If you’re not already one of the 130.000 (and counting) people who got involved in JR’s projects, you have at least heard of the guy. Former graffiti artist, Banksy type of mysterious character, JR is a French artist rather prone to doing illegal activities in order to make a statement. The last time he was in Shanghai, 4 years ago, he got himself arrested by the Police.
In 2010 he created The Wrinkles of the City – an action that meant taking portraits of older people in Shanghai and plastering them on to significant buildings around town (without the authorities approval, and that got him arrested). But he also pasted a statement to the project: Shanghai has an extremely fast-changing landscape that affects above all, people’s lives. In a place with both architectural and human wrinkles, it is important not to forget what the elderly have to pass to the young, and to learn about this people’s lives.
Now he returned to Shanghai for his ongoing project Inside Out, initiated after he got a prize from TED. Inside Out rolled out in 2011 as a massive participatory art project that “transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work.” 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. It 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. So he takes a mobile photo booth all around the world to make this happen.
Over 130,000 posters have been sent in more than 108 countries since March 2011, enabling people from New York to Afghanistan to be seen and have their voices heard on a global scale. And he still encourages people to get involved.
He took over Times Square. And that’s not so impressive, anyone would like to appear in Times Square! But this is: in 2007, with Marco, he did Face 2 Face, the biggest illegal exhibition ever. JR posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall. The experts said it would be impossible. Still, he did it.
And it all started after he found a camera in the Paris subway.
JR or members of his team were in Xintiandi yesterday evening with the photo booth truck, taking portraits of dozens of people waiting in queue to become part of this massive project, and then plastering the images on nearby walls and all over the area. You will also find the photo booth open today at the corner of Fuxing Lu Madang Lu. The photo sessions will stop for a few days and then resume on May 21 around Xintiandi.
You can follow the Inside Out account on WeChat / Instagram for updates on the photo truck location.
JR claims he owns the biggest art gallery in the world – all by gathering these portraits and plastered images of people’s faces, and still his works are featured in art galleries and museums all over the globe. He has two exhibition openings set for this weekend in Shanghai:
Close Up @ Power Station of Art – Free entry // May16 – June 15 // 9.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. / Tue-Sun // Power Station of Art – Lane 20, Huayuangang Lu, Near Miaojiang Lu | 黄浦区花园港路20弄, 近苗江路
Close Up @ Magda Danysz Gallery – Fee entry // May 17 – July 5 // 11.00 a.m. – 6.00 p.m. / Tue-Sun // 188 Linqing Lu, near Pingliang Lu | 杨浦区临青路188, 近平凉路
As the artist puts it himself: “Change the way people see the world; is already a way to making things change…”
By Andreea Dragut
[Photos by Andreea Dragut]