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A weblog by Laura Moncur


SXSWi 2009: Monday Keynote James Powderly Interviewed by Virginia Heffernan

Filed under: Utah Geeks — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Last March I went to SXSWi 2009. I posted the notes from two of the days, but conference exhaustion got in the way of me posting the notes from the last three days. After much delay, here they are.

Monday Keynote: Virginia Heffernan / James Powderly Interview – Room A

Monday, March 16th
2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

Open source art evangelist and political activist James Powderly talks about his craft and his mission with Virginia Heffernan, who writes The Medium column for The New York Times Magazine.

SXSWi 2009: James Powderly Interviewed by Virginia Heffernan by LauraMoncur from Flickr

Virginia Heffernan: Columnist , The New York Times

James Powderly: Research Dir, FAT Lab

James Powderly:

Asked us to show what it means to flip people off so he could take a photo. Graffiti Research Lab. Department of Homeland Graffiti.

He lives in Germany now.

He was trying to capture graffiti artists tags. Eyebeam Lab. Must be in public domain.

He helped SAG do some LED Throwies here.

SXSWi 2009: James Powderly Interviewed by Virginia Heffernan by LauraMoncur from FlickrTake a laser to write on a building. The Dutch Government hired them.Made with off the rack tech.

The software is open source and it’s available online.

Now he’s working on Fat Lab. There are other places that you can do art.

Trying to make open source cool. Release early, often and with rap music.

Virginia Heffernan:

James was detained by the Chinese government. What happened at the 2008 Olympics?

James Powderly:

MC Yan wanted to tag Tiananmen Square. It was REALLY hard. I could do nothing. MC Yan had to bow out.

The curator approached them, but the Chinese government wanted to censor them, so they kicked him out. A different organization tried to bring them and they got canceled again. Students for Free Tibet asked them to do it. We say yes to everybody as a rule if you don’t have a voice.

We made the device. They bought us tickets to Bejing. They had to make the product in China. They tested it in a hotel room. This is a dangerous thing to people who are nuts, but to everyone else, it’s just a silly toy.

SXSWi 2009: James Powderly Interviewed by Virginia Heffernan by LauraMoncur from FlickrNice ass… Nice ass. Same ass? Same nice ass… I’m fucked.

There were 50 police when they came out of the bar.They got 10 day sentences in jail. There was an economic professor. They were charged with anything. GWBush got them out. They watched the Olympics on television, but they controlled what they could watch.

Virginia Heffernan:

This work is powerful and unsettling. The audio playing out of a box impressed them more than the bible stories.

There is something about disembodied light that makes us feel like something scary is going on. It’s too high to be written on a ladder and it’s illuminated. Why is it so emotionally powerful.

James Powderly:

I tell the lie that tells the truth. Artists say that often. Technology becomes magic at times.

Laser Tag is a method of the lie. You can do it yourself.

Open source is a trickster sort of thing to do. He steps over the line constantly, even the lines he has drawn himself.

I have an anti-advertisement fetish. I can’t patent these things, so when advertisers use my things, but now hundreds of people can duplicate this magic. You make new magicians when you reveal your trick. Maybe someday everyone can do it and it’s mundane, but the trickster has moved on by then.

Virginia Heffernan:

SXSWi 2009: James Powderly Interviewed by Virginia Heffernan by LauraMoncur from FlickrWhat is the difference between the trickster and the artist.

James Powderly:

Graffiti writers embody the idea of the trickster. They make their own markers. They learn about the trains. They painted ont the trains so that EVERYONE would see their stuff.

Virginia Heffernan:

Graffiti seemed like it was unable to be documented. Now online video seems to be the way to document the graffiti.

James Powderly:

People have always taken photos of their work.

I don’t think graffiti should be legal. I don’t think that everyone should be a crook, I just think that we need some crooks. I don’t think the transgressor is the midland path.

The graffiti people are taking advantage of the Internet. Graffiti doesn’t matter at all in the world except to graffiti artists and politicians. It’s not moral. It’s not immoral. It’s amoral.

The more powerful a technology is, the more ways that it can be abused.

Something small gives you a chance to use it. Nothing makes my computer feel more brittle and ridiculous than a can of spray paint. All my stuff is stolen from graffiti.


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