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Interactive Documentary Archive

6 milliards d’Autres (6 billion Others)

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2008
By: Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Project type: CD-ROM collaborative DVD Installation locative Web

Description:

6 billion Others is a massive video exhibition (and a web project) done by Yann Arthus-Bertrand (he is the one that did the incredible photos in “Earth  from above” back in 1994 ).

In 2003 Yann Arthus-Bertrand had the idea of doing a ‘portrait of contemporary mankind by asking questions about universal values’.

Arthus-Bertrand and his team wrote a series of questions – on the lines of “What is happiness? What lessons can we learn from life’s difficulties? What is the meaning of life?”- and travelled the world for 5 years visiting 75 countries and interviewing 5,000 people. The massive database of answers was then used to do both an exhibition (from the 10th of January to the 12th of Febrruary 2009 at the Grand Palais in Paris) and a collaborative website where people can view the interviews but also send their own answers to the questions.

The exhibition is meant to travel the world. The interviews are organised by themes, each theme beeing in a room  (or a hut). People can browse around and be immersed in an exhibition where “real” people from all aver the world speak about their own beliefs and fears.

The website is more like a browsable fresco. An overwhelming mosaic of clickable faces allows us to follow people, topics or texts. I highly suggest to see the French part of the website (as the English one is an old version and is not as well designed).

Find out more:

See the French website of 6 milliard d’Autres

See the English website of 6 billion Others

Watch a video of how the exhibition at the Grand Palais was put together

My comments:

I believe this is a fascinating project, not only by scale but by its affective impact. I have not been to the exhibition myself, but I have friends that have spent hours transfixed by the grabs of 6 millions d’Autres. I suspect there is something magic about listening to a world of people that one will probably never meet, especially if what they say is very personal.

The interviews were cleverly shot with a standard portrait framing (by tilting the camera horizontally) which gives a photographic touch to the experience. Also, this type of shot brings a feeling of proximity and presence that is quite powerful.

The website is a stand alone project which obviously uses the same database used for the exhibition. I suspect though that the feeling is very different. The web experience is more about browsing and collaborating, while I assume the exhibition is more immersive.

Although the whole project is a little commercial and simplistic (can we really claim to do a portrait of contemporary manking by selecting 5,000 people?) I believe it is very strong. One cannot but feel whowed by it… so many faces, so many stories, so many different lifes… for one second the multiplicity of our lives seems to be graspable.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

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