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JR | In episode 102 of Light Culture Podcast, Paper Magazine founder David Hershkovits talks with JR, globally recognized performance artist and agent of social change on the occasion of his new documentary "Paper and Paste"

JR is the famous photographer who shoots larger than life portraits and pastes them on buildings and walls for the local residents to see and be seen.  JR’s disruptive hands-on collaborations and interventions get the treatment they deserve in his new documentary, “Paper and Paste” which takes us on a journey through some of JR’s most impactful activations --  a Paris ghetto, a supermax US prison, the Mexican-American border and a favela in Rio. We talk about what inspires him, how he deals with dangerous situations, his own immigrant background, creating art around the Pyramids of Egypt and JR’s belief in the power of art to manifest change, both in the private as well as public space.

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Q&A

David (00:00):

People think they know JR. He’s the famous photographer who descends on a location, shoots larger than life portraits of locals, and pastes them up on the walls of their buildings for all to see. Sounds easy, perhaps, a strategy he duplicates from location to location. But thanks to the film Paper and Glue, we learn that there’s so much more to each of JR’s disruptive interventions, whether it’s in the ghettos of Paris, a supermax prison, the Mexican-American border, or a favela in Rio, his hands-on approach to his collaborations, the sincerity and humanity he projects, the way he involves the community, and the impact he has on their lives is, for me, the heart of JR’s story. In Paper and Glue, this largely unseen aspect of his work is revealed in a way that it isn’t in a museum or gallery setting, where JR is also justifiably celebrated. Here, the process is the story and the ultimate achievement of JR. The impact he has on his subjects’ lives and the community they inhabit is a manifestation of the power of art. Getting the trust of the marginalized, the unseen, and unheard and giving them a face and a voice makes his work both personal and universal, local and global. And now thanks to Paper and Glue, we get both the riveting story of JR and how some of his most important works came to life. So welcome, JR, to the Light Culture podcast.

JR (01:56):

Thank you for having me.

David (01:58):

My pleasure. So where are you now? I know you’re always on the road-

JR (02:02):

(laughs)

David (02:02):

… doing something amazing. (laughs)

JR (02:05):

Y- yeah, I’m, I’m in New York. I just got to New York a couple days ago, coming back from Egypt. And we’re about to show the movie for the first time at MoMa tonight-

David (02:15):

Oh, [crosstalk 00:02:15]-

JR (02:15):

… before it comes out in theater this week.

David (02:16):

Fantastic. I know it’s gonna be very, very well received. Paper and-

JR (02:20):

Thank you.

David (02:20):

… Glue opens with you meeting some hardcore prisoners locked up in a maximum security prison for terrible, violent crimes. (laughs) What attracted you to this particular story? ‘Cause it’s, uh, slightly unlike what you’ve done in the past, as far as I’m aware of, anyway.

JR (02:37):

(laughs) Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s interesting how this one came together. A friend of mine called me and said, “You need to do some work in the prison.” And, you know, it’s always a lot of paperwork and things like that to work in prison, so I’m not really good with that. So the truth is I told him, “Look, it’s too complicated.” And then they said, “No, but what would you do?” And I said, ” Look, I would paste the entire prison.” This way I was sure that he would never call me back because-

David (03:04):

(laughs)

JR (03:04):

… I didn’t want to do the whole paperwork.

David (03:06):

(laughs)

JR (03:06):

And he actually called the governor of California, and the governor of California remembered that he was in one of my murals before he was a governor.

David (03:15):

Mm-hmm (affirmative), really.

JR (03:15):

So he remembered the process of it. So he said, “Oh, if it’s the same French person, please give him the full access to any prison he want in California.” So then I looked on Google Earth, and I look at those prisons, and I looked at the ones that I could paste on. And there’s not many that are actually on concrete. Most of the yards are in grass or sand. And so there was this one called Tehachapi couple hours away, of Los Angeles. And I said, “Can we go to that one?” And my friend said, “Well, it’s a supermax prison.” I say, “Well, but you asked me. This is a playground-“

David (03:49):

(laughs)

JR (03:49):

“… uh, you know, that yard, that we could paste on. All the others, I don’t know what I could do.” So then when I came, a group had gathered to actually say, “Okay, we’ll be willing to participate in the project.” And that’s the group you see at the beginning of, the movie. But I told that group right when I arrive, “If there’s anyone here who have any victim outside who might be offended by whatever you have done, it’s better you step out because, this might bring too much light onto you, and I don’t think it’s a good idea.” And the truth is I realize a lot of them, the majority had came into prison when they were kids u- under the three-strike law, which was in California at the time, where you do three minor crimes, and you take life without parole. And so I suddenly was in front of those guys. And a few of the guys left the group, actually, because they realized that, maybe they would offend someone.

