This from Beijing: The Village Voice‘s Runnin’ Scared blog is reporting via Boing Boing that Chinese authorities have detained a Brooklyn artist, James Powderly, along with five other Americans. The report says that Mr. Powderly was part of a group that used LED lights to spell out "Free Tibet" near the Olympics site. According to Mr. Powderly’s bio on the Web site for Robot Clothes, an art and commercial research and development partnership of which he is a member, he is "a maverick hobbyist dabbling at the fringes of robotics, chemistry, writing, pyrotechnics, graffiti and art," and apparently some of his work can be found on the surface of Mars.
UPDATE: Reuters has a full report. More from Runnin’ Scared after the jump.
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.