For his 2012 TED Talk, 365 days after he initiated the Inside Out project, French artist JR was asked to answer the question “Can art change the world?” As an artist who’s made the world his gallery, he knows that the world can change art as well.
With huge black and white portraits of the unknown pasted on the hillside homes of Rio’s slums, on the trains of Phnom Penh, Times Square and the rooftops of Kenya, JR has used his medium to amplify the energy and humanity of the world’s everyday people. With Face 2 Face, the largest illegal photography project ever, JR and collaborator Marco pasted portraits of Israelis on the Palestinian side of the wall and vice-versa, so both communities could look into each other’s eyes without government intervention. Women are Heroes celebrated the strength and courage of women in Sierra Leone, India or Cambodia who are confronted with war, violence and abuse on a daily basis, calling the world’s attention to the faces of these incredible women. With The Wrinkles of the City, JR exalted our elders in Los Angeles, Shanghai and La Havana — those who’ve laid the foundation for culture, innovation, language, survival and tradition in each city in the world.
Paper and glue: “It is as simple as that,” JR says. He offers the medium to anyone who waits on line at one of his larger-than-life photobooths, or requests that their photo be printed through his site. His conviction to democratize his medium earned him the title “humanity revelator” from French newspaper Le Monde, championing art for its essence: spontaneous, collective and free.
Because of the proportions the project took in less than two years, a documentary was realized, showing how people from different cultures, lifestyles and experiences were able to take part into this project and make it theirs.
For another month or so, you can catch a documentary about Inside Out on HBO.