French artist JR leaves giant im­print on Rio Olympics

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE / CULTURE - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Rio de Janeiro

It looks like smoke bil­low­ing from a high-rise at first.

But look again — the sur­pris­ing splash of gray against the blue Rio de Janeiro sky is a giant im­age of Su­danese high jumper Mo­hamed Younes Idriss mak­ing a larger-thanlife leap over a 20-story build­ing.

This Olympic-sized trompe l'oeil is the work of French art pho­tog­ra­pher JR, who is fa­mous for plas­ter­ing huge black-and-white pho­to­graphs onto street scenes around the world.

He is in Brazil at the in­vi­ta­tion of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee, pay­ing play­ful trib­ute to Rio 2016 with su­per­hero-like im­ages that are vis­i­ble to ev­ery­one, whether they have tick­ets for the Games or not.

“It’s like tak­ing the city as a play­ground ... and hav­ing sculp­tures jump­ing off the build­ings,” JR says.

He has set up three such “sculp­tures” so far, past­ing his pho­to­graphs onto scaf­fold­ing at iconic spots around the city.

In the sec­ond, near the Olympic park and vil­lage, a diver is sus­pended in mo­tion, arms spread wide and poised to plunge into the At­lantic from the end of a pier.

In the third, a but­ter­fly swim­mer rises from the ocean in front of Rio’s fa­mous Su­gar­loaf moun­tain.

“The idea is to evoke these ath­letes who train all over the world with the dream of mak­ing it to the Olympics. Some­times they fall just short, like Mo­hamed (the Su­danese high jumper), who was in­jured just be­fore com­ing to Rio,” JR says.

The artist has also been tour­ing the city in a giant, rolling photo booth, tak­ing por­traits of peo­ple he meets and churn­ing them out from the side of the ve­hi­cle in giant poster for­mat.

He then asks the re­cip­i­ents to plas­ter the black-and-white photos in pub­lic.

He has made a mo­saic of them on the Olympic Boule­vard, in the re­de­vel­oped port dis­trict at the heart of the Games venues.

JR, who keeps his iden­tity a se­cret, knowsRio well. In2008, he cov­ered the slum walls of theMorro da Prov­i­den­cia favela with black-and-white pho­to­graphs of the eyes and faces of 30 women, a pro­ject he called “Women areHeroes”.

A self-de­scribed “artiviste”, or artist-as-ac­tivist, he called it a homage to the women who hold im­pov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties to­gether de­spite the daily vi­o­lence they face.

The favela is near the Olympic Boule­vard, and JR praised the area’s trans­for­ma­tion.

“That street was just a mess,” he says. “It was pretty dan­ger­ous to walk in. See­ing it for the first time (when) peo­ple can walk like this and every­thing is ready and be­ing able to paste there, it’s great. It’s a great mo­ment.”

“Past­ing” is how he de­scribes his work. And the Olympian feat of cov­er­ing a build­ing in pho­to­graphs makes him and his as­sis­tants iden­tify with the hard work and com­pet­i­tive drive of the real Olympians, he says.

“Past­ing is a sport to us. When we cover an en­tire build­ing, we have to go on scaf­fold­ings or paste all day,” he says.

“We’re try­ing to make it rec­og­nized at the Olympics. It might be a lit­tle hard but who knows, one day. Skate­board has just been rec­og­nized and is gonna be at the next Olympics. So we might get a chance,” he adds.


Painter Xiong Qinghua cre­ates in his West­ern-style home and stu­dio in Changhe vil­lage, Hubei prov­ince, many sur­re­al­ist im­ages that re­flect the serene past of the coun­try­side and its cur­rent re­al­i­ties.


French artist JR shows a print of an ath­lete swim­ming in Rio de Janeiro’s Gua­n­abara Bay, on Aug 6, 2016.

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