wicked sense of humor, which she made all the more effective through careful administration of it in highly potent, homeopathic doses.
Hope was the only person I ever knew who truly hated sunshine (though she loved the things that thrived in it, gardenias, orchids, and cats among them). Once, I picked her up for lunch at her house on Wilkins Ave. in Pittsburgh, on what was a classic Pittsburgh day: dark and rainy. I was wearing sunglasses even though it was dark out and explained that past eye surgery sometimes made my eyes sensitive to daylight. It was then that Hope told me, rather emphatically, how much she hated the sun. The look on her face was enough to prove to me that she was not simply placating me through expression of an insincere alliance. No, she really hated the sun, and it seemed as if she hated it all the more because it was causing me pain.
Hope wore a lot of black, stomped around in good moods and bad, and refused to conform with either her body or her mind to any force of nature or culture which might oppress or obscure the truth and complexity of who she was, and what she believed. She dyed her hair black before she went gray and then stopped dying it once she acquired enough silver strands to visually announce her presence as the brilliant and wise woman she actually was.
She could burst in to tears at the thought of any cat’s suffering. She yanked the pieces off of her Purple Heart plant in an attempt to contain it to its small pot and cursed it for growing so rapidly.
She lined a shoebox with warnings taken from patient inserts from the various medications she took and gave it to her best friend as a gift.
Hope Kurtz ate countless meals at the local Eat ’N Park restaurant because it made her husband and fellow CAE collaborator Steve Kurtz happy and not because she herself enjoyed them. I will miss her and to quote her husband Steve, "I don’t know how we’ll manage without her."
—Christina Hung, Baltimore 2004
More Articles by the AuthorChristina Hung