Naeem Mohaiemen on Wed, 20 Aug 2008 05:10:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> EYEBEAM Alum James Powderly detained in Beijing

No word from the American artist 24 hours after being taken into Chinese custody
Powderly was in Beijing to unveil a project made with pro-Tibet activist group

New York City, August 19, 2008, 7:30PM EST- Artist and Eyebeam alum
James Powderly was detained by Chinese authorities in Beijing early
Wednesday,  according to a message received by Students for a Free
Tibet around 5PM Beijing Standard Time, said an SFT spokesperson. The
message, sent through the social networking site Twitter, read "held
since 3AM", said friend and SFT board member Nathan Dorjee. Powderly
has not been heard from since-more than 24 hours later-and his
whereabouts remain unknown, he said.

"Freedom of speech has always been central to James' practice, and we
support this commitment. Most importantly, we hope for his quick
release," said Eyebeam Executive Director Amanda McDonald Crowley.
Powderly was a fellow in Eyebeam's R&D OpenLab in 2005-2006, and a
senior fellow in the OpenLab from 2006-2007.

Powderly is also co-founder of the Grafitti Research Lab, a project
developed during his fellowship at Eyebeam. He was in Beijing
collaborating with the activists to project messages onto the facades
of prominent Beijing buildings using a laser beam and stencils. The
artist was detained before the planned launch of the project-dubbed
the "Green Chinese Lantern"-in which a beam of light would be used to
display graphics and text on structures up to two stories high, said
Dorjee. It is unclear how Chinese authorities learned of the plan.

Also today, five activists with Students for a Free Tibet were
detained after displaying a banner that spelled out "Free Tibet" in
LED Throwies, the open source technology pioneered by the Grafitti
Research Lab and popularized online and worldwide. This brings the
number of SFT protestors detained in Beijing to 42. In the majority of
these cases, the individuals were heard from and deported within 6-12
hours of their arrest, said Dorjee.

Upon learning of the detention, fellow artist, collaborator, and
current Eyebeam senior fellow Steve Lambert said, "He's an amazing,
entertaining, brilliant, and committed person.  Not all of us have the
courage to travel to China to make such a statement at a key time like
this. He's a great friend and obviously, like so many others, I'm
concerned about his well-being. I hope he's allowed to return home as
soon as possible."

The L.A.S.E.R. Stencil technology is a modification of the GRL's
L.A.S.E.R. Tag, which was featured in the 2007 Eyebeam exhibition Open
City. This portable, updated version is the size of a flashlight,
requires one person to operate, and is intended for use with homemade

Students for a Free Tibet, a group with more than 700 chapters
worldwide, has been staging protests in Beijing over the course of the
past two weeks. According to Dorjee, who is also the group's technical
advisor, GRL technology was an ideal fit for the spectacle of the
Olympics, and called the GRL the "go-to group for open source urban

For the latest information and images, please visit the website of
Students for a Free Tibet:

Additional images for download:

The Grafitti Research Lab, with images made using the L.A.S.E.R.
Stencil (in the US):

LED Throwies:

Additional coverage:

Boing Boing:

The Washington Post:


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