At State of the Re:Union, we believe that telling stories through the lens of American communities can help bridge divides and deepen our understanding of the country around us. While we strive to capture just some of the amazing narratives playing out here in the US, semi-anonymous French street artist, JR, has taken a different approach at helping people in communities around the world find their voice.
JR is an artist who uses the world as his inspiration, canvas and gallery, literally. He uses black-and-white photographs with arresting images of locals from around the world and posts these pictures in their neighborhoods. According to an article by Zac Stone in GOOD Magazine, “His goal is to give voice and representation to communities that otherwise might be obscured, like women living in Brazilian or Kenyan slums.”
He recently became the recipient of the 2011 TED Prize, awarding him a grant of $100,000 to help fund a “world-changing project.” From this seed money, JR launched his TED Wish and began an art project literally giving all of the world a chance to engage. His wish: “To use art to turn the world inside out.” (To find out more about his TED wish, click here.)
JR is doing just that with his latest global art initiative: the InsideOut Project. According to the project’s Website, “InsideOut is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. Upload a portrait. Receive a poster. Paste it for the world to see.” All who participate in the project are encouraged to use black and white photographs to reveal and share their untold stories. These posters can be placed anywhere, from an office window to the side of an abandoned building. And according to the site, all of the exhibitions will be documented, archived and available for virtual view.
According to Stone’s article, “JR is spreading his mission on a scale that was previously unimaginable, by crowdsourcing personal photos and the labor of posting them.” Even more amazing than JR’s ambition are the astonishing results this project has already yielded. Since InsideOut launched, men, women and children from six continents have become participants. According to Stone, TED Prize Director Amy Novogratz touts of JR’s project, “One guy based in Moscow is using [the platform] to show that homophobia is the shame of Russia. People are using it to bring their communities closer together.”
There are so many directions this project is going, and it really is helping to change the world one photo at a time. It might not change the world over night, but JR’s initiative is helping to bring controversial subjects to light, creating dialogue that has long been overdue for sensitive issues in many countries. The InsideOut project is connecting communities throughout the world and helping us to see that underneath our stories and struggles, humanity is universal.
If you would like to participate in the InsideOut Project, click here. As this phenomenal project takes place on a global scale, we want to know what initiatives and programs are making a difference in your community. From art collaborations to public works to educational programs, how are people in your neighborhood working to make the world a better place one person at a time?