Brooklyn Artist, 5 Others Detained in Beijing for Protest


Brooklyn’s James Powderly has been detained by Chinese authorities in Beijing, reports Boing Boing. The high-tech artist apparently was part of a group that used LED lights to spell out the words “Free Tibet” near the site of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. It is reported that all five in the group are Americans and all have been detained.

Boing Boing was alerted to the detention by Students for a Free Tibet. “The Chinese government is desperate to turn the world’s attention away from its abuses in Tibet as the Olympics take place,” said Students for a Free Tibet’s Deputy Director in a related press release, “but the creativity and determination of Tibetans and their supporters has once again ensured that Tibetan voices are heard and seen in Beijing despite the massive security clampdown.”

Powderly is co-founder of the Graffiti Research Lab, which developed the “throwies” technique used to create the Beijing installation.

In a February 26 discussion of “Art, Public Dissent, and Technology” in the Culture to Go blog of the Minneapolis City Pages, the NYU-educated Powderly talked about the hassles he and his Lab partners had experienced with the NYPD when doing local protests with throwies, and said that “to be able to say you had esthetic intent when you made something is a difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in NY. Basically, a judge gets to decide that.” We hope Powderly won’t have to find out firsthand how it works in Beijing.

Image adapted from a photo by urban_data under a Creative Commons license.