JR faces down European racism

The artist’s Inside Out Project teams up with a Belgian anti-racism group to help fight intolerance
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The Inside Out Project x 50 Shades of Racism, in Brussels, Belgium. Images courtesy of JR's Instagram
The Inside Out Project x 50 Shades of Racism, in Brussels, Belgium. Images courtesy of JR's Instagram

Back in 2011, the French artist and activist JR won the TED Prize, a global award that granted him $100,000 to start a new venture that would “spark global change”, as the media organisation put it.

JR founded the Inside Out Project, a truly innovative new approach to public street art. “As opposed to JR being the instigator of his documentary-style ‘street’ work, he would turn the camera over to a global audience,” writes Nato Thompson in our book, JR: Can Art Change the World?

Initially, participants would email the portraits to JR’s studio in New York and, if they lacked money for materials, the Inside Out project would send the large-scale printouts in bulk for them to paste in their own work. However, the artist soon realised, a more agile approach might work better.

“JR and his team developed photobooth trucks that provided the opportunity for the curious to have their photograph taken and receive an instant, large-format, black-and-white printout to take and paste,” Thompson explains. 

 

The Inside Out Project x 50 Shades of Racism, in Brussels, Belgium
The Inside Out Project x 50 Shades of Racism, in Brussels, Belgium

Eight years on from that initial award, the Inside Out Project has pasted up pictures across the world. However, this month, the trucks returned to Europe, in an attempt to nudge the continent’s politics towards a more progressive path.

This latest series of images were pasted up in Brussels, Belgium – the seat of the European parliament – highlighting the multi-ethnic make-up of modern Europe, to promote coexistence and alert the population of the increasing popularity of extremists in Europe and the trivialization of racism.

This particular display of images was co-ordinated by 50 Shades of Racism, a local pressure group founded by fellow artist and activist, Gaëlle van Rosen. Staged to coincide with the European parliamentary elections, at a time when right-wing populism appears to be on the rise, there really doesn’t seem to be a better time or place to test the question posed in JR’s book title, Can Art Change the World?

 

JR: Can Art Change the World?

To find out more about this important artist’s life and work order a copy of JR: Can Art Change the World? here.


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