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Back from Beijing: James Powderly of Graffiti Research Lab

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rocket boom On Rocketboom a few days ago we told that James Powderly of Graffiti Research Lab had been detained in China. James is back in the United States, he's standing right next to me. So what were you doing in China to begin with? Collaborating with some friends of mine who are involved in the "Students For A Free Tibet" organization. So unlike our nomal art events This was a place where we wouldn't be able to set up a projector and a generator and do something in public with locals expressing local concerns. We had a smaller group of people who had a very specific message they wanted to get out. So instead of having all of the equipment and allowing a writer to sort of write text on a building you would just have what we call a laser stencil. So you just point it at a wall and then your message would em-blazed in the traditional laser green font. We projected it that night on the outskirts of Beijing, and then I headed into the city to show my collaborators what we had done. So I had these images fresh in my camera. and on my way to meet them at a bar, I realized I was actually being trailed by undercover Chinese secret police. We were intercepted by something in the order of 30 or 40 Chinese secret police officers. I think they had the wrong idea the whole time, and thought we were some sort of underground Tibetan separatist, terrorist organization. Of course these are people who consider the Dali Lama a terrorist. But when they couldn't get the information they wanted out of us, they did take us to an official general population detention center. Each of us were separated into our own cells, our cells consisted of citizens from countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Mongolia, and also Chinese nationals, who'd committed offenses ranging from being accused of stealing cell phones, to sort of obscure visa paperwork mishandlings, to people who just didn't know what they were being detained for. The processes was completely extra judicial, there was no judge that we saw who sentenced anything, and we were never aware exactly of what crime we had committed. We'd only been told that what we were doing is an affront to the people of China, and that in some type of way we were trying to destroy China. I was told I wasn't the murderer, but I made the knife. And then over the course of the next 5 days, we were on a daily basis, usually at night, woken up and, put into a chair, strapped into a metal chair almost in like horror movie style behind a gate in a room called "inquisitors room" where's there's acutlly blood splatter on the floor and hey would sit at a desk and they would ask us the same questions again, and again, and again. We were required to watch 2 and 1/2 hours of CCTV footage of the Olympics everyday inside our detention facility. And that footage was of Chinese competitors winning. For instance in the Brazil - China volleyball game when Brazil eventually went ahead to win the game, the footage was changed to prerecorded footage of Olympic divers from China winning the gold medal. So on just a very trivial level, they're not allowed to see things like failure, and they're not allowed to see just simple realities. So of course they're not allowed to see things like, this broadcast in fact may not be something that they can access. If it is something that they can access then this is a way, right, that they can get like a small window into what the rest of the world is saying. And then they can take that for themselves to believe or not to believe. For work by James Powderly see Graffiti Research Lab.com

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Duration: 3 minutes and 49 seconds
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Language: English
License: Dotsub - Standard License
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Views: 2,569
Posted by: rocketboom on Aug 27, 2008

Joanne speaks with James Powderly of Graffiti Research Lab upon his return to the United States after he was arrested and detained in Beijing last week while preparing to perform acts of civil disobedience by Students for a Free Tibet during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Related: Back from Beijing: Brian Conley

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