Portraits of self-sufficiency: Graffiti Research Lab Germany

This time we had a short chat with Mirae Rosner and Jesse Scott, the two initiators of the German cell of Graffiti Research Lab. If you’re curious, read on.

Mirae and Jesse

Sharing knowledge and tools is at the very core of Graffiti Research Lab (GRL) an international federation of autonomous cells, founded by Evan Roth and James Powderly during their fellowships at the Eyebeam OpenLab.

Each cell is completely independent, with its own political or cultural focus, but all share the basic idea that code and software belong in the public domain – each tool is published under a non-commercial creative commons license.
GRL can be defined as an art group dedicated to outfitting graffiti writers, artists and protesters with open source technologies for urban communication, tools that can be found online and used, so long as it is for non-commercial purposes.
Among the tools developed and put at the disposal of protesters everywhere, the LASER Tag, Led Throwies and Projection Bombing are the most well-known. In a continuos dialogue with graffiti writers and activists, who bring their specific needs and expectations, projects are always in development.
There are also some very interesting international projects, such as the 1LT/C (1 laser tag per child), initiated by the Utah cell of GRL.


The Canadian cell of GRL focuses on graffiti as strategy for media democracy, allowing for the reshaping of the people’s interaction with public space. Two of the members of this cell, Jesse and Mirae, have now created a German cell in Berlin and introduced themselves and the project at the Open Design City on the 27th of October.

They decided to come to Berlin because “in Berlin there is a very big DIY spirit and a very good attitude to this sort of projects”. The main focus of the Berlin cell of GRL, though anyone is welcome to pitch in, will be to continue the research on the “bombIR” application to make it as open source as possible. The “bombIR”, which was originally developed by GRL Canada, is a “scaleable drawing application built for use with a rear-projection screen and custom-made infrared pens – as well as a version for use with touchscreens –  that allows artists to physically gesture against a surface and create real-time graphical output“.

“Sharing code and software is an old idea and there has always been the need for it. It makes more sense and it is also more economical”, said Jesse.
“Graffiti writers have always been inventive and have always tried out new technologies, taking tools normally used for profit and using them in a subversive way”, he added.
Even though it is not always easy to work within the framework of the market economy, they think that “art can go at the core of this system and establish a deep criticism of it, which eventually makes it obsolete”.
As for the “traditional” graffiti, “the aim of GRL is not to replace it, but to grasp a renewed understanding of the new technologies and the world around us as they evolve”. This of course means using the technology and putting it in the hands of the people, releasing it into the public domain avoiding the banalization of these resources that results from commercial use.

If you are curious about the work of the GRL Germany you can attend their workshops at the Open Design City and get involved!

Photography: Gabriele di Stefano and Elisabetta Lombardo


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