GRL’s James Powderly detained in Beijing for planning pro-Tibet “L.A.S.E.R. Stencil” art protest
August 19, 2008 · Print This Article
Students for a Free Tibet tells Boing Boing they learned of Graffitti Research Lab founder James Powderly’s detention by Chinese authorities in Beijing via a Twitter direct message that read “held since 3am.”
I just spoke to the SFT representative who has been Powderly’s closest contact, and this person says Powderly has now been held for more than 19 hours with no further word.
So far there’s no acknowledgment from officials in Beijing that Powderly is being held. Here’s SFT’s announcement about the L.A.S.E.R. Stencil art protest project Powderly was planning — he was also writing an “instructable” about it yesterday:
Internationally known artist, technologist and co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab, James Powderly, was detained in Beijing early this morning while preparing to debut a new work and technology of protest, the L.A.S.E.R. Stencil. According to a “twitter” message received today by Students for a Free Tibet at approximately 5 pm Beijing Standard Time, Powderly had been detained by Chinese authorities at 3 am. His current whereabouts remain unknown.
“James is a unique voice in the world, who lives and breathes art and technology for the purpose of promoting and enabling freedom of expression for all,” said Nathan Dorjee, Director of Technology for Students for a Free Tibet. “His trip to Beijing, in support of the Tibetan people and all people around the world whose voices have been silenced by their governments, is a small piece of his portfolio as an artist who won’t back down in the face of authority.”
The work, “The Green Chinese Lantern,” uses a 400 milliwatt handheld green laser with micro-stencils to beam simple messages and images up to three stories high on surfaces such as billboards, buildings, and bridges. The Laser Stencil technology was developed in conjunction with Students for a Free Tibet.
Powderly’s direct experience with censorship by Chinese authorities furthered his commitment to highlighting the Tibetan cause during the Beijing Games, in partnership with the efforts of Students for a Free Tibet. Powderly and other members of the Graffiti Research Lab were dis-invited from Synthetic Times, a new media art exhibition at Beijing’s National Media Art Museum of China, due to their uncompromising stance on freedom of expression.
Students for a Free Tibet has staged six protests in Beijing over the last two weeks, placing the issue of Tibet’s occupation front and centre as China hosts the Olympic Games. The protests have included a dramatic banner hang near the Bird’s Nest Stadium; a display of Tibetan flags near the Bird’s Nest just before the opening ceremony began; a symbolic die-in at Tiananmen Square; a protest by a Tibetan woman with flags outside Tiananmen Square; a blockade of the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park; and “Free Tibet” banner hang outside the CCTV headquarters. Thirty-seven members and supporters have been detained and deported, not including those detained today.
James is proud to have been kicked out of the Synthetic Times new media art exhibition in Beijing because he wouldn’t censor his little art project. James wonders why organizations like the MoMA, Parsons, Eyebeam, Ars Electronica and many other arts and cultural institutions around the world who claim to support free speech and expression would participate in a show like this. But they did! It was after being kicked to the curb by the show’s curator that James connected with Students for a Free Tibet and decided he would go to China anyway and do what he though was right in support of Tibet, Taiwan, free speech and the people of China. James lives, if indeed he is alive, in the County of Kings, Brooklyn, and teaches at the Communication Design and Technology program at Parsons the New School for Design. I am James Powderly and I approve of this message.