film production + social action

Can Art Change the World?

Every Monday (I should say, hopefully every Monday) I will be exploring the subject of ART AND SOCIAL CHANGE. Specifically, how are artists and storytellers using their artistic mediums to raise awareness and inspire change? Quite fortuitously, just in time for the first installment of this new blog, the 2011 TED Prize winner JR (infamous street artist) just unveiled his TED Prize wish: To use art to turn the world inside out.

JR can say it far better than I, so I encourage everyone to watch the video below of his speech, but I will say just a few words for those of you unfamiliar with the TED prizes or JR’s work.

Since 2005, the TED prize has been awarded annually to an exceptional individual. The lucky recipient receives a $100,000 monetary prize and more significantly, “one wish to change the world,” with the commitment from the TED community to leverage their talent, resources and network in order to help make this wish come true. Previous winners include Bill Clinton and Jamie Oliver, JR is the prize’s youngest winner.

JR has been known to refer to himself as a ‘photograffeur’ (think graffiti + photographer). His mantra that the street is his gallery brings JR to locales that have caught his attention in the media (the slums around Paris, shantytowns in Kenya, borders between Israel and West Bank, etc) and there, he creates ‘Pervasive Art.’ That is to say, art which cannot be ignored and which raises questions. Usually, his ‘public exhibitions’ take supercolossal forms, huge full frame portraits of people making faces that he places [uninvited] on buildings, walls, broken bridges, etc. JR gives a voice to those not heard or not seen. As a woman from Kibera, a neighborhood in Nairobi put it in “Women Are Heroes,” a documentary recently release in France that JR made about his work: “Photos can’t change the environment. But if people see me there, they’ll ask me: ‘Who are you? Where do you come from?’ And then I’m proud.”

In his TED talk, JR posits that art is not supposed to change the world, but rather, to change perceptions. JR’s TED prize wish, a massive humanist art project, speaks to this sentiment exactly, that what we see changes us, changes who we are. And so, JR asks that we each stand up for what we care about by participating in a collaborative, global art project. This massive undertaking attempts in many ways to take the power back from the media.

Anyone can participate in JRs wish by uploading a photo of yourself or a subject you are passionate about to and JR and his team will send you back a huge poster for you to paste somewhere. Together we can start changing the world, one photograph at a time.

Stay tuned for Part II of this blog as I document the RP team’s endeavor to heed JRs wish!

– Alexandra


-       You can visit JR’s website here.

-       To participate in JRs wish, visit



2 Responses Subscribe to comments

  1. Michelle

    Thank so much for sharing this! I’m submitting a picture!

    Mar 08, 2011 @ 6:29 am

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    Mar 09, 2011 @ 12:27 am