JR interviewed by Jean Nouvel: “A world apart”

JN This information and contact encourages travel; This is because they encourage people to meet friends they have never met in person.

JR Exactly. They allow people to maintain those connections. I was 17 or 18 when the internet was out, so I based all my work on it. It was invented before mobile phones or social media. During that period, my art work developed. People I don’t know at work. I’ve always tried to include people I’ve met online and invited to join by throwing a bottle and message into the ocean. People come and work in integrated groups. It’s not so much the work of art that they’re proud of when they’re gone, but the people who experienced it while they were making it. For me, a work of art is a creation of art. A specific example I want to talk about is a high security prison in California called Tehachapi.

As a level 4 high security prison, it is cut off from contact with the outside world. Even inside, it was difficult for prisoners and guards to establish relationships. When not in their cells, inmates can talk to each other in the yard. There is a wall between the prisoners and the guards, not a physical wall, but a real one. It was a chance that the governor of California, who was allowed to work in a prison, had been involved in a mural project before taking office. I was allowed to enter the prison with a mobile phone. Initially, I started with the idea of ​​creating a work of art with the prisoners. I thought it would be interesting to give these people a voice on one painting, the guards and the gang victims, and record the stories of the individuals that will be seen in that painting. Once in prison, I found my phone to be an incredible tool for this project. That’s because it provides a kind of communication that cannot be found in places like this. Social media played a key role in the project as I was able to share discussions with inmates online. It came naturally. It often compiles my projects.

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One of the prisoners was named Kevin. He has a swastika tattoo on his face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real person. The first question I asked him was, “What happened to your face?” And he looked at me as if I had forgotten I was there. It was a symbol of a gang he represented in prison and he said he would remove it if he could. A portrait of him was posted on social media and many comments were made. I showed him the comments. As he spent over 17 years in prison, I explained the principles of social media. People all over the world don’t know the background behind the tattoo (although there is no official explanation really), so how did you get the tattoo? He asked people to tell him why he wanted it. Get rid of it. For three or four days, I watched live videos from the jail in a row before reading his comments. I saw the effect it had on him; He is so focused, I have never been loved and hated at the same time. The videos were shared by people in prison. Guards Family members and Kevin’s family as well as people from around the world watched.

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I arrived at the prison to see Kevin still tattooed on his face three years later. It can’t be pulled off in prison, but the support of this “human chain” on social media makes it seem more possible. Unfortunately, The covid pandemic stopped the process, but he was still able to visit me. I asked inmates about the effects of the free “JR Mural” smartphone app, which keeps accounts of their lives. In the app, You can click on a face and hear the person’s story. Inmates are not allowed mobile phones in prison, so the app has more of an effect on their families than on the inmates themselves. Kevin’s 18-year-old daughter goes to her because she doesn’t think she’s worthy of his love. Then listen to his story. Kevin told me: “If she came to the living room to see me, she would listen to me say that I would never make it. During the 40-minute recording, I opened my heart and cried. Where did you come from? It explains how it should end. After that he came to see me every week. I asked the inmates in the group, and most of their families have gotten back in touch with them.” Prison guards and other people outside, including the director, took turns listening to their stories.

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