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Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be. Shel Silverstein

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

can art change the world?

"I would like to bring art to improbable places, create projects so huge with the community that they are forced to ask themselves questions."
 JR, Beaux Arts Magazine

I recently discovered the TED talks online, and its my new favorite thing to do when I have some spare time. TED is a place where incredible speakers, artists, politicians, businessmen, scientists, whomever can come and give talks on what TED calls "Ideas Worth Sharing." I have watched quite a few of them thus far and not a single one has left me less than riveted. The people giving the talks are so passionate about what they do and just their passion alone is enough to leave me inspired. The talks actually remind me of some of my favorite magizines (The Economist, TIME, Mental Floss) made into talks by the writers. I have learned about how speech is learned from an MIT researcher; I have learned about how spoken word poetry can be a means of connection from a woman only three years older than myself; I have even learned how the washing machine provided us the ability to read from a Swiss professor. But one speaker in particular really connected with my own passions. He is a photographer from the streets of Paris who uses his art in a guerilla/ grafitti way to try to understand and ease conflict in the world. Now, I am not from the streets of Paris, and I do not paste my photography on the sides of buildings, but I am passionate about portrait photography and conflict in the world deeply hurts my heart. It is so inspiring to see someone using art as a means to do something about the hurt he feels in his heart as well.

JR's bio on TED's website says...
"Working anonymously, pasting his giant images on buildings, trains, bridges, the often-guerrilla artist JR forces us to see each other. Traveling to distant, often dangerous places -- the slums of Kenya, the favelas of Brazil -- he infiltrates communities, befriending inhabitants and recruiting them as models and collaborators. He gets in his subjects’ faces with a 28mm wide-angle lens, resulting in portraits that are unguarded, funny, soulful, real, that capture the sprits of individuals who normally go unseen. The blown-up images pasted on urban surfaces – the sides of buildings, bridges, trains, buses, on rooftops -- confront and engage audiences where they least expect it. Images of Parisian thugs are pasted up in bourgeois neighborhoods; photos of Israelis and Palestinians are posted together on both sides of the walls that separate them.

JR's most recent project, "Women Are Heroes," depicts women "dealing with the effects of war, poverty, violence, and oppression” from Rio de Janeiro, Phnom Penh, Delhi and several African cities. And his TED Prize wish opens an even wider lens on the world -- asking us all to turn the world inside out."
The "Women Are Heroes" project discussed in his bio goes deeper than just taking pictures of the usually opressed women of those areas and posting them huge on walls and buildings. JR has the men of those communities, the ones who normally do the oppressing, paste the pictures of the women on the walls, showing appreciation for the women.. the moms, the wives, the sisters, the daughters of their communities.

 Another project, amongst many, that JR did was "Side by Side." JR did not understand the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, so he went to both sides of the walls and took portraits of individuals sharing the same job, then would paste them side by side in both communities. He would take a picture of an Israeli and a Palestinian cab driver, lawyer, cook, criminal... and the funny thing is that most of the people in the pictures were more concerned with how big their picture would be than the fact that they would be sharing their picture with someone of conflict to their community. Another funny thing is whenever people who ask JR and his crew what they were doing when they were posting the pictures, JR would explain the project and people would be appalled that he was posted an Israeli in their Palestinian community or vice versa, but when asked if they could decipher between the two, no one could answer. 

The project JR is currently working on is called INSIDE OUT which is "a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work." The goal is to get people from around the world to take go out, take pictures of their own for the project, upload them to the website, and then have other people from around the world download the portraits and post them poster-style somewhere publicly visible in their community.
"Everyone is challenged to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. These digitally uploaded images will be made into posters and sent back to the project’s co-creators for them to exhibit in their own communities. People can participate as an individual or in a group; posters can be placed anywhere, from a solitary image in an office window to a wall of portraits on an abandoned building or a full stadium. These exhibitions will be documented, archived and viewable virtually."
 Here is some of JR's artwork:


Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)
"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. "

Romans 12:2 (NLT)

"Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

over and out.

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