Poet on Earth (2017) is a multilingual interactive installation comprised by videos, dynamic images and sounds as a network of memories from Yucef Merhi’s 40 year-long journey as a Venezuelan immigrant. Memories are triggered chronologically as you engage with the installation.
For Merhi, being an immigrant and nomad is usual. His first trip to Europe and the Middle East, at 2 years old, became the beginning of a long journey. The idea of "Poet on Earth" emerged from his experience as an expatriate, full of encounters and revelations, but also of bureaucratic regrets and emotional distancing. Between 1999 and 2018 more than 4 million Venezuelans have migrated abroad. The number of Venezuelans living in in other countries during that period increased more than 2,000%. This phenomenon has been named Bolivarian Diaspora. According to Merhi, "living as an expatriate is an existential experience that has influenced my habits and shaped my cognitive process."
Poet on Earth
was originally installed in front of the Maritime Museum of Stavanger, Norway, inside of a boat container. When visitors entered the container, an optical device controlled by facial recognition software, identified the participants and activated a sequence of videos. Videos were projected and played forward or backward according to the distance from the sensor. The projections displayed reminiscences in the life of the artist, such as his first steps at the main square of Caracas (Plaza Bolívar), recorded in 1978 with an 8 mm film camera; as well as other poetically significant moments during his last 3 decades in Caracas, Baghdad, New York, Paris, Mérida, La Antigua, and Cuenca, among other cities where Merhi has lived.
The artist explains: " The production of this project started from a meditation that initiated an archaeological search of audiovisual records, in different formats and from various moments of my life. Then, I selected a significant set of experiences that show the progress from one place-time to another. It is fascinating to see how in less than 40 years we went from recording with cameras that used films and required chemical development, to record and store HD movies in cards the size of a fingernail. The editing process helped me to remember and move on, without nostalgia."