The Power of Art

An amazing sight, from JR’s Women Are Heroes project.

One of my current favorite past times is getting on the TED site and perusing their vast library of lectures. If you’ve never heard of TED, I encourage you to take some time and explore their site.  The mission of TED is, quite simply, Spreading Ideas.  According to their website, “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world.”  I can’t think of a better passion or mission, can you?

Last night, I stumbled upon this lecture from this year’s TED Prize winner, a French street artist known as JR. The lecture is titled “JR’s TED Prize Wish: Use art to turn the world inside out.” Now, if you know me, you know I’m passionate about the arts, but also have a desire to do my part in making positive change in the world. I often struggle with what I can do to help create that change, so the idea of using art for impact immediately appealed to me. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but I’ve seen JR’s work splashed across the internet and blogs. I’d always remarked at what impressive feats they were, but didn’t fully grasp the depth, the layers of his work until I watched his TED talk. 

From the Wrinkles of the City project in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

It all started with a little camera he found on the subway and what has unfolded from there is truly breathtaking. JR photographs his subjects, usually very tight close-ups of people’s faces, blows them up into huge poster formats, and then pastes them in public on anything from buildings, to vehicles, to stairs. As you would expect, a discussion always follows. 

I’ll let JR tell you more about the projects he’s conducted, including two of my favorites, Women Are Heroes, which gives voices to women who often don’t have one, and Face to Face, which took place in Palestine, using pictures of a Palestinian and Israeli who do the same jobs, placed side by side. The question, can you tell who is who?

Something he said in his lecture that really struck me was that, he has no branding or corporate sponsors for his work, and therefore, no responsibility to anyone but himself and the subjects. What a beautiful thought in this day and age.  Because, as he said, the way things are done is just as important, if not more so, that the results they produce. I wish more people took that truth to heart.

As the TED Prize winner, JR got to make one wish to change the world. That wish is that people all across the globe would stand up for what they believe in and join in a global art project to turn the world inside out.  The project is suiting called the Inside Out Project. To participate, you can upload an image that represents the cause you want to support and stand up for to the project’s website. They will, in turn, blow that image up into a large format poster and send it back to you. Your job is then to put that poster up in a public location. It sounds so simple, but has the potential to create dynamic conversations! I would love to get a group together and carry out this project. Who is with me?!

But enough of me carrying on. Please, take 20 minutes and watch this lecture. You won’t regret it. …and then go explore some more!

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