ode to JR (2009 - 2014)

When JR proposed the Women are Heroes project in Africa, Asia and South America he promised to the women he met to take their story around the world. To keep his words, JR and his communities realized a huge exhibition on l'Ile Saint Louis, Paris.

In September 2009, a few months after I first met JR and his crew, I got my first opportunity to help them paste some of these women’s black and white portraits in huge formats alongside the Seine river, in the heart of Paris.

wrinkles of the city - berlin

Alex, a good friend of mine from California happened to pass through Paris on one of those days and together we joined the pasting team. Not only did we participate in an incredible production but we were part of a wonderful team. We were creating something beautiful, and although sometimes the work was hard, we were always having fun...

After Cartagena, Shanghai, L.A. and Havana, Berlin was to become the fifth city to host the project “The Wrinkles of the City“.

When JR told me he was going to Berlin for another Wrinkles pasting and could still use some volunteers, I decided last minute to take the bus up there. My longtime friend Fiona joined and together we helped put up some immense and gorgeous portraits.

JR portrays the elder who have lived through the changes and upheavals of their own city. The idea is that the individual life stories of the people portrayed and what they have gone through shows up in the facial features, just as Berlin’s history shows up on the buildings where we pasted the portraits.

This project finds a special echo in a country that is rapidly aging whereas its capital is particularly known for being a youth paradise. Therefore, special attention to older people is even more appropriate. This is certainly the message that JR wants to pass on.

Over fifteen buildings were pasted in those ten days and we had a lot of fun accomplishing that. One of the exciting aspects of working with JR and his crew is that the vibe is always great (even when it rains) and that unconditional respect for everyone involved is of utmost importance.

women are heroes - paris

inside out - antwerp

I was first introduced to the Inside Out project when I visited the crew at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. they were setting up photo-booths and a giant printer installation for an installation that ran for over three months.

JR and Emile told me about the TED prize he had won and how they were setting up this project to turn the world inside out. What people were experiencing on the inside needed a way to be expressed to the outside. This is how Inside Out was created. JR gave away his artistry to the public so everyone could join in. It was a fantastic story and it was bound to travel the world.

As of December 2012, over 120,000 people from more than 108 countries had already participated.

History was made and alongside came Inside Out, the movie.

I always kept it in the back of my mind. If ever I came across an entire community that wanted to speak out about something they felt deeply about, I would offer them an Inside Out action. Then one day, a doctor, a lung specialist, from my hometown came to me and said; “We here in Flanders have the worst air in the whole of Europe. People’s health is in danger and a lot of people are concerned.

Can you help?”

That’s when it happened.

Inside Out - Antwerp, Belgium

Read more about the Antwerp local project on forabetterworld.net

The individual portraits of the 80 participants can be seen on our facebook page.