NO ONE IS HOME: BARCODES SUBURBIA AND THE HOLOCAUST
SIMONE ALTER MURI AND HARRIET GRAICERSTEIN
This mother daughter collaboration evokes reflections about labels, identity, and inhumanity. Today, barcodes are everywhere; we take them for granted. Just as people are dehumanized during genocides, Simone’s artwork explores the connection between using prisoner tattoos to “count” persons while “dis-counting” their personal identities and the barcodes in today’s society that interpose abstraction between people and products. The exhibit looks at surveillance in the past, and also makes reference to the role of modern technology, and how it can be used to spy on people. In both cases, surveillance and control are facilitated.
Simone’s artwork developed during her Holocaust series, inspired by a research trip to Auschwitz, Poland that was a personal pilgrimage as well as an aspect of her academic research. Not only did she have relatives who were killed there, but Simone was named after an uncle, Seymour, killed in the war. Thus her name bears the legacy of man’s inhumanity towards man.
Connections to the past are exemplified by Simone’s collaboration with the art of her mother Harriet, an artist