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JR: One year of turning the world inside out

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  • VOCAB: 82
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Street artist JR made a wish in 2011: Join me in a worldwide photo project to show the world its true face. Now, a year after his TED Prize wish, he shows how giant posters of human faces, pasted in public, are connecting communities, making change, and turning the world inside out. You can join in at

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0:15 Twelve years ago, I was in the street writing my name to say, "I exist." Then I went to taking photos of people to paste them on the street to say, "They exist." From the suburbs of Paris to the wall of Israel and Palestine, the rooftops of Kenya to the favelas of Rio, paper and glue -- as easy as that.

0:41 I asked a question last year: Can art change the world? Well let me tell you, in terms of changing the world there has been a lot of competition this year, because the Arab Spring is still spreading, the Eurozone has collapsed ... what else? The Occupy movement found a voice, and I still have to speak English constantly. So there has been a lot of change.

1:06 So when I had my TED wish last year, I said, look, I'm going to switch my concept. You are going to take the photos. You're going to send them to me. I'm going to print them and send them back to you. Then you're going to paste them where it makes sense for you to place your own statement.

1:24 This is Inside Out. One hundred thousand posters have been printed this year. Those are the kind of posters, let me show you. And we keep sending more every day. This is the size. Just a regular piece of paper with a little bit of ink on it. This one was from Haiti.

1:46 When I launched my wish last year, hundreds of people stood up and said they wanted to help us. But I say it has to be under the conditions I've always worked: no credit, no logos, no sponsoring. A week later, a handful of people were there ready to rock and empower the people on the ground who wanted to change the world. These are the people I want to talk about to you today.

2:16 Two weeks after my speech, in Tunisia, hundreds of portraits were made. And they pasted [over] every single portrait of the dictator [with] their own photos. Boom! This is what happened. Slim and his friends went through the country and pasted hundreds of photos everywhere to show the diversity in the country. They really make Inside Out their own project. Actually, that photo was pasted in a police station, and what you see on the ground are ID cards of all the photos of people being tracked by the police.

2:56 Russia. Chad wanted to fight against homophobia in Russia. He went with his friends in front of every Russian embassy in Europe and stood there with the photos to say, "We have rights." They used Inside Out as a platform for protest.

3:14 Karachi, Pakistan. Sharmeen is actually here. She organized a TEDx action out there and made all the unseen faces of the city on the walls in her town. And I want to thank her today.

3:28 North Dakota. Standing Rock Nation, in this Turtle Island, [unclear name] from the Dakota Lakota tribe wanted to show that the Native Americans are still here. The seventh generation are still fighting for their rights. He pasted up portraits all over his reservation. And he's here also today. Each time I get a wall in New York, I use his photos to continue spreading the project.

3:58 Juarez: You've heard of the border -- one of the most dangerous borders in the world. Monica has taken thousands of portraits with a group of photographers and covered the entire border. Do you know what it takes to do this? People, energy, make the glue, organize the team. It was amazing.

4:20 While in Iran at the same time Abololo -- of course a nickname -- has pasted one single face of a woman to show his resistance against the government. I don't have to explain to you what kind of risk he took for that action.

4:36 There are tons of school projects. Twenty percent of the posters we are receiving comes from schools. Education is so essential. Kids just make photos in a class, the teacher receives them, they paste them on the school. Here they even got the help of the firemen. There should be even more schools doing this kind of project.

4:55 Of course we wanted to go back to Israel and Palestine. So we went there with a truck. This is a photobooth truck. You go on the back of that truck, it takes your photo, 30 seconds later take it from the side, you're ready to rock. Thousands of people use them and each of them signs up for a two-state peace solution and then walk in the street. This is march, the 450,000 march -- beginning of September. They were all holding their photo as a statement. On the other side, people were wrapping up streets, buildings. It's everywhere. Come on, don't tell me that people aren't ready for peace out there.

5:35 These projects took thousands of actions in one year, making hundreds of thousands of people participating, creating millions of views. This is the biggest global art participatory project that's going on.

5:53 So back to the question, "Can art change the world?" Maybe not in one year. That's the beginning. But maybe we should change the question. Can art change people's lives? From what I've seen this year, yes. And you know what? It's just the beginning. Let's turn the world inside out together. Thank you.

6:17 (Applause)

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