New York Art@Site J JR Inside Out, Lakota Project



Inside Out, Lakota Project

High Line, 30th Street
The Inside Out Project is an ongoing global participatory art project started by JR, after he was awarded the 2011 TED Prize. Everyone is invited to use black and white photographic portraits to discover, reveal and share the untold stories and images of people around the world. Portraits are made into posters and sent back to the project?s co-creators, for them to exhibit in their own communities. People must participate in groups of at least 5, gathered around a common statement. Posters can be placed anywhere in the streets. Inside Out Photobooths allow people to participate immediately. These exhibitions are documented, archived and available online at As of December 2012, over 120,000 posters were printed and sent to more than 108 countries, for a total of over 4,000 projects.
Native American Lakota tribe participated in the Inside Out Project thanks to their Group Leader DJ Two Bears. They organized a Group Action on their reservation, in North Dakota, in May 2011. JR decided to help them by bringing their story to Manhattan, a former sacred ground for Native Americans, and creating large-size pasting installations all over New York to share their story.
JR is a semi-anonymous participatory street artists who is changing art practices by redefining the ways in which the audience participates in its inception and distribution. JR is a rather allusive character in the art world, and has caught the attention of museums as well as people from every walk of life. He provides a space for expression where the participants are free to make a social, political or personal statement about their community or a special cause. Next the community organizer sends JR and his team a series of portraits that illustrate the cause at hand. The group receives these portraits in large oversized poster formats and are able to have their own individual art projects in their own local environments.
What one might find so very fascinating about this French artist is that it is next to impossible to compartmentalize him or his work into one fixed genre or movement. JR himself is a man of humble beginnings, having grown up on the outskirts of Paris, a metropolitan giant. Over the last decade, JR, has transformed the public image of himself from renegade street artist, by creating a sort of Robin Hood metaphor of himself with his Inside/Out Project, which gives artistic power back to communities at large.
The InsideOut Project in Context
On March 2, 2011, JR won the much coveted TED Prize of one million dollars where he pledged to create a global art project that would 'turn the world inside out.' The North Dakota, We Still Exist Project Was an Inside Out initiative completed in May 2011. The project was completed in collaboration with the American Lakota Tribe and their Group leader DJ Two Bears. Afterwards, JR decided to broaden the scope of the original project in the hope that by transforming the selected photographs in scale, he would also magnify the importance of the mission statement of the Lakota, We Still Exist Project. The reason why JR and DJ Two Bears decided to relocate the project to Manhatten, is because it is 'a former sacred ground for Native Americans, and creating large-size pasting installations all over New York would share their story.' (
What are You Looking At? From North Dakota to New York City: The Native American Displaced
In general, my goal for this online exhibition is to ask a couple of questions through the presentation of selected images from JR’s Inside/ Out Project. By presenting these four images that challenge various uses of memory in the visual representation of Native Americans, I still critically question notions of agency, constructed gazes in relation to U.S cultural identity, and the worth of collaborative and participatory practices in the field of art as social practice. Some questions to ponder while exploring this section of the exhibit include:
Why is the visual exhibition of the Lakota from the Standing Rock Reservation so essential in raising awareness to the perceived notions of Native American identity?
Did the meaning or message of the Lakota shift as JR removed and shared the photographs that were originally exhibited on Lakota land?
JR transported the photographs to the bustling and metropolitan city of New York, and in doing so, I wonder if these images are interpreted differently outside of their native territory by New York Cities audiences?
Do the Lakota gain more agency through becoming visible on a national scale (New York City here represents the nation), or are they in fact being exploited in some manner in their New York City setting?
Lastly, consider whether our collective consciousness will change in respect to our perceptions of indigenous people, and is social media inherently connected to that success?