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Art and healing: The Wound by JR in Florence mending our times

The French artist installation aims at opening a gateway to reflect on the importance of museums, intermittently opening and closing for over a year


Starting from March, 19th, a slash showed on the facade of Palazzo Strozzi in Florence. A huge installation made by the French artist JR - The Wound - buzzed during the last few days all over physical and digital platforms: the major amount of pics showing the last artistic effort by JR almost make us believe to have seen it for real, regardless of the fact the home confinement is still a real thing.

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Un post condiviso da Palazzo Strozzi (@palazzostrozzi)

28 meters tall and 33 meters wide, the artist adopted a production and representation technique well-tested in his work, the black and white photographic collage, whereas this time printed on aluminium panels, allowing spectators to appreciate, from a specific point of view, a perspectival and fictional radiography of three of the internal venues of the building.

A colonnaded courtyard, an exhibition hall, a library packed with manuscripts: JR establishes a connection between some of the most iconic spots of the Florentine culture, such as the library of the Istituto Nazionale di Studi sul Rinascimento, the masterpieces of Botticelli and Giambologna at Uffizi Galleries, the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi itself. Passersby, curious fellows, the community overall, are subject to a holistic reflection on the current inaccessibility to artistic and cultural institutions, intermittently opening and closing for over a year because of the regulations to fight Covid-19.

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Un post condiviso da Palazzo Strozzi (@palazzostrozzi)

Having museums and cultural institutions closed to public elicits pain and, above all, leaves a wound to our habits and our consciousnesses, numbing critical thinking, and our ability to install connections, to put things into perspective.

In this sense, particularly interesting is the artist’s choice to put the discourse into a perspective in Florence, the city that, thanks to Brunelleschi, gives birth to perspective itself. The representation of the Renaissance evolves in the artistic installation, revealing a contemporary trompe l’oeil, mixing and juxtaposing several cultural means: photography, public art, sculpture.

The Wound discloses in front of us in a natural and alienating way, opening the gaze on a grieving scenario - the lockdown - which feels as even more painful when contextualized in Florence, a city that went all-in (advisedly, for sure) on the valorization of its artistic and cultural heritage as a leverage for national and international touristic attractiveness.

The slash reflects the drama we are currently living, hence questioning us on the positive possibility for a reaction to present times. Art may heal, it may patch things up on a social level, it may reach minds and bodies despite physical distance. In fact, through the gash, it can widen the gaze, also for those people who normally would not be included in the artistic fruition and creation.

This very same statement is not new within JR’s poetry, having the artist based its practice on collective participation and on the involvement in the creative process of audiences who are far from the art world. He is well renowned for his proper ability to elaborate scenarios showing “the other”: every time he covers and creates chasms, he opens up for fictional stages set up in highly symbolic spots.

This is the case, for instance, of the two artworks hosted in the Louvre square in Paris: while in 2016 the artist is called to make the iconic pyramid disappear, adopting the same technique of anamorphosis, in 2019 he open a multidimensional gate around the complex. The so-created artwork is ephemeral, being made of bill-boarding paper attached all over the square, and it includes and engages local community, playing with the illusive picture of the chasms, eliciting wonder, fun and sense of belonging.

Focusing on art with a social impact, also in terms of Instagrammabilty, JR steps in where he feels that communities need to reshape their collective dimension. Through artistic, cultural and educational endeavours, social awareness may raise, and places for discussion on how to evolve within the community may be set up.

With this purpose in mind, the artist promoted several initiatives, such as the non-profit association Can art change the world?, developing projects in areas featured with complex issues, aiming at resolving conflicts through the repositioning of the point of view. He wants to reflect on social matters on a relational and human level, even before the aesthetic one: an evidence of this reasoning also lies at the basis of the Inside Out Project, a participatory and global platform with which JR calls for everyone’s contribution, then putting it on exhibit on the facades and in the venues from all over the world.

Reflect on the present, connect thoughts and people, participate and involve into discussion and creation: eventually, heal the wound.

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JR - The Wound

Palazzo Strozzi

Piazza Strozzi - Florence

19 March - 22 August 2021