David (04:42):

Well, there was one guy particularly there that you got close to. I forget his name, but the one who had, the Nazi-

JR (04:51):

Oh, yeah, Kevin. Actually, Kevin-

David (04:54):

Kevin.

JR (04:55):

It was because I had that full clearance, I could be in there with my phone too. And so I realized that better than all those big cameras we had, I could just take my phone and, when I ask him when he came to me to take the photo, and I was, in shock because he had a swastika on his face, and I only saw that in movies, and I thought that was, a period that we kind of passed and would never have to deal with again. I ask him, “What, you know, what the fuck you have on your face? What is that?” And he went like, “Oh, this? No, I mean, you know, for a moment I was into gangs. I came here really young, and I needed to make, uh, you know, like, uh, uh, uh, uh… respected in here, and I got indoctrinated in this whole thing. I left it a while ago, but I’m stuck with this ’cause we can’t remove it in prison.” So I was like, “Oh, okay, so if you could remove it, you would?” He’s like, “Oh, in a minute.”

JR (05:43):

And so I said, “So do you mind if I post this image on social media and I say that you would remove it?” And he said, “No, please, go ahead.” So I did, and then in the next minute, of course, lots of comments of people who were like, “Oh, my god, yes,” “if he needs help to remove it, we would,” “Oh, my god, you should not post this,” so then I went to him and I said, ” Look, there’s something called social media. I posted that image. Actually, 80% of people believe what you’re saying, but there’s 20% who, maybe, they’re not really sure that you mean what you’re saying. So I’m gonna ask you to say it in video, and I’m gonna film it, and we’re gonna do it live. And then, you’re gonna explain what was your motivation doing this and removing it.”

JR (06:21):

And then we started a conversation, and he could not believe that some people were actually believing in him and saying, “Well, we believe in you, we’ll help you remove it, we’ll send you money if you wanna remove it.” And it really, touched him deep down and gave him a lot of confidence. And then during those few days that I was there, every day I would ask him to explain even better. I would say, “Look, there’s this person who just wrote and is really offended by what you’re wearing. Can you explain again, for her,” this and that. And so you can see those. They’re still highlighted in my Instagram stories, but in the movie, you’ll see a bit more of it.

David (06:56):

That’s a very moving part because it does help explain. What happens to people in prison and, and the circumstances that sometimes people get into at a young age and then affects them for the rest of their lives, even after they’ve become, more understanding of life in a way that’s, a little more friendly, (laughs) perhaps.

JR (07:23):

Of course. You know, uh, first of all, so because of COVID, we couldn’t remove it as quick as we thought. And funny enough that we’re talking today, he’s coming out next week.

David (07:33):

Oh, no really? Fantastic.

JR (07:33):

And I’m going there for the first time to see him in prison the day before he comes out, to spend the last day with him in the prison. Then he’s gonna come out, and the first thing we’ll do is drive to get his tattoo removed. So-

David (07:48):

Oh, my god.

JR (07:48):

We’re going to a special center next week to do it. And then, we’re gonna do a premiere in Los Angeles, and he’ll be there.

David (07:57):

Wow, fantastic. You heard my introduction where I was saying, to me, this helps see the full scope of what you do, ’cause when you see the final product, it’s fantastic, but it doesn’t really tell the whole story. So do you feel that this was necessary 

JR (08:20):

Yes.

David (08:20):

… to kind of complete your project in a way?

JR (08:23):

It’s very true that when people see the image, they might say, “Oh, yeah, I know JR’s work.” But y- you don’t understand really the work until you see the layers, the process. And that process can only be seen and explained if you see videos of it or if you participate to it. That’s why I try to engage as much people as I can, any place in the world, constantly because that’s the way you actually engage the best with the work. So the movie was essential to understand that, and luckily for all those years, we have documented a lot of those projects. And this movie’s highlighting four of the biggest ones. But you have to imagine and all those projects happen like that.

