After a workshop during which the students of Action Embracing Diversity spoke of their Action to Inside Out team, students reversed the roles and interviewed; Emma Berrebi, a member of the Inside Out team:
On May 31 2022 in Jersey City (New Jersey), we had the chance to interview Emma Berrebi on zoom. Emma Berrebi has been working with JR since 2011 as the Education Manager of the Inside Out Project in New York. The Inside Out Project is a participatory art project, which helps individuals and communities around the world to send a message by displaying their portraits.
We asked her a series of questions about the behind-the-scenes of the Inside Out Project!
When did you start working at inside Out?
I started when I was 15 years old, with the first project Photobooth for peace in Israel/ Palestine in 2011 and after, I did an Internship with JR, at the office of Inside Out in NY. In 2016, I created my own Inside Out Action in Montreal. Now, I have been working at Inside Out for two years.
How did JR get the idea to start Inside Out? Why did he choose this title?
JR won the TED Prize in 2011. He was given a wish to change the world. He posed the question, “Can we change the world through art?” JR chose this title because he wanted to turn the world upside down, transform society with art.
What emotions did you feel when you witnessed the to your first Inside Out project?
I felt joy because it’s fun to create these installations, you meet a lot of people and I also felt a sense of joy, pride and determination.
Which experiences did you like the most?
I love working with Inside Out but my favorite part is working with a passionate team and working with inspired students and teachers that are hard working to create an artistic movement.
Have you worked with alot of schools, as manager of Inside Out?
I have worked with many schools, at least 100 schools in the last two years.
Do you travel a lot? If yes, in what part of the world?
Yes, I have been to Israel/Palestine, New York, Toronto, Grand Rapids, Mephis, Tenesee and many more, for Inside Out Actions.
When you travel for an art project, do you have time to visit the population?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no. In Memphis we had the opportunity to visit the Naturel Civil Right Museum. We had the chance to visit interesting places, especially in the USA and to meet the people who live there. It is interesting to talk with them, especially because they all have interesting stories.
Do you take risks? (ex: we saw in progress the Face 2 Face on the wall of Bethlehem or the last work in Poland in relation to the war in Ukraine)
All of the Inside Out projects in which I participated, we had permission to be there, except the project Face 2 Face in Israel/Palestine. We did not have the official permission to be there but asked the owner of the property to glue the photo on the building. So I never took a risk for the Inside Out Project. I was not there for the project in Poland because it was a JR project and not a Inside Out Project and it is possible that they took a risk. I think that it was very important for JR and his team to transfer the message.
Is JR scared to get stopped by the police? Has he already?
JR has been caught by the police, but since now he is more famous, he has more authorization than before.
How did you create portraits this big?
We have a very big printer in our studio (laughter).
Do you use other techniques than portrait photography in Inside Out projects?
The team prints the portraits on paper and sometimes sticks them on walls, floors... Sometimes, participants have printed on other materials, such as vinyl.
What are you trying to show/express with this art and the choice of black and white?
Black and white makes it possible to really keep the viewer's attention on the face and the humanity of the people and to avoid the viewer being distracted by a colored detail.
Can you give us a preview of one of your future projects?
This week in Oakland, California, a Photobooth truck is going to visit a school to celebrate the end of the school year and high school diplomas but there are many other actions going on today in schools and around the world.
What is the most interesting part of your work?
Again, the most interesting part is that I talk to people all over the world. I talk to students, teachers, staff at university, in extracurricular programs, at school and I learn a lot from all of you and it enriches me.
Do you like working with JR? Why?
I really like working with JR because there’s always a lot of diversity in the projects. I have the opportunity to exercise many of my different passions (production, manual work and especially relational). I can practice several trades in one, so I never get bored.
What aspects of his art do you admire?
I admire JR very much because the essence of his work is to highlight people, people who are often considered ordinary, but everyone has a story. JR tells the stories of all these people and he gives visibility to all these people who are not necessarily seen.
How many people work at Inside Out?
We have a lot of people who are not there full time at Inside Out but who often work with us. The full-time Inside Out team has 6 people but the JR team in general has 25 people.
Do you see him without his sunglasses and hat?
Yeah, right, when we eat lunch together and he doesn’t have his sunglasses and his hat.
What studies have you done? Have you studied art?
I studied urban planning, so I studied public space and the city. I didn’t study art at all. But the Inside Out Project again talks a lot about people and it uses art as a vehicle to carry a message and bring communities together.
What is your typical day?
In the morning I often reply to a lot of emails from Group Leaders all over the world who need help or have managed to accomplish something, so I reply to a lot to emails. Then I make calls with these Group Leaders to help them or guide them through the process of the Inside Out Project. Then I help my colleague to process the images, print them... I also write articles and I work on the curriculum. We work a lot as a team.
Have you ever initiated/created an Inside Out project or an artistic or social project?
I created an Inside Out action in Canada in Montreal with 500 student portraits to make higher education accessible to everyone.
And you, do you have the dream of an Inside Out project that has not yet come true (in relation to a theme or a place...)?
I think a lot of themes have been addressed but what interests me in particular is mental health. If I had to do my own action today, I would work in that direction.
Comments collected by the pupils of 6th and 5th grade.
We warmly thank Emma Berrebi who was kind enough to respond to all our questions.