JR: The man who is changing the world

JR: The man who is changing the world

“Inside Out Project” by JR

JR is a French artist who considers himself as « neither a street artist nor a photographer”. He began his career as a teenage graffiti artist. Later, he started to flypost large black-and-white photographic images in public locations since the age of 17. Beginning at Paris, JR pasted people’s portraits up in the streets, basements and on the rooftops. Later, he created several projects including Portraits of a Generation, Face2Face, Women Are Heroes and Los Surcos de la Ciudad in different places such as Israel and Palestine.

After winning the TED Prize which is awarded annually to ‘One Wish to Change the World’ in 2011, JR started the “Inside Out Project”. This project is an ongoing global multimedia, participatory art project which transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. In the following paragraphs, this unique “Inside Out Project” will be discussed and the concepts behind it will be analyzed.

The impressive 16 large-scale black and white portraits on the roof of IFC footbridges which is in Central district of Hong Kong is only one of the 4467 projects in the world. This project is powerful and still spreading because people can take part in the artistic process during the pasting phase. This large-scaled involvement of the whole community in making art is rarely seen before. Starting from taking pictures, printing it out to pasting it in public spaces, even ordinary people can create their own art work which can be seen by everyone in the world.

Besides getting the communities involved, people express what they stand for or care and tell their personal stories through taking pictures of themselves. A self-portrait is actually the easiest and direct way to do so. Once JR said “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.” This idea is common in all JR’s projects. For example, in Women Are Heroes, women who live in Brazil were taken pictures and their portraits were pasted in many places there. JR wanted to highlight the dignity of women, their real daily lives and experiences, and the reality which is different from the one shown in the media. “Inside Out Project” is the same, people’s real expression and lives are shown through these black and white images.

For example, in Ciudad Juarez of Mexico, 1180 portraits were pasted to show the underrepresented faces of a city known for crime. In Georgetown of Guyana, 601 portraits show the Guyanese children who have witnessed acts of violent acts against their families and themselves. In Caracas of Venezuela, 220 portraits show mothers who have lost a child because of violence. These things are always neglected in social or media reports. However, people from all around the world can see these stories because of “Inside Out Project” now.

In conclusion, “Inside Out Project” or other projects created by JR are actually very different from other street arts or graffiti. These portraits of people are so real and each of the portraits is unique and tells story which the media may not show. JR has done an incredible job, he has not only changed the location of showing art work from gallery to public spaces. More importantly, he let ordinary people get involved in the creating process. In these artistic acts, the spectators become the artists. JR’s work combines art and action and break the boundary between different races, sex, color, religions, ages and nationalities. I think Hong Kong people could participate more in this project in order to create a city of their own.

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