Amsterdam / JR / Photo Museum Amsterdam

To stretch the discussion on the relation between public art and ‘real politics’ a little further and to show how illegal public art can still be very legitimate, I’d like to point out the work of French artist JR, opening yesterday at the Photo Museum in Amsterdam and present at the Venice Biennale.

As discussed in previous posts to work in public space implies that you engage in a political discussions, since people discuss issues in public space, and whatever happens in public space is subject of discussion.

Unfortunately, many artists aren’t able to handle these tools properly. They speak on behalf of people that don’t need agency or feel they’re being misinterpreted or misrepresented. As such JR went on terribly thin ice when he started a poster project on the safety walls in Israel. To make a statement on the political situation at hand, while navigating through this political minefield seems a Herculean task that JR matched with equal competence.

He made caricature photographs of Palestinians and Israelis with the same profession and glued them larger-than-life-size on opposite sides of the safety walls (face to face), confronting the quarrelling parties with a hideously funny picture of ‘the other’. Perhaps I’m being naïve to think this makes a difference, puts a weight in the balance. Nevertheless, I think the work is really clever and its quality doesn’t lie in making statements about the current conflict, but rather to suspend them shortly and create a moment for air and a smile, hopefully…

In FOAM until 2 September 2007.


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