J.R….art that can change the world…
JR – A photographer who believes art can change the world. He owns the biggest art gallery in the world, because he exhibits freely in the streets of the world, catching the attention of people who are not the museum visitors. His work mixes Art and Act, talks about commitment, freedom, identity and limit.
This 27 old artists real name is still unknown and he speaks in public with sunglasses and a hat to remain his anonymity, but he doesn’t need to be known as a person, he is known for his art.
This young Parisian man with a sense of humor and full of energy, started his artistic career as a graffiti artist – but when he found a camera on the Paris Metro a whole world opened up to him.
His technique consists in plastering walls of different cities around the world with gigantic photographs, always black and white. Then, the magic happens: portraits of common people invade public spaces often forgotten, sometimes unnoticed, some others unwanted. JR never asks for permission to do so: he conquers the walls with the strength of his ideas and not with his name, so that his art can be bold and extravagant without any need of explanation. He doesn’t impose his works on the landscapes either, actually: his photos are almost never meant to stay permanently. They are just there to belong to all passers-by until the paper on which they are printed handles the sun, the rain, or vandalism (and street cleaning, too).
Although his interest in making meaningful street art has been constant throughout his career – in a broader sense – he definitely became a “photographer activist” when in 2007 he started the project Face2Face with a few friends. He photographed Israelis and Palestinians who were doing the same job in 8 different Palestinian and Israeli cities. He then printed the portraits in huge format and pasted them next to each other on both sides of the Security Fence that separates Israel from the West Bank: 20,000 square meters of paper to challenge prejudices. No one believed he could do it, and yet, against all odds, simply by explaining the project to all the people involved and asking them the permission to display them next to a Palestinian/an Israeli, he did it. (See more on that in Face2Face Project).
His search for new places where to display his art never stops, and involves different media and interaction with the surroundings: recently he covered 2,000 square meters of Kibera’s slums, in Kenya, pasting on rooftops blown-up photographs of local women for the project Women Are Heroes, a declaration for all women’s dignity. The photographs were printed on vinyl so that this material could prevent the rain from flooding the shelters.
JR directed also a movie dedicated to it.
What’s amazing about JR’s creative projects is his approach to the people involved. He doesn’t try to convince them, he doesn’t try to sell his artistic credo, he just goes there and talks to each one of them, explaining what he would like to do. Often, after this process, it’s the inhabitants who approach him asking for more. When he went to Morro da Providencia, one of the most dangerous favelas in Rio de Janeiro, in 2008, to find out more about the murder of three innocent kids that had just been killed by accident – young men in the wrong place at the wrong time – it was the female relatives of the three victims who spoke up and recounted the facts, asking to be photographed and interviewed.
The other genius step he took in the art world, often built on sponsorship of any kind and name-dropping, is figuring out that it would have helped his message to have no brand behind. As he said at his speech for the TED conference, the organization that awarded him with the 2011 Ted Prize: “No one sponsors my art, so I don’t have anyone to please. I have no responsibility, except the one to myself, the project and who’s photographed.”
The concept he believes in is that art can change the world or, better, it can change the perception of the world and therefore creates discussion so to enable people to change the world.
YOU can also participate in one of his projects, which is called INSIDE OUT. “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world…INSIDE OUT.” All you have to do is to upload a black and white portrait they took (self-portrait or a portrait of friends) on the dedicated website Inside Out Project.
It’s almost impossible to move souls as he does, changing the urban environment in such a grand and yet non-invasive way, looking at the world from another point of view, but you can still take part in it.
I hope you all will get some inspiration from this brave young dreamer=)