JR’S GLOBAL ART PROJECT COMES TO EGYPT, GETS TORN DOWN IN 24 HOURS

The Daily News Egypt - - Front Page - By Aya Nader, Egyp­tian Streets

For six months, a group of Egyp­tians had been pre­par­ing to bring an in­ter­na­tional street art ex­hi­bi­tion with a huge cause to Alexan­dria.The project was to shed light on the chil­dren suf­fer­ing from con­gen­i­tal anom­alies at El Shatby Uni­ver­sity Hospi­tal. The chil­dren have been vic­tims due to lack of aware­ness and health­care. Their sit­u­a­tion is usu­ally crit­i­cal, and they have to be res­cued im­me­di­ately, or else they will die.

The project, dubbed “Echoes of Oth­ers”, was part of the French graf­fiti artist JR Global‘s project, called In­side Out. In­side Out gives ev­ery­one the op­por­tu­nity to share their por­trait and make a state­ment for what they stand for.It is a global plat­form for peo­ple to share their un­told sto­ries and trans­form mes­sages of per­sonal iden­tity into works of pub­lic art, i.e. “bring the in­side peo­ple to the out­side world.” Each In­side Out group ac­tion around the world is doc­u­mented, archived, and ex­hib­ited on­line. Over 260,000 peo­ple have par­tic­i­pated in 129 coun­tries.

Alexan­dria’s El Shatby Uni­ver­sity Hospi­tal serves a pop­u­la­tion of around 5 mil­lion chil­dren and in­fants.The pe­di­atric surgery depart­ment per­forms around 7,000 freeof-charge surg­eries an­nu­ally for un­der­priv­i­leged chil­dren born with con­gen­i­tal anom­alies. The project aimed at giv­ing the chil­dren suf­fer­ing from neona­tal and other sim­i­lar dis­eases a voice in a city where there is a se­vere lack of at­ten­tion for such cases.The hospi­tal, along with many in Egypt,is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a huge short­age of sup­plies for surgery and anes­the­sia, es­pe­cially due to the bad eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion.

“We went to hospi­tal and took photographs of some of the doc­tors, nurses, and chil­dren, try­ing to gather the com­mu­nity of the hospi­tal and by that get a whole im­age of the com­mu­nity of the hospi­tal we are try­ing to raise aware­ness for,” nar­rated Amina Kadous,one of the lead­ers of the project in Egypt.

Then the group put up the photos on the hospi­tal‘s out­side fence, which over­sees Alexan­dria’s wa­ter­front, a strate­gic spot that gives great ex­po­sure to the is­sue, in hopes of rais­ing funds and help­ing the hospi­tal, which is in a very poor con­di­tion.

The Nile of Hope Foun­da­tion helped and sup­ported the group, giv­ing pub­lic­ity. They teamed up with Alex Run­ners and Alex Bik­ers to do a run for the hospi­tal on the event day, and the run­ners par­tic­i­pated and helped in putting up the posters.

“The key in this project is for it to stay for as much time as pos­si­ble and fade away by time with­out any hu­man in­ter­fer­ence of tear­ing it down,” ex­plained Kadous.

“But be­cause we don’t live in an ideal world and be­cause of some ill-minded peo­ple, the project didn’t com­plete 24 hours, and we found it all torn down the next morn­ing, de­stroy­ing the hospi­tal’s fence and stop­ping our mes­sage from pass­ing on to a wider au­di­ence,” said Kadous.

JR has been ex­hibit­ing freely in the streets of the world for 12 years, catch­ing the at­ten­tion of peo­ple who are not typ­i­cal mu­seum vis­i­tors. It all be­gan in 2006 when the artist cre­ated “Por­trait of a Gen­er­a­tion,” por­traits of subur­ban “thugs” that he posted, in huge for­mats, in the „bour­geois“dis­tricts of Paris. This il­le­gal project be­came “of­fi­cial” when the Paris City Hall wrapped its build­ing with JR’s photos.

In 2007, with Marco, he made Face 2 Face, his big­gest „il­le­gal“ex­hi­bi­tion ever.JR posted huge por­traits of Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans face to face in eight Pales­tinian and Is­raeli cities.

In 2011, he re­ceived the TED Prize, af­ter which he cre­ated In­side Out, an in­ter­na­tional par­tic­i­pa­tory art project that al­lows peo­ple world­wide to get their pic­ture taken and paste it to sup­port an idea and share their ex­pe­ri­ence.

The In­side Out project has trav­elled from Ecuador to Nepal, from Mex­ico to Pales­tine, in­spir­ing group ac­tions on var­ied themes such as hope, di­ver­sity, gen­der-based vi­o­lence, and cli­mate change.

As he re­mains anony­mous and does not ex­plain his huge full-frame por­traits of peo­ple mak­ing faces, JR leaves the space empty for an en­counter be­tween the sub­ject/pro­tag­o­nist and the passer-by/in­ter­preter.

“I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by par­tic­i­pat­ing in a global art project, and to­gether we’ll turn the world … in­side out,” JR states on his web­site.

That is what JR’s work is about,rais­ing ques­tions.

In Cairo, it raised a whole other ques­tion than the in­tended one.

“[What hap­pened shows] how peo­ple are not tol­er­ant enough with the idea of art, the lack of aware­ness and the ill mind­ed­ness …it‘s sad; no words can be said at this point,” con­cluded Kadous.

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