David (09:01):

Well, even your earliest projects that are shown in the film as well, which tells a little bit, your story, how you got involved in the community that you, did your first activation in and how you met Ladj Ly who-

JR (09:18):

Yes, uh-

David (09:19):

… Was, your photographer and friend.

JR (09:22):

… Exactly.

David (09:23):

Talk a little bit about him and how his, uh, you know, how important he was to the evolution of you as an artist and you-

JR (09:30):

I guess-

David (09:31):

… Important to him as well, I think.

JR (09:32):

Yes, yes, yes. I started documenting very early because of, the fact that my work was ephemeral so that was the only way to keep trace of it, and um, when I met Ladj Ly really young, and we were both trying to find our paths, what we would do in our future, a film, and art was a big part of it. We didn’t just know how it would evolve. And so, I guess we followed each other in that process, and so I would document his work, he would document mine, we should share, but we also got connected forever with that image of him holding his camera like a gun. That, had much more power than we could have ever imagined, you know?

JR (10:16):

It’s like you do that image, and you’re too young to understand the power it would have and how it would still follow us to that day. So, it’s the first time in this movie, you can actually see the full story and all those archive from the time.

David (10:29):

You said ephemeral because originally you were doing graffiti.

JR (10:34):

Yes, exactly, and also because the pasting’s so ephemeral. Graffiti is ephemeral. Pastings are ephemeral because they actually get washed up even faster. So,  doing, you know, this kind of documentation was the only way to keep a trace, and thanks God, today I have those tapes because it’s a way to understand   the whole process of it.

David (10:55):

Yeah, that’s very important. Are you familiar with the works of Gordon Parks?

JR (11:00):

Of course.

David (11:01):

Photographer.

JR (11:01):

Of course. I love, and I actually own a couple of his photography. I’ve worked with his foundation in the past, and I’m a big admirer of his work.

David (11:10):

Oh, interesting ’cause there’s also a documentary about him and his influence on, 

JR (11:13):

Yes.

David (11:14):

… Photographers that’s coming out and I noticed that he also had a photo that’s very similar to the Favella one, but before (laughs) without any of the paste on it.

JR (11:26):

Yeah. Yes.

David (11:27):

was that anywhere in your mind when you went out there to do that piece

JR (11:32):

No, I mean because-

David (11:33):

… Piece?

JR (11:34):

I didn’t know at the time about Gordon Parks, but also, I have to say, when I started doing what I do, I had no knowledge of even Andy Warhol or Basquiat, you know? I had zero knowledge. I didn’t do any art school. I didn’t come from a family that was into art. I didn’t know, all those references, it came way later. And I actually discovered Gordon Parks years later when I moved to New York. It’s amazing to suddenly find a photographer that actually did all the same journeys, 50 years before you. Of course, his approach was different. He was shooting for Life, I think at the time, when he went to Brazil and followed that kid for all those years, and did all these reportage at that Favella, but it’s interesting that unfortunately, what he saw at the time was still a curate 50 years later, that the Favellas haven’t, evolved in any way. And it even became more violent.

David (12:29):

Earlier, you mentioned the, the prison project, let’s talk about the Favella project now ’cause that also required so much politics and, and your personality, to me, which is such a big part of what you do, as I mentioned, in your sincerity and the way you really care about the people, the empathy, that you project. So, it must’ve been, a long time process-

JR (12:55):

Yeah.

David (12:55):

… There as well.

JR (12:57):

Yeah, it was, but the truth is I came a few times in Brazil, and I never knew how to do the project. And then one day, I heard about this Favella, which is the first Favella in Brazil. It’s called Providencia; it’s the oldest one, and then I heard about this terrible incident that happened about three kids being killed by the police. And when I went there, I met a woman down the hill who told me, “Look here, it’s not a safe place to be. But, if you want, I would help you if you’re an artist. Any artist here, uh, work is welcome. It’s just you should come, by yourself with no backpack, nothing, and no cameras and- and, you know, talk to us.”

