Skip to main content
Ages 13+
Under 13
Two people walking in blue hazmat suits.

Critical Art Ensemble: The Convergence of Art, Technology, and Counterculture


Since the 1980s this collective has lucidly transgressed the limits, encouraging artistic reflections in places it has been able to cause discomfort in.

Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) is a group that has managed, on numerous occasions and over the course of many decades, to provoke authorities. Since the group was first formed in 1987, they have published six titles that are their intellectual basis for applying art, to service critical activism. Their two main representatives and ideologists are Steve Kurtz and Steve Barnes; both enjoy exploiting art as an agent of chaos, which can make their audience ponder about certain local and global problems: on several occasions they have record governments’ authoritarian and oppressing attitudes, and they have designed energetic strategies to fight them.

The group is interested in the intersection of art and critical theory, with technology and political activism. Their supports or preferred media to develop their activities are the Internet, printed design, the digital image, performance, photography, video and printed and digital publications; they develop reactionary tactics which confront the normality the government promotes on issues such as vigilance, war, data collection and racial, political and economic issues.

They have become involved in different parts of the world, identifying themselves with rebel factions that employ art as a liberating tool; the drench themselves with local problems and begin a dialogue and interaction with the environment, to climax in concrete actions that have ranged from interfering with radio signals, printing posters and shirts, sending messages using electronic media and critical and inclusive performances, overall, they employ anything at hand and their actions defy being limited.

There is plenty of material on the net surrounding this group. Steve Kurtz has given several lectures in renowned institutions such as MIT, web channels such as TED talks, and many universities; the six books he has published can be found free of charge online on his webpage, there we can also find a wide record of his activities.

This collaboration seeks to activate consciousness and creativity; his experience should become an example for new generations, just as the diverse organisations that continue to pursue similar goals. The path he has travelled in with the CAE is worth studying, in order to become inspired and informed. At the end of the day, his admirable trajectory is in itself an honest invitation to unleash the rebellious seed that we all carry inside of us —and to do so with common good and freedom as our primary objectives.

Related Articles