A Troubled Region Shows its Funny Face

March 16, 2007

Author: Matthew Kalman

Source: San Francisco Chronicle


Palestinians and Israelis were confronted last week with a larger-than-life image -- of themselves.

Thirty-foot portraits of taxi drivers, teachers, religious leaders and others from each side of the conflict were pasted in pairs on walls and buildings around the country, including the controversial Israeli security barrier. They appeared in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, Abu Dis, Tel Aviv and Haifa.

The photographs are part of a project titled "Face2Face," the work of self-styled French "artivists" JR and Marco -- they refuse to reveal their full names -- who first carried out a similar headline-grabbing project in Paris after riots there last year.

"I'm an artist-photographer who chooses the streets as the gallery," JR said as he climbed a ladder to paste the huge photographs on the exterior of a cement security wall surrounding an Israeli army base in Bethlehem. "Basically, I take pictures that I paste in the street, and I do this all around the world in different places, and the place where I put the photos is important for how the people will understand it."

"These people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families," he said. "We want that, at last, everyone laughs and thinks when he sees the portrait of the other and his own portrait."