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What do you want to know: Yucef Merhi is a truly contemporary multi-hyphenate – an artist, coder, and academic researcher. A leader in the field of digital and new media, his work has examined technologies such as facial recognition, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and even retro game consoles. In 1998, Merhi created his first “datagram” signature, a type of artwork that makes the digital movements of hacked information visible. Merhi’s most impressive datagrams are installations in which visitors can enter spaces covered in laser-printed data sheets (often showing redactions). This week, the Bonnier gallery presents Merhi’s latest datagram, Center pivot (2022), in a solo booth at the Untitled Art fair in Miami Beach. Center pivot features printed sheets gathered from the US Treasury Department’s database, which includes company information and personal information on individuals linked to international criminal organizations. The title is taken from the Kingpin Act of 1999, which authorizes the President of the United States to freeze the assets of major narcotics traffickers, commonly known as kingpins. Merhi will also have an additional datagram in view, face-to-face (2022), curated by Adriana Meneses as one of the highlights of the fair.
Why we love it: Merhi’s artistic practice, in particular his datagrams, recalls the work of artists engaged in institutional criticism, such as Hans Haacke or Walid Raad. Often the breadth and scope of available data is lost to the viewer, but by creating a physically immersive installation, the process of discovering and exploring data becomes a phenomenological experience. It also introduces visitors to Merhi’s characteristic spatial ordering system, in which the artist performs a basic data transfer protocol online; once the data is collected, the information is printed and arranged in a geometric pattern that results in a dense mass of text that he applies to almost every surface in the exhibition space. At a time when the publication or leak of classified documents and information has become a cornerstone of national and international affairs, Merhi’s work can be understood as an artistic intervention that invites viewers to explore and discover information previously private and draw their own conclusions.
According to the Gallery: “We are very honored to be part of the Untitled lineup this year, and even more proud to present Yucef’s latest datagram, Center pivot. As a pioneer in the field of digital art, Yucef’s works have explored a number of different mediums, always with the intention of influencing change towards compassion. Datagrams are no exception. From the outside, the use of piracy as a tool for artistic creation may seem subversive, and to some extent it most certainly is. However, Yucef only ever presented the datagrams as instruments of education and a way to raise awareness of the issues at hand. I’m so grateful that he has the opportunity to share this on such a big stage next week. —Grant Bonnier
Discover the interior of Yucef Merhi’s installation on the Galerie Bonnier stand below.
Learn more about Yucef Merhi here.
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