Robot Clothes is an art and commercial research and development partnership, specializing in robotic systems, interaction design and product prototyping. This partnership, formed in 2002 by Michelle Kempner and James Powderly, utilizes a hybrid fine art and commercial design and engineering approach to support innovative science and technology development efforts for clients including fortune 100 companies, NASA and internationally renowned artists, such as Diller + Scofidio and Miranda July. In addition to contracted research and development efforts, Robot Clothes internally supports fine art projects ranging from a robotic public sculpture for Central Park to an animatronic story about Crohn’s Disease.
James Powderly is an artist and engineer working in the field of aerospace robotics and robotic art. James studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, receiving his Master's Degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program. He received his Bachelor of Music in composition and theory with highest honors from the University of Tennessee. His diverse academic and professional background has led towards hybrid work with artists, engineers and scientists in a new emerging genre: robotic fine art.
James has had his own work and collaborations with artists exhibited at the Whitney Museum, the MOMA Queens, PS1, the Sculpture Center and Artbots. This work has been featured on NPR and the front page of the New York Times.
James is currently the Director of Technology Development at Honeybee Robotics, an aerospace robotics company located in Manhattan. Recent project contributions include work on the 2003 Mars Exploration Rover Rock Abrasion Tool, currently at work on Mars, and a collaboration with Diller + Scofido, on a robotic drill named "Mural", featured in their mid-career retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. James has taught classes in robotic art at the Pratt School of Art and Design and is a frequent lecturer at Parsons and NYU on the subject of physical computing and robotics. He co-founded the New York City Chapter of the Robotics Society of America.
James lives and works in New York City with his wife and partner, Michelle Kempner.
Michelle Kempner is a professional software engineer in New York City. Outside of work, Michelle collaborates with her husband, James Powderly, creating robotic art as Robot Clothes. They exhibited Wildflower Meadow Glacier robot at the 2004 Artbots. Currently, they are collaborating on Inside Out Life Story, an animatronic song cycle based on their experiences in 2004 when they not only got married, but also dealt with a series of hospitalizations and surgeries.
Michelle has a BA in Media Theory and a Master's in Interactive Telecommunications from New York University. Michelle's projects include real-time video effects rendered in Java, a networked computer vision installation, and a wearables R & D project for a Fortune 100 company. Her work is influenced by television, her husband, Alexander Calder, literature and knitting.