By offering people to use his artwork trademark for their own ideas, French street-artist JR created a worldwide participatory art movement.
JR started his pasting work by pasting large scale black and white portraits of young people from the poor suburbs in the rich areas of Paris during the 2005 riots, to challenge the passers-by “to question the social and media representation of a generation” that is still highly stigmatised. (Discover the series Portrait of a Generation here)
Travelling, he used his art to draw attention to social issues, sometimes illegally pasting. In 2007, JR and his team took portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and posted them side by side, in large format, in unavoidable places, on both Israeli and Palestinian sides of the border. “Who’s who?” most of them couldn’t tell, putting in perspective their role in this endless war. (Take a look at the series Face 2 Face here)
His work entitled “Women are Heroes” features close-ups of women’s eyes. “In order to pay tribute to those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism”, JR pasted huge photos of the faces and eyes of local women on walls from various communities from the Favela da providencia in Rio de Janeiro to Kibera slum in Kenya.
The documentary of the project is available here and I strongly recommend the watch!
JR won the TED Prize in 2011 for his participatory Art project called “Inside Out“. With the $1million award he was able to take his idea to the next level. Inspired by JR’s large‐format street “pastings”, Inside Out gives everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and make a statement for what they stand for. It is a global platform for people to share their untold stories and transform messages of personal identity into works of public art.
The process is simple and scalable. People are invited to register on the website, describe the defended cause (no violent purpose is tolerated) upload black and white portraits, receive the large scale print, and paste it (there is even a tutorial for that here), and to use it for their own cause. No brand, credit, logo, corporate sponsor, not even JR’s name appears on the portraits: the faces and the story they are telling is the only statement, along with the Inside Out web address where every project is documented.
“The question is not “can art change the world”, but “can art change people’s lives?”
From a native American tribe in north Dakota claiming “they still exist”, a giant eye warning of global warming from the north pole, and the woman’s rights in Iran, more than 120 countries and causes were represented through the faces of its instigators on the walls of the places they live in. Discover the map referencing all the actions here.
Facing the success of the online printing, the Inside Out team decided to put together a mobile photobooth, at the back of the truck printing giant portraits for people to paste them right away. It can help create major artwork just by the gathering a crowd such as last month Nuit Blanche in Toronto, CAN.
Agile-City previously looked at the power of street art to transform the urban environment – Read about the Wabash Lights in Chicago – as well as its capacity to comment on social issues. Read also about 96Acres and their work in Cook County Jail