24 September 2010

"The Yes Men Fix the World" - JR: "Women are Heroes"

It is become popular to change the world these days. In Stavanger this has been visible in many ways. The Re-Think exhibition at Stavanger Art Museum have intentions of changing the way you look at the world and cast new light on the climate change crisis, through the artwork of great international contemporary artists. This is also the target of the Article biennal, where the artwork is intentually unstable and fluctuous, like melting ice sculptures and a video of a dying horse. Nuart2010 is first of all changing the local environment in the poorest part of Stavanger with large-sized murals.

Both the Nuart and the Article festival were arranged at the same time. I was really sad about this, as I would really want to attend both. As many of the Article artwork were only visible for a short period, I missed most of them. I did see the "The Yes Men Fix the World"-movie from the Article biennal, and I find it interesting to compare it to "Women are Heroes" by JR, shown during the Nuart festival. They are both portraying the urge to change the world, but with quite different approaches and methods.

The Yes Men Fix the World show how two men fight against the large companies and the growth-friendly political advisors. By acting as head of large companies they shed light on the unsustainability and repressions of poor people done to make large profits.

Somehow I get the sense that "The Yes Men Fix the World" is more about the Yes Men than Fixing the World. The movie is a documentary comedy, pushing one step further than Michael Moore. The Yes Men are choosing a random conflict or paradox, and then attending a conference to shock the people they find responsible for it. By presenting a golden skeleton and human wax candles they point to the immorality of large companies. You are guaranteed attention if you manage to make fun of powerful people, but do you really change something by it? At least it does when it comes to the Bhopal incident. They are acting as head of the company responsible for a catastrophic poison leak in Bhopal, saying all damage will be compensated. In this way they are saying what should have been done, while knowing the real company will never do that. They are acting on behalf of the Bhopal people, but first afterwards visiting them to hear their opinion. They are relieved to discover that the Bhopal people were happy to at least get the attention.

As a comedy the movie works well. It is balancing between the hidden-camera-documentary and the slapstic humour of the Yes Men figuring out their new trick. It is priceless to see the face expressions when the conference participants figure out that the table candles are made of human fat, or when some are actually considering the practical use of the one-man-safety-shell. The laughs and absurdities makes us forget that nothing actually was fixed.

JR: Women are Heroes
is mostly about strong women and less about the artist JR. JR is among the elite of street artist, known for enormous black&white paste-ups of people. In this movie he is portraying strong women of different countries through interviews, but also through his art. We hear the stories of struggle, loss and strong will, and it is first after hearing the stories we get familiar with JR's work. He puts the eyes and faces on these female heroes on the buildings they live in, thus showing the faces of the unknown, invisible heroes. The faces of the Rio favela are visible from far off, and the posters with female eyes also act as rainproof covers on the houses in the village. As his art show was presented in Rio, the women arrived as superstars on the red carpet. One of the women says "Yesterday I was nobody, now I am somebody".

JR really makes a change with his art. He is not fixing the world, but a part of it, by improving the environment and the self-confidence of the people he meets. This movie is a beautiful story about listening to people and giving them credit for their effort. The way it is shot, the composition and the soundtrack makes this documentary about an art project into an art piece in itself.