JR (13:40):

And so, I came the next day and went up the hill and met with her and a couple of other woman who were around like 60, 70 years old. And I would sit, around the table in a small room, but at the same time, outside was like those small kids with giant AK47s and guns. I was like, “Am I talking with the right people?” And actually, it was those womans who made that project happen, but the project happened from that day I met them till 24 days later, I didn’t move from that place. And every day I would paste and take the photos, and then I left, and the project was all the way on the hill. It was this kind of project that had to happen in the emergency because those drug dealers don’t plan ahead. They don’t know if they’ll be here the next months. They don’t know where they’ll be in six months.

JR (14:24):

So, things happen like this. And that always, uh, something behind my work, it happened. You see, I was talking about the prison project. We heard about it on the Tuesday … We started on the Saturday. It’s that fast because I never take for granted that you can just go somewhere in a year or two years from now. You never know what’s gonna happen, so I try to do things, you know, as soon as I can, and that’s always been my- my way of working. So, the Favella was the perfect place for that, but it was not easy. It was very complicated, but we started something there that lasted over years. And that’s what we also talk about in the movie is that we started a school. And then now, 11 years later, the school is still running, and it had lots of impact.

JR (15:07):

So, it also shows how art can have an impact on the long term, and can be the seed of amazing, actions and impact from the city too. So, uh, it really gave me, at a young age, a lot of confidence in what was possible.

David (15:23):

You gave the kids like 35 millimeter cameras, to go out and shoot-

JR (15:29):

(laughs)

David (15:29):

Tho- those are expensive cameras, it looked like, it looks like they all treated it well and with respect?

JR (15:37):

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, you know, we have this school now that was for the first workshop of the school, we didn’t know what to do, so we just thought- they should go and shoot and see with their own eyes, but those cameras are still in the school. We have a couple computers. There’s no lock on the door of the school. People know it’s a community project. They respect it because they saw it from the beginning, it’s interesting actually. It’s- we have zero sponsors.

JR (15:59):

It’s not something that’s branded in any way, and people respect that. They respect that it’s a grassroot movement that started in their own community that they know how it started also. They saw it because of those eyes pasting all over the hills but that have disappeared since. This is what remains of it, the impact of, uh, the impact of those kids that you have to imagine some of them started when they were seven, and now they’re like 17, so or 18, so we saw the impact of some of them that had literally changed their life. So, it’s very interesting to see- the impact that art can have, and uh, just like with a couple of cameras and paper.

David (16:38):

There’s a scene in your film as well where you go back to the, projects in the Banlieues around Paris, and recalling that a lot of the kids who were photographed are no longer alive, many of them, or in jail-

JR (16:55):

Mm, yes.

David (16:55):

… Or lost or missing and the-

JR (17:00):

Yeah.

JR (17:00):

There’s a real reality in there, that’s very harsh. And that’s why all the ones that we could save, you don’t take that for granted. You know that, a small school and, a lot of good intention can have an impact, even in, a war zone like this. It definitely defined a lot of my vision and statements at the time because I was, uh, I’d never traveled in a place like that before.

David (17:27):

When you went to the Favella to speak to the women, do you tell them your story? Are you an immigrant yourself or a child of immigrants?

JR (17:39):

Yes.

David (17:39):

You’re an immigrant yourself?

JR (17:39):

Yeah, I’m a child of immigrants, yes, but when I went there, actually, that was not their main question because in Brazil, it’s not the same, question of immigration, that we have in France or Europe. And so, I have to say that, the first things we talked about when we were there together

JR (18:00):

… what is the purpose of this project? How is that gonna help or impact anyone? those were the questions that forced me… I didn’t have an answer for that. But then to realize, okay, what’s actually the impact? That’s a good question. I don’t know. It might have an impact, but I don’t know if it will have. There’s this question, art-raised question, doesn’t necessarily give answers and so you have to kinda go on the journey and see what happened.

JR (18:26):

I had the same discussion with the drug dealer to, who asked me how is this gonna change, people’s life? I have, you know, I was 24 at the time. I didn’t know. And still today you can’t know for sure how it’s gonna impact people’s lives. You just gotta try and do, and the process of it will actually create those changes. But you only can know it when you start, in the process.

David (18:50):

So when you approach one of these projects, who is the audience for you? Are you doing it for the people there or for the global audience that you now have?

