If you are in San Francisco and you get a chance to visit SFMOMA, I would highly recommend that you at least check out the incredible mural created by JR titled The Chronicles of San Francisco, it opened on May 23rd, 2019 and is on view until April 27th, 2020.
In January and February of 2018 French artist JR set up a mobile studio in twenty-two locations around San Francisco, filming and interviewing more than twelve hundred people from across the city’s multifaceted communities. He edited and combined the footage to produce The Chronicles of San Francisco, an expansive, scrolling composition that draws inspiration from the murals Diego Rivera made in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1930’s and 1940’s.
The project is part of a series of murals entitled Chronicles that started at the end of 2016 when JR, inspired by Diego’s murals, decided to imagine how a whole neighborhood could be represented through art.
Inspired by the murals of Diego Rivera, French artist JR decided to imagine how a whole city can be represented through art.
He would need to get into details for every person: How would they like to be remembered? How do they see themselves? The idea was to portray as accurately as possible the entirety of a neighborhood, as of today.
After creating a first mural in Les Bosquets, in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-Montfermeil, JR set his lense on San Francisco, a city very rich in contrasts, whose recent history could be told in a powerful way through a similar mural. The city features immense innovation and wealth as well as one of the heights rates of child homelessness in the country. Furthermore, since the visit of Diego Rivera in 1931, San Francisco has a long muralist tradition.
This time, JR wanted to create both a still and a moving mural, capturing the nuances of the city at this moment in time, in a unique way. To do so, the artist and his team built a mobile studio inside a 53 foot trailer truck, and spent 5 weeks roaming the city, capturing anyone that wished to participate.
After being filmed and photographed, each participant had the opportunity to tell their story. Everyone’s voice was recorded in a makeshift sound studio next to the truck, made of four blankets, a table and throw chairs. The prompt was: “This is an open canvas for you to express your voice in any way you would like. We don’t ask questions, and we won’t speak, once we turn on the recorder. There is nothing in particular that we are looking for… This is your space.”
The result is a myriad of stories, people reflecting upon their lives, their positions in San Francisco, and their understanding of the city’s changes in recent years. Participants shared their struggles with sickness, grief, housing, heartbreak, natural disasters, and money. Some people sang, confessed funny secrets, addressed messages to loved ones… You can find a selection of quotes in the book published for the project and hear everyone’s recording, experiencing the whole range and complexity of this project through the app created specially to accompany the mural.
The Chronicles of San Francisco opened on May 23, 2019 in the museum’s free-to-visit Roberts Family Gallery. Visitors can read and hear the story of each participant in their own voice thanks to iPads installed in the gallery. A free mobile application for iPhone and Android also allows anyone to explore The Chronicles of San Francisco through an augmented reality experience, and read and hear the story of every participant.
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