Balboa Park offers many ways to wile away an afternoon, but for the next few months, one of the best options is at the Museum of Photographic Arts.
It’s there you’ll find the exhibit “7 Billion Others” on view through September 13, 2015. It’s an incredibly moving look at the human condition and finds universal themes across drastically different living conditions and cultures.
The exhibit features multiple videos of individuals from 84 different countries. The videos are the work of authors Sybille d’Orgeval and Baptiste Rouget-Luchaire, who traveled the world for seven years with reporters, asking interview subjects the same 45 questions. “What meaning does life have for you?” “What did you learn from your parents?” “What message do you want to pass on to your children?” “What do you fear?”
They recorded all the testimonials, ending up with a quilt of interpretations and experiences.
It’s hard to avoid clichés when describing 7 Billion Others because the themes are so universal and broad. Cliché or not, we’re going to describe it here in the hopes that you’ll visit this groundbreaking work.
The videos are grouped by questions and by subjects, like those of love, fear, or happiness. In one video, a Los Angeles woman admits her idea of happiness is a cliché. Every day she tries to imagine that something fabulous will happen to her. A woman from France says happiness is harder to find. She believes some people are born with a propensity for happiness and she isn’t one of them. A 26-year-old man from Bangladesh says he isn’t completely happy because he hasn’t yet found love. He asks: why don’t girls like me?
Almost all of the interview subjects are filmed from the neck up, with their faces filling the frame. As you watch face after face appear, the physical differences are so captivating. It’s amazing to think we all have the same parts – two eyes, a nose and mouth – yet we look so drastically different and individualistic.
The interview subjects discuss plenty of weighty topics. An Iraqi Christian woman explains that she left her country because of killings and robberies while a Serbian man, now living in France, tells of how he dreams of his homeland every night. A woman in Senegal describes poverty as a kind of violence. A man in Japan says in order to fall in love, you have to be willing to destroy yourself. One woman from Africa fears living through another volcano. A common fear across countries is going to hell or fear of God. A man from Cuba said he’s more afraid that God doesn’t exist and that we’re alone in the universe.
Part of the7 Billion Others exhibit includes videos of the authors and reporters at work in the field. You see them going through footage at the end of a long day, often in third world countries. Some of the behind-the-scene videos give more context to the interview subjects. You might see their houses or families surrounding them.
All of this creates an overwhelming sense of connectedness and understanding with individuals living across the world. San Diego marks 7 Billion Others’ U.S. premiere. I guarantee you’ll leave feeling inspired and in awe of how complex we are as human beings.