An INSIDE OUT Artsy Experience

Kevin Lin
Jun 18, 2013 4:47AM

I first encountered the work of JR through his TED talk from 2011. Like being jolted with electricity, I was immediately charged with excitement about his global art project, Inside Out. One year later in 2012, JR returned to TED to update the progress of "turning the world inside out", and the results were spectacular, as thousands of people from around the world have made the project their very own, from Tunisia, Pakistan, Mexico, Iran, Israel, Palestine, ...

Since then I have been following JR's other projects like Portraits of a Generation, Face2FaceWomen Are Heroes, and The Wrinkles of the City. You can view images of the following works on the right:

• 28 Millimeters, Portrait of a Generation: Braquage, Ladj Ly by JR, Les Bosquets, Montfermeil, 2004

• 28 Millimeters, Face2Face: Holy Tryptich, 2006

• 28 Millimeters, Women Are Heroes: Action dans la Favela Morro da Providência, Arbre, Lune, Horizontale, Rio de Janeiro, 2008

• The Wrinkles of the City: Action in Shanghai, Zhai Zhixin, China, 2010

In the spring of 2013, the Inside Out team (and NYC volunteers) stationed a photo booth truck in Times Square, where visitors can take self-portraits to be pasted on Duffy Square or at their own home communities. It was around this time that Artsy added the works of JR to its collection. 

Of the ones for sale, I decided upon one that I recognized from the Women Are Heroes project: a lithograph of a photo in the Kibera district of Nairobi, Kenya. The images of the eyes of the women affixed to the sides of the train, alongside the images of the rest of the faces laid across the hillside, is pure magic; a wonderful juxtaposition of the beautiful and the playful. (I also love trains!) The backstory is absolutely compelling, as this project was carried out in January 2009, during the aftermath of political violence and conflict in Kenya at the time. In spite of the struggles of the women and their people, the project had the full support of the community and the Rift Valley Railways company, who all helped JR with the installation of the images. 

Purchasing the lithograph from Artsy was a perfect experience. I was contacted via email and phone by Artsy specialists Haley and Julia, who were super helpful in answering my questions about the work (size, framing advice, delivery options, etc.). Since I am in NYC, I found out that I also had the option of picking it up from the studio. (Artsy had done a great article on their own extensive tour of the studio.) They put me in touch with JR's studio director Marc, and we arranged a time for me to stop by.

On the day that I arrived at the studio, Marc invited me to have my picture taken by the studio's own Inside Out photo booth. Having recently been inspired by the 10 most popular animals on Artsy, I posed as a little mole, well because, I like moles!

Upon entering the studio I was welcomed by the tranquil energy of friendly artists working and collaborating on various projects. Inside this oasis of communal creativity, Marc showed me some of the art pieces by artists from around the world on display, and led me to one of the workspaces that produces lithographs from projects like Women Are Heroes and The Wrinkles of the City. On a wall is a map of the world created by Oliver Jeffers, with pins depicting the locations of all the participants of the Inside Out project. Marc remarked that hopefully it will cover the entire planet!

At the end of the tour, Marc handed me the poster of my image taken from the photo booth at the beginning of my visit, with advice and suggestions on contributing my small part to the global Inside Out project. (Easiest way to make glue for the posters: flour and water.)

The studio tour by my gracious guide Marc left me the impression of feeling like a wondrous child inside a fantastic cabinet of wonder.

Wanting to make my own personal contribution to the Inside Out project, I have been thinking about places where my "mole" image would be meaningful. So I created a mock up of my plan, and shared it with Marc and the rest of the Inside Out team. Their response to my idea of turning the surveillance state "inside out" as a reverse "mole", was unanimous!

Kevin Lin