Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Art never sold me anything...

I’m all about saving the world, really. I consider myself radical, you know, as radical as you can be, hunch-backed, typing away in front of a computer screen. I have these radical thoughts, in the creative space of night or behind the wheel, watching fragments of society flick by like channels. But, I’m not radical enough to be revolutionary.

Radical changes require radical individuals.

So, there’s no wonder why I’m drawn to the work of an artist I found somewhere in the hollow span of the Internet, someone vaguely referred to as “JR.” I was probably stumbling or something. He’s a French guy. A street artist, they call him, from Paris.

His game is simple: publicize massive portraits on the sides of urban architecture. Take a subject, a person that’s just a face among the crowd. No, a person that represents the crowd, the mass, the everyday, the you and I. People in their natural emotional habitat, real people being…real. Take a picture, blow it up and slap it on the side of a building so people can see it from a plane. Then, disappear.

It all feels like “V for Vendetta” without the explosions. What’s most revolutionary about the artist is his inability to play by the rules. He sometimes doesn’t ask permission, he doesn’t blog about his ideals, he doesn’t have a full name and he probably doesn’t care what you think.

Recently, he won the TED prize, a handsome sum awarded annually to one person to help fund a change they wish to see in the world. His mission: to create a site in which users can upload images of themselves. Then, he and his team make posters of the image and mail it to back to the user in hopes that they display it publicly.

Detractors of the artist claim he doesn’t have property rights for many of his murals. Some might say it is too in-your-face and obtrusive. Others might claim it’s downright illegal.

All right, fair enough. But be honest. When you turned on the television this morning, the radio, when you logged into your e-mail, checked your favorite sites in the morning, did anyone ask you permission to sell you objects you supposedly need in your life?

When advertising does it, it’s “the nature of the beast” but when an artist does it, it’s wrong?

Art never sold me anything, other than a good time, a mute button on life, and a connection to self-worth.

-Alex Clark


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