I recently came across the work of the 2011 TED Prize winner JR. The French artist based in Paris focuses on work that is of social & political relevance and questions issues of identity, history and even war. “JR remains anonymous -– never showing his full face, revealing his name, or explaining his huge portraits –- to allow for an encounter between the subject and passers-by….”
“JR creates what might be called ‘pervasive art.’ Working with a team of volunteers in various urban environments, he mounts enormous black-and-white photo canvases that spread on the buildings of the slums around Paris, on the walls in the Middle East, on broken bridges in Africa, and across the favelas of Brazil. These images become part of the local landscape and capture people’s attention and imagination around the world.”
His work brought home to me something I had read in Grant Kester’s book of the concept of L’Amour fou: “By the early twentieth century the consensus among advanced artists and critics was that, far from communicating with viewers, the avant-garde work of art should radically challenge their faith in the very possibility of rational discourse. This tendency is based on the assumption that the shared discursive systems on which we rely for our knowledge of the world (linguistic, visual, etc.) are dangerously abstract and violently objectifying. “
“Art’s role is to shock us out of this perceptual complacency, to force us to see the world anew. This shock has borne many names over the years: the sublime, alienation effect, L’Amour fou, and so on.”
JR’s work parallels the work of artists like Bansky in the UK and Princess Hijab in France. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) is a non-profit organization dedicated to spreading significant ideas worth spreading. It has previously recognized Al Gore, Jane Goodall, Jamie Oliver and inventor Robert Fischell. This is the first time an artist doing work such as JR has been recognized.