Monday, 14 April 2014

JR - art can't save the world, but it can change it

This week I would like to introduce you to two amazing artists and photographers who couldn't be much more different. You might have seen my post about JR and the New York City Ballet already, but I thought, his other projects are worth mentioning as well, as they give people a voice and the possibility to change their environment even just a little bit.


EXPO 2 RUE, 2001-2004
JR began his career as a teenage graffiti artist. One could maybe say he wanted to leave his mark on public and society. His graffiti often targeted precarious places like rooftops and subway trains, and he deeply enjoyed the adventure of going to and painting in these spaces. After finding a camera in the Paris Metro, JR began to document the act of his graffiti painting and of other graffiti artists. He began pasting photocopies of these photographs on outdoor walls and created the project "Expo 2 Rue" using the streets as an open gallery for everyone to see his pastings.




JR then travelled throughout Europe to meet the people whose mode of artistic expression involved the use of outdoor walls. He began wondering about the vertical limits, the walls and the façades that structure cities. After observing the people he met and listening to their message, JR pasted their portraits up in the streets and basements and on the roof tops of Paris.


PORTRAIT OF A GENERATION, 2004-2006
After a first illegal exhibition on the walls of the Cité des Bosquets, JR settled in the heart of this neighborhood and the neighboring projects of La Forestière, in Clichy-sous-Bois, where 2005 the riots in the French suburbs started. The first portraits are displayed on the walls of the last popular neighborhoods of the capital, in Eastern Paris to challenge the passers-by, in the sense that they question the social and media representation of a generation living at the gates of Paris.


       





FACE 2 FACE, 2007
When JR and Marco met in 2005, they decided to go together to the Middle‐East to figure out why Palestinians and Israelis couldn't find a way to get along together. They travelled through the Israeli and Palestinian cities looking to this world with amazement. This holy place for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This tiny area where you can see mountains, sea, deserts and lakes, love and hate, hope and despair embedded together.




After a week, they came to the same conclusion: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families. A religious covered woman has her twin sister on the other side. A farmer, a taxi driver, a teacher, has his twin brother in front of him. And he is endlessly fighting with him. With the Face 2 Face project, JR and Marco organize the largest illegal photography exhibition ever. It consists of taking portraits of Palestinians and Israelis doing the same job and posting them face to face, in huge formats, in unavoidable places, on both Israeli and Palestinian sides. The aim was, at least to laugh and to think of the other by seeing the portraits.



WOMEN ARE HEROES, 2008-2010
With the project "Women are heroes" JR visited places in different countries which are famous for poverty and violence starting with the favela Moro de Providencia in Rio de Janeiro. With the project he paid tribute to those who play an essential role in society, but who suffer from war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism. JR pasted huge photos of the faces and eyes of local women all over the outside of the favela giving a female gaze to both the hill and the favela.




“It’s a project made of bric-a-brac, like the favela itself. We had to adapt to this world where the roofs of houses are made of plastic and children’s revolvers are made of steel. We managed to get by in spite of the steep streets, the unsteady houses, the unpredictable electric cables and the exchanges of gunshots where the bullets sometimes go through several houses at once” JR




One reason why I like the work of JR is that he does not try to understand and judge the reasons or the protagonists of the conflicts. He just observes and let people share their pain as a way to heal their wounds.



THE WRINKLES IN THE CITY, since 2008
The Wrinkles of the City is a world-scale project aimed to be presented in various cities around the world where “wrinkles”, human as well as architectural, can be found. So far, JR has pasted The Wrinkles of the City in Cartagena, Spain (2008), in Shanghai, China (2010), Los Angeles, USA (2011) and La Habana, Cuba (2012), in collaboration with US artist José Parlá.





Precious relics of the passage of time appear on the walls of Cartagena, Spain, in the fall of 2008. The oldest inhabitants of this Spanish town are pasted on the heights of the city. Faces of men that suffered from the civil war stand on the historical facades. This project provides a unique opportunity for us to read all about the stories of these people’s lives, see all their portraits and above all. For memory can stumble and fall, disappear any minute as the elderly leave us. JR shows us that its important not to forget what the elderly have to pass to the young ones.



UNFRAMED, since 2009
Unframed is an ongoing project since 2010, realized using images by famous or anonymous photographers and archival images that JR interprets and takes out of their context depending on the place, neighborhood or city he works in.



In 2011, in São Paulo, Brazil, JR pasted on Avenida Paulista, in front of the Museum of Arts of São Paulo. The Guaranis kaiowás, natives from Mato Grosso do Sul in Brazil, fight against deforestation resulting from the action of farmers, and for the conservation of their tradition.



In May 2013, in Marseille, France, at la Belle de Mai, JR dug into the identity of the neighborhood and invited its inhabitants to think about the memory of their streets by looking into their personal photo albums. These photographs, old or recent, cropped or enlarged create monumental artworks on the facades of the neighborhood and transform these personal and multiple footprints of what is part of history and collective memory of la Belle de Mai.


INSIDE OUT, since 2011
On March 2, 2011, at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California, JR called for the creation of a global art project - the Inside Out Project - inspired by his large‐format street “pastings.” The concept of the project is to give everyone the opportunity to share their portrait and a statement of what they stand for, with the world. IOP provides individuals and groups from all corners of the globe with a vehicle to make a statement. Anyone can participate, and is challenged to use photographic portraits to share the untold stories and images of people in their communities.







"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."
– JR, TED2011


copyright of all picture by JR - www.jr-art.net

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