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another installation i-doc: “6 billion others”

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I just went to Brussels and I was lucky enough to get there on the last day of the exhibition of “6 billions others” – by  Yann Arthus-Bertrand (see my comments on the whole project  in my archive).

The project has been going around the globe since 2008, both as a website and as a moving exhibition (not to mention the book, the DVD, the poster, the postcards and all the relevant merchandising). I have played with the website a lot of times, but I had not seen the exhibition yet… so I was very excited to catch it in Brussels…

The archive of footage is indeed mind blowing. And the fact of watching faces coming from the whole world, speaking to you about  personal things, is really touching. Interviews have been devised by themes (family, war, women, fear, happiness, religion etc…) and each theme is projected in a hut (or in Brussels’ case there were lots of small rooms). As a result one browses through a gigantic space, coming in and out from viewing rooms, and moving from a woman speaking about death in an Indian village to a man speaking about love in Canada. If some times the experience is a little too “easy” (is it enough to cut back to back people just sharing a topic?)… I have to admit that the justaposition of themes and people can create some interesting contrasts.

For example: on the theme of “family” one could easily see how what we expect from marriage and children is culturally encrypted. The old man from rural Mali was obviously more interested in the sheeps that he got from his first wife than in some kind of soul meeting. But kids were good for looking after the sheeps, so it all made sense to him. When the cut moved to a German lady, she described family as “jail” – as the end of her independence. Love was for her an ephemeral dream. The next person was a Spanish girl that was dreaming of meeting the right man to give sense to her life through kids as, for her, family is the essence of love. The Japanese geisha that followed had sacrificed family life to live in the shadow of men that already had  families – but wanted other things from her…

The fact of cutting from almost cliched people from all over the world allows a dissonance of answers which creates new meanings. If we all know that family might mean love at times, and compromise at others, it might slip our minds that families are also an economic systems in rural areas and that marital love might not be as essential as our culture wants us to believe. After all sheeps can be more important  than passion in some part of the globe and, more importantly, love with the big “L” might not even be a requirement when looking for the perfect match.

So… there you are: a very simple idea (the one of creating a global database of how people live around the globe) mixed with a large budget (only possible if you are Yann Arthus-Bertrand) can be quite strong!

But more importantly: the fact of sitting in a room watching the interviews makes you spend a lot of time in the exhibition, and the fact of moving through space allows some interesting readings  (for example: I noticed that the room about “love” was full of people, while the one about “women” was nearly empty… interesting no?). This is a completely different experience than watching the website: first because of space and time, but also because the pre-cut films that are in each room are edited specifically to highlight cultural contrast. This contrast is not always obvious when browsing through the website, as one jumps from person to person without selecting the topics – and without knowing which are the best grabs!

All in all I really enjoyed the exhibition and it made me realize, once again, that installation i-docs can be very immersive and very touching…

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This entry was posted on Monday, June 27th, 2011


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