I wish I could tell you about that time when I met JR in a bar in Brooklyn.
But you know, he prefers to be anonymous, and besides, it never actually happened…
I am sure you’ve come across that question though, the one that they seem to be so fond of when interviewing famous people who don’t really have much to say; “if you could invite anyone to dinner, dead or alive, who would it be?”
Well, my answer would be JR (and Gandalf, but I’ll save that story for an other time).
I am not reporting any breaking news here, you have probably already heard of this guy, but if you haven’t then I must really insist on you checking him out immediately.
I am being very serious right now.
JR, the french photo artist who changes the world through images which are actually larger than life.
Perhaps I have “saintified” him in my mind, as the golden boy who is actually golden straight through, rather than a hollow gold plated surface of unknown material, but I believe that my view of him is true.
He is hands down, one of the most admirable people I have ever had the pleasure of coming across.
Yes, I am fully aware that he sometimes breaks the law in order to peruse his art and mission, but there is something greater behind those actions; a genuine desire to make a difference, achieved through what could perhaps even be described as a sort of self sacrifice. He is breaking some rules in order to create new ones, humane ones, ones that could potentially change lives in the most positive of ways.
However, what justifies these actions, is in my opinion that there is no personal gain in breaking the rules, in fact, its a risk and a sacrifice, driven by an optimistic view, that things CAN change.
And how on earth are they meant to change if you don’t act? This is what I find so immensely captivating!
I am not going to get tangled up in moral and justification of illegal actions, I would like to focus on the intentions and the passion that fuels his art.
Though simply labeling it as “art” somehow doesn’t make it justice, the term is by some means so diluted that it makes it insufficient in describing his work, in this case I would say that the “art” is merely a vehicle to channel an important mission.
The category for this post is called “Art with heart”, and I think JR sums that up. His art is powered by a burning desire to make a change, to help us understand and reflect, and consequently make the world a little better.
If you look at his work, his passion, morals and values, there is nothing, whatsoever that indicates anything less than a pure and selfless urge to help , and this humbles me so immensely.
Let’s get specific before I get too carried away;
I have chosen one of his projects which i will briefly explain.
It fits perfectly actually, because once again it transcends the state of art and merges architecture, creativity and humanity into a beautiful and thought-provoking conclusion.
It touches my heart and moves my soul, and just like with the Tesseract India project, it focuses on women.
As excellently described (by someone else) “women who have nothing to give, and still share”
The project is called “Women are Heroes” and aims to accentuate the dignity and strength of exposed women who are target to conflict. The project took place in 2008 in Kibera, one of the harshest slums of Kenya.
All over the area, massive black and white portrait photographs were pasted on to facades and roofs, portraying real women, those very women who hold their society together.
One of the most beautiful features of this project are the photographs of eyes which have been displayed on the trains passing through the area. The remaining parts of the faces have been laid out on the corrugated roofs below the train track and for a split second when the train passes, the powerful gaze of the eyes is combined with the remaining parts of the smiling faces, -for a split second a balance occurs where beauty and happiness are culminated, an equilibrium where everything is as it should be.
Through the use of waterproof vinyl material, JR gave his art intervention a practical purpose too, in an interview he explained “they don’t understand art just for the love of art, it has to make sense. By helping their roofs to become waterproof, we did make sense and they loved it” .
Imagine that this is all set in an environment which most of us would rather avoid than embrace, an environment that will never ever be displayed in a glossy traveling magazine but rather pictured as a characteristic scene for violence and misery ,-it is the uncomfortable part of society which is kept in the shade, and through this project JR finally brought some light over it.
The times online magazine stated “the trade in JR’s pictures, created in third world slums and bought by affluent westernes, is reinvested in the slums, this makes him a Robin Hood figure”. JR himself intriguingly said “I am not an artist with a cause, but rather an artist who causes people to think”.
-Did we all just collectively fall in love with this man?!
I will most likely never meet JR over a whisky in a brick-walled bar in Brooklyn, but if I ever do, I swear I will let you know.
Although if against all odds it were to happen, I would probably spill my drink over him in sheer excitement.
In 2010 he was awarded the TED prize, and if you haven’t already done so, I highly recommend you check out his video here. I assure you It will be 24 minutes and 10 seconds well spent.