Artists are embracing the “metaverse” virtual world and JR is no exception. The French street artist is launching JR Reality—described as the “largest participatory art project in the world”—in partnership with Superblue, the experiential art organisation. The new project, which is powered by the software development company Niantic, enables participants to post a “portrait or personal memory to a particular location, leaving behind digital touchpoints [images and voice messages] for others to uncover for years to come”, the organisers say in a statement.
Smartphone users can access JR’s “metaverse” experience through the Superblue app but only in certain cities. “San Franciso will be the first city with the full reality experience, with New York coming second in the autumn,” a project spokeswoman says. The scheme, also billed as the first augmented reality (AR) community network, is due to be rolled out in London, Paris, Miami and Los Angeles. “It’s time to go outside and explore; reconnect with one another and show the world your face again,” JR says in a statement.
JR Reality is a digital extension of the artist’s Inside Out initiative which, since 2013, has invited “individuals and communities to make a statement by displaying large-scale black and white portraits in public spaces,” the artist says on his website. JR calls these contributions “actions”, adding that “communities around the world have sparked collaborations and conversations” around themes such as feminism, racism, climate change and children’s rights.
Indeed, JR has made his presence felt in the past few years with an increasing number of high-profile projects such as creating a photographic installation in Ukraine that was turned into a cover for Time magazine. The huge 148ft photo is of five-year-old Ukrainian refugee Valeriia, who became a symbol of resilience during the Ukraine-Russia war. Last year, meanwhile, Superblue opened a space in Miami housed in a 50,000 sq. ft former industrial building in the Allapattah neighbourhood.