JR (19:01):

It’s a good question. It’s always a local project for local impact. Always. But some of them certainly have a global repercussion. But it doesn’t always need to be because a project sometimes needs to be only local and that’s where the main impact is necessary. But some matters need to have a, a bigger impact because suddenly might change public perception on it.

David (19:24):

Like, for example, the one that you did at the Mexico and the US border.

JR (19:29):

Exactly.

David (19:30):

So that was not necessarily gonna make big noise or a big splash globally. Maybe now it will-

JR (19:37):

Yes. (laughs)

David (19:40):

… ’cause I think it’s a very moving and great way that you-

JR (19:42):

Interestingly when we put the little kid and, uh, this was just for people to go and see the little kid looking over the wall, the next day it was on the cover of I don’t know how many papers in the world. I’ve never seen that on any of my walls. You don’t really control that. It’s how something become viral. But, it was mainly just the idea that walls are here but what does it mean, what does the wall mean to a one-year-old, you know? What a border means to a one-year-old. And so it’s, it’s really raised that question in a moment where we had a lot of discussion around the world about building more walls. Sometimes, an installation like that arrive at a moment where it have more impact than we think.

 

David:

In that project, tell us a little bit about how that came about. You created a meal, a table, that went from one side- (laughs)

JR (20:49):

Oh, yes.

David (20:50):

It didn’t go-

JR (20:50):

Yes.

David (20:51):

… through the wall because you couldn’t do that, but you continued it on the other side of the wall,

JR (20:56):

Yeah. So we created a picnic border. (laughs) So it’s a table that’s like a, a 24 meter long, so that’s, uh, about 80… no 70 feet or something long. And, that table was real, and when you see it from a drone shot, you then realize that people are all eating together, but separated by the wall that divides the two countries. But from above you don’t see the wall because it becomes just a thin line. So we did that and then when the border patrol came to stop us, he actually had tea with all of us and decided not to arrest anybody. And interestingly enough, he retired now and he will come to the premier also next week, because he-

David (21:39):

Oh, man, fantastic.

JR (21:39):

… stayed in touch with us and he was a big thing because he allowed us to film him in the footage you can see that he actually let it happen, which is, technically what he’s not supposed to do. But he decided to-

David (21:55):

Yeah.

JR (21:55):

… do it because that’s what he believed in.

David (21:57):

A good thing he retired now (laughs) because-

JR (21:59):

Yeah. (laughs)

David (22:00):

After the movie, who knows what would have happened. 

JR (22:03):

You know, I posted it on social media before and I’ve asked him a few times about it. I say, “Are you sure that I can post this?” And he said, “No, no. I know it might have repercussions on me, but I’m willing to stand for what I believe.” “I might be a border patrol, but I also have family on the other side and I understand what it is. And so I wanted to let this happen, that’s what I stand for.” So, you know, I call those people that I meet sometime on the road like that guardian angel because they are here somewhere and by just closing their eyes or letting us do the project they help us create amazing projects that would only be possible because of people like him.

David (22:47):

You’ve made another movie, Faces and Places with Agnes Varda that was also a big success. It was nominated for an Academy Award. Now Agnes Varda is no longer with us. What was it about the relationship between you? I’ll just add Agnes Varda is a wonderful director who’s part of the French New Wave, was, part of what Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut the-

JR (23:18):

Yes.

David (23:18):

… founders of that movement, which I don’t think she ever got the credit she deserves. I just watched Cleo 5 to 7 again- (laughs)

JR (23:27):

Yeah. It’s amazing.

David (23:28):

… which is a fantastic film. So what was it about the relationship between you two? What attracted you and how did that come about?

JR (23:35):

I don’t know. We had almost an instant crush when we met. And we had never met before in our life and we both knew about our common work. It’s just how sometimes things go, and her daughter realized, “Oh, let me introduce the two of you.” She had never met me, too, but she found my email and I decided to go, of course, and accept the invitation for a tea. And, and that’s how we became friends and we knew that we had to invent something to be more together, and that was, by just trying to make a film. But we never thought about making a long film. We just thought let’s make a one minute film, a two minute film, whatever. And then slowly we got more attracted to creating something together and the idea that something could come out and we never stopped working together until she died. She also, was losing her eyesight and she needed my eyes to see, and so I was enlarging-

David (24:36):

(laughs)

JR (24:37):

… pictures bigger than life so she could see them. And so we had this incredible journey through friends. But we had no idea that it would go and the movie would travel around the world and be a success. It’s, one of the thing that I’m the most proud of, having done this with her and having learned from her. It was an incredible journey.

