French photographer and street artist JR began his career at the beginning of the decade, photographing the communication of others through expression and language on walls. Branching out further, he photographed portraits of the unsavory, the meek, and the forgotten, pasting their images illegally on public walls, and gaining the acceptance of the Parisian government who wrapped city hall in his images. As JR has branched further and further out, his ideas have gotten bigger and bigger; favelas in Brazil and villages in Kenya have had the faces of their citizens blown out and framed on their own roofs, Israelis and Palestinians have stood face to face, pasted together on the wall that separates them in the West Bank. Although his projects are actioned under anonymity, his work as not gone unnoticed. Last week, it was announced that JR was the recipient of the 2011 TED prize. Although this newsbyte has proliferated the news wires and blogosphere, what exactly is TED, and what does it mean for JR?
According to their website TED, which stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design, is a small non-profit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading, (their capitalization, not mine) through biannual conferences, podcasts, and yes, a brain trust. Participants include many luminaries, futurists, artists, and scientists from around the world (including one Al Gore), with the mission to spread new ideas through discussion. As the 2011 recipient, JR is awarded $100,000 dollars, and “the granting of “One Wish to Change the World,” after several months of preparation, the wish is unveiled at an award ceremony held during the TED Conference. Over the life of the prize, wishes have led to collaborative initiatives with far-reaching impact.” As malleable as the second part of the prize is, it should be interesting to see what JR comes up with when springtime approaches, or if the ideas that TED participants generate are all talk.
Last years’ prize winner was Jamie Oliver, who’s wish was to raise children’s awareness to healthier eating habits, and avoiding obesity in the process, with ideas being generated and voted on at the TED website. With a street artist as the prize-winner this year, who’s ideas aren’t limited by any continent, it should be interesting to see what JR presents next year. NYAB will follow-up with this when the unveiling is announced.