JR: Inside Massive Change

On the heels of 430,000 citizens taking to the streets of Israel in protest of the country’s high cost of living — an uprising many say will follow the same trends recently witnessed in some Arab nations like Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen— Parisian based artist JR takes his Inside Out Project into the Middle East.

Words: Amy Andrieux
Images: Courtesy of JR

Just a few days ago TED Prize winner JR unveiled Time is Now, Yalla!, his latest mural campaign within his ongoing, large-scale participatory art project, Inside Out. Based in Israel and Palestine, the campaign “Time is Now, Yalla!” (the latter being the Arabic word used by both Palestinians and Israelis to say “let’s go”), will follow the lead of its predecessors, posting massive black and white portraits of locals to convey the “untold stories” of the people from the region and in support of a social cause the individuals believe in.

“When I first worked here on the Face2Face Project, I pasted portraits of Israelis and Palestinians doing the same jobs to show that, despite their differences, Palestinians and Israelis are similar enough to understand each other,” JR said and continued. “And then I came back in 2010 to set up the first tours allowing people to discover both Israel and Palestine during the same trip. I return now simply as the printer, giving people the photobooths for free so they can take their own portraits, share what they stand for, and paste the streets of their communities. Everyone can tell a story through art, and the time is now to break down barriers of expression and give people the tools to be seen and heard.”

And what better time than now, when daily reports from the region continue to pour in with news of protests in Israel, while Palestine continues her fight for state recognition from the United Nations for the sake of its own independence. Warring factions aside, there are many causes to endure, many voices that want to be heard and yet, very little has been done thus far to help those in need of social, political and even economic change and stability. “We want to show that there is massive support for peace on both sides and that young people want to move forward, to secure their future,” JR explained. “Our role is simply to create a positive public visual statement, in both Israel and Palestine.”

Expected to be one of his largest group installations to date, JR is already planning a short documentary on Inside Out in Israel & Palestine, much like his last on Tunisia (also directed by Alastair Siddons); and a book, to be published in Arabic, Hebrew, French and English to illustrate just how life-affirming and changing his larger-than-life campaign will have been, once it’s over and done. Currently in the Middle East, JR and his team have setup four giant photo booths across Tel Aviv and Haifa in Israel as well as in Bethlehem and Ramallah in Palestine, Everyone is encouraged to visit and participate, meaning each participant will have their picture taken under the caveat that they submit a personal statement and promise to post their large format photo (of themselves individually or within a group) anywhere they want.

Inside Out in Israel & Palestine: Time is Now, Yalla! will run until September 11, turning out about 1,000 photos each day. Online fans of JR’s work are invited to join the movement as well by uploading their own digital images, which are then made into posters by the artist and sent back to the owner to post in his/her neighborhood. Follow the chain at The Inside Out Project.

The InsideOut Project is supported by the TED Prize which offers every year to an exceptional individual “one wish to change the world”. The TED Prize is helping to combat poverty, take on religious intolerance, improve global health, tackle child obesity, advance education, and now, inspire art around the world.

All images courtesy of JR.

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