David (25:02):

It’s funny that you mentioned that you became her eyes because I know you always wear your sun- sunglasses.

JR (25:08):

Yeah. (laughs)

David (25:09):

You’re not totally anonymous, but you are-

JR (25:11):

No.

David (25:11):

… kind of mysterious in that sense. You don’t really wanna reveal too much. And, she asks you in the film, as I recall, to take off your glasses- (laughs)

JR (25:21):

Yes.

David (25:21):

… didn’t she? 

JR (25:22):

Which I do, but you’ll see in the film, a lot of people haven’t seen it. We had that discussion a lot, of course. But then she understood the process of my work that I, unfortunately, have to do it illegally in lots of countries. So I’m actually anonymous when I remove my hat and glasses, so that’s my disguise. But when I take it off-

David (25:39):

(laughs)

JR (25:40):

… no one recognize me.

David (25:40):

(laughs)

JR (25:41):

So she understood that and she respected it. But, of course, we had a long conversation about it.

David (25:47):

So your disguise is your real face?

JR (25:50):

Exactly.

David (25:51):

Very cool. One aspect of your personality I think that, that comes out and, and makes your work possible is you’re not particularly judgy, right? You’re not judgemental of these people ’cause you meet these people whether they’re in a prison or gang leaders or drug dealers or whatever. But you, deal with them in a very like one-to-one way without judging them. How-

JR (26:19):

Yeah.

JR (26:20):

Who am I to judge, you know? Who am I to judge? Uh, it-

David (26:22):

Well, we all judge, though, in some ways I feel. (laughs)

JR (26:25):

Yes, that’s true. But, when I was there I was like, okay, there’s one thing I can do is hear all of your stories. And, and the way I did it, I create those murals, where you basically can click on any single person and hear their story however they wanna record it. So sometime those stories can be, 20, 30, 40 minutes. And that’s what I did with those guys and for a lot of my project. And so you can go have an application. It’s for free. It’s called JR:murals and you click on the app and then you go in any of those murals and you can click on any person. And so I’ve got to hear about their story and understand

JR (27:00):

Their journey some of them were hard to excuse but some were there for like 20, 30 years and had done something when they were 14 or 15 some have never even kill anybody and, or raped anybody and they end up in jail forever. And so, it was a lot of those interesting stories that get caught into the system. Still, today I don’t judge but I think if we don’t question the fact that as humans we need a second chance, even if sometimes it’s hard to imagine.

JR (27:35):

And for some people, you can’t put your head together on that, but just the fact that anyone actually deserves to be, looked at again or like listened to again and even that guy with the Nazi swastika on his face and suddenly you realize he’s a different person than you thought and he’s willing to change and he have changed, he’s just stuck with those, tattoos on his face. And so, you take more risk, of course, by doing that because it’s way easier to say, “No, I don’t want to hear anymore and ever about those people.” But the truth is, we all live on the same planet together. We have to deal with each other. There’s no, no one’s going anywhere, 

It’s more interesting to do the journey of, understanding each other, trying to see where our points of difference and maybe through art sometime you actually realize, okay, a lot of the- the other inmates that haven’t had change yet at the time, realize, “Oh wow, I’m meeting other people from other races and from other countries and they’re nice to me so maybe what I was taught of is not exactly what I thought was the world like. And, it’s not the same as naïve but often that’s how things work. You make your own opinion often, about what you don’t know, but when you know about it, then suddenly you change.

 

Often, people don’t realize that art can change the world. But, changing the world is not something that only needs to be thought of like the biggest wave or by changing the perception we have of a community, of a person, of a place, that’s changing the world, and in a big way. And so, that is what happening, you see through the movie, but that’s what’s happening to most of the projects we start doing in all those places because it changed the perception people have about the place and the person.

David (30:03):

Yeah, and it also changes the perception of the viewer, of me, of- of watching the film, it’s always true that if you get to know somebody, you understand a lot more about them and it’s harder to hate somebody that you know-

JR (30:20):

Yes.

