James Powderly

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James Powderly
James powderly.jpg
Chattanooga, Tennessee, United States
EducationNew York University, Interactive Telecommunications Program
Known forStreet Art, Robotics, and Internet Art
Notable workL.A.S.E.R. Tag, LED Throwies
Awards2010 Japan New Media Art Festival Excellence Prize, 2010 Ars Electronica Golden Nica in Interactive Art, 2010 Design Museum Brit Insurance Design of the Year in Interactive Art, 2010 Future Everything Award, 2006-2007 Eyebeam OpenLab Senior Fellowship, 2006 Ars Electronica Award of Distinction, 2006, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Off the Record Commission, 2005-2006 Eyebeam OpenLab Fellowship, 2005 Eyebeam Artist in Residence

James Powderly (born 1976) is an artist, designer and engineer whose work has focused on creating tools for graffiti artists and political activists, designing robots and promoting open source culture.


Powderly studied music composition at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After college, he received a master's degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program. James worked at Honeybee Robotics and was part of the team that worked on the Mars Exploration Rovers Rock Abrasion Tool. As the collaborative team Robot Clothes, Powderly and artist Michelle Kempner, received an artist residency at Eyebeam for their project, Automated Biography. The project used small robots to tell the "personal story about a sick person and their partner."[1]

In 2005, James became a Research and Development Fellow at Eyebeam where he began collaborating with Evan Roth. Working as the Graffiti Research Lab, Roth and Powderly developed open source tools for graffiti writers and activists, such as LED Throwies and L.A.S.E.R. Tag.[2] Together they also founded the Free Art and Technology Lab a.k.a. F.A.T. Lab. Most recently James has won several awards for his work on the EyeWriter project, including the 2009 Design of the Year in Interactive Art from Design Museum, London, the 2010 Prix Ars Electronica,[3] the 2010 FutureEverything Award[4] and featured on NPR[5] and TED.[6] Several of James' works are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. James was a professor at Hongik University in the Visual Communication Design Department in Seoul, South Korea before moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to work for augmented reality company Magic Leap.[7]


Selected Exhibitions, Screenings and performances include:

Detainment in China[edit]

In June 2008, before the 2008 Summer Olympics, Powderly was contacted by Students for a Free Tibet who wanted to use his laser stencil invention, which can laser project simple stencils up to 2 km away, to project the words "Free Tibet" on a Beijing landmark, without acquiring any permission from the local authority. He said that "My understanding of the Tibetan issue was not in depth," but that he wanted to make "a general statement about freedom of speech". After practicing his message projection out of an apartment,[8] he and two other protesters were arrested,[9][10] interrogated, and detained at Chongwen Detention Center and given 10 days for "disrupting public order", which is unusual for American activists detained in China.[8] He was released during the closing day of the Olympics, on August 24.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Robot Clothes". Archived from the original on October 1, 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  2. ^ Dayal, Geeta (2006-06-25). "High-Tech Graffiti: Spray Paint Is So 20th Century". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  3. ^ [1] Archived October 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "FutureEverything | The Eyewriter". 2010.futureeverything.org. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  5. ^ Weekend Edition Sunday (2010-03-21). "Paralyzed Graffiti Artist Draws With His Eyes". NPR. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  6. ^ "Mick Ebeling: The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist | Video on". Ted.com. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
  7. ^ "James Powderly LinkedIn Page". LinkedIn. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  8. ^ a b "Artist Tells all about Time in Chinese Jail". Retrieved 2008-09-02.
  9. ^ "Beijing: Artist James Powderly, Detained - Aug. 19, 2008". Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  10. ^ "How to get thrown into a Chinese prison". Retrieved 2008-08-30.

External links[edit]