Turning the World Inside Out
by: Blaine Skrainka
May 20, 2012
With the streets as his canvas, the French street artist JR could only be limited by the physical and financial constraints of being everywhere at once. This all changed last year when he wondered aloud, “Can art change the world?” In front of a TED conference, JR announced an innovative and ambitious plan to turn the world “Inside Out,” by empowering ordinary people around the globe to build on his philosophy of highlighting the faces of humanity.
The idea was simple. Anyone could upload their own photos, and JR would send them back a poster with instructions on how to showcase the work. In just a year’s time, 100,000 posters have been printed and pasted. Protest photos in Tunisia and Iran, Gay Rights in Russia, Civil Rights for Native Americans in North Dakota, and the humanitarian crisis in Juarez Mexico as a result of drug violence are among the most compelling issues that have been highlighted by participants of the Inside Out project.
Recently, JR also returned to the site of one of his most poignant projects to date. He took a photo booth truck back to Israel and Palestine to show support for a peaceful two-state solution. Anyone, regardless of race or religion, could instantly have a portrait taken and printed on the spot. The posters were pasted around the streets and used in a march of solidarity.
“This is the biggest global art participatory project that is going on,” he exclaims. So can art change the world? “Maybe we should change the question – Can art change people’s lives? From what I’ve seen this year – yes.”
To learn more about the life and career of JR, check out my in depth interview with the socially-conscious street artist from The WILD Visionaries Issue.