David (30:21):

… actually, that you’ve actually spoken with. I feel that that’s important as well. That’s why I think this movie is so i- important because it will-

JR (30:30):

Ah.

David (30:31):

… affect people in the same way you were affected by them and I was and how they were affected by you. So, it’s a chain that continues on and on I think it’s just a remarkable, achievement in that way so-

JR (30:46):

Uh, thank you. Thank you.

David (30:46):

Congratulations for that. I definitely want to talk about the pyramids. (laughs)

JR (30:51):

(laughs)

David (30:52):

You know, I’m not going to let you go without hearing a little bit about how that came about cause it’s not what you typically do, Right? So what, how did that come about?

JR (31:02):

No, but… you know I love doing tricks of perspective sometimes that has changing the perspective about a prison but you can do it about anything. And when the Pyramids of Egypt contacted me to do something there, we have the Louvre in Paris where I have done the pyramid which is much smaller and much more recent, I couldn’t believe it was real and then I started to be in touch during Covid, I went to Egypt and realized we could do something, not directly on the pyramid but, right in front and that had never been done before.

JR (31:36):

Of course the idea of making the top of the pyramid float and create this incredible illusion, started to excite me more than anything. I just came back from that trip. It was one of the most fascinating trip ever and the work is still being displayed, for the next couple weeks. And then, it’s exciting because it’s an image that I’ll never forget but, I’m sure history might forget it but the pyramids won’t.

David (32:01):

(laughs) Yeah, well yeah- yeah.I don’t know if- (laughs)

JR (32:01):

So, that was interesting.

David (32:03):

Yeah, I don’t know if you’ll outlive the pyramids but it means-

JR (32:05):

(laughs) Exactly. I don’t think so.

David (32:06):

… you got close to it. The art world gave some push back on that project. Some of the articles I read, not so much about your piece necessarily but just in general, here you have one of the greatest achievements of the world that’s still around, possibly the greatest event and, some people were saying this doesn’t need any kind of embellishment or, social media… food for people to come out and get their fi- picture taken, because it’s already-

JR (32:41):

Yeah.

David (32:41):

… there. Why do they need anything else?

JR (32:43):

That’s true. Well, you know, one of the reasons why it needs, maybe is because in the day in age like now, where people don’t travel anymore, trust me you go to Italy, there’s nobody there that’s traveling internationally, you realize that people are like, “Yeah, the great Pyramids, maybe let’s just go to Ibiza or let’s just go to Mykonos or…” And nobody, go and do this journey is to go and see those monuments that really redefine our place on earth you’re like, “What kind of civilization would achieve something like that, that would, you know, last for 5000 years and we see the question, how it was done? What are we doing today that will be remembered in 5000 years?”

JR (33:24):

And so, those are the kind of trips that redefines you and, sometimes art and new ways of communicating and exchanging and can go through social media, can create that kind of attractions of- of use and people who would not necessarily think of going there. So, of course, for a lot of people, they are like, “No, we know the pyramids. We have been there. We don’t need to hear about it in any other way.” But I can understand why it can touch a lot of other younger generations who didn’t connect to it like I did when I was at school, when I was a kid. I never understood the power of the pyramid until now, you know, and I’m 38. So, it’s something that we should not take for granted. Education is a huge part and I missed a lot of it and so sometimes art is a great way to catch the train on that in a way more interesting way then maybe school was.

David (34:17):

And so, what is it next? What’s coming up, tell us, give us the scoop.

JR (34:22):

(laughs).

David (34:22):

(laughs).

JR (34:23):

I’m actually going back to the prison next week, so that’s the most exciting thing. Next we’re going back and being with Kevin for his last day and then I’m gonna travel a bit more and then next year there’s a lot of big projects coming up but I can’t say much more that’s, one of the things that defines my work is it appears from one week to the next.

David (34:49):

And you’re always shooting now film as well, moving pic-

JR (34:53):

Yes.

David (34:53):

… you know, video-

JR (34:54):

Yes. I- I kind of always documented it and I continue.

David (34:58):

All right, well thank you very much JR-

JR (35:00):

Thank you.

David (35:00):

… for being a guest on my Light Culture Show today. It was an honor and a privilege.

JR (35:05):

With pleasure. With pleasure. Have a great day.

David (35:07):

You too, my friend.

 

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