Change the World

TED Award for J R,
Street Provocateur

If you’re not well acquainted with the agitprop world of graffiti expression or street art, or don’t live in one of the slums of South America, Asia and Africa, you may never have heard of J R, the secretive Parisian artist who just won the TED’s 2011 “Wishes Big Enough to Change the World” award.
But to scores of impoverished communities around the world, it’s a well earned acknowledgment to the artist, whose giant photographs of local residents have been plastered all over shantytowns in Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta and Nairobi.
The scope and scale of the photos help to give residents instant visibility to outsiders who otherwise would remain oblivious to those communities. It’s a creative way to draw attention to their social, economical and political struggles, all the while adding an element of beauty to landscapes littered with roughly assembled shacks its dwellers build and rebuild over time.
Thus the California lecture series’ award, named for its connection to technology, entertainment and design, adds J R to an eclectic list of past recipients, including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, singer Bono and chef Jamie Oliver.
He was neither aware nor had applied to the $100 thousand award, but learned he’d won it on his way to another disappearing neighborhood in Shanghai. There, amid the demolition rubble, he’s been plastering big slabs of broken cinderblocks with pictures of former residents without any permission from the Chinese government.
It’s all in a day’s work for a semi-obscure artist who refuses corporate sponsorship, sells his work for top dollar at galleries and auction houses, and uses the proceedings to fund projects aimed at social change. No word yet on what it’ll be his next wish to change the world.

2 thoughts on “Change the World

  1. Luiz Peixe says:

    This kind of urban art, street art, whatever, is becoming usual in Brazilian public spaces.
    But still is misery, with colors…
    Country Fish & The Joes


  2. Long time viewer / first time poster. Really enjoying reading the blog, keep up the good work. Will most definitely start posting more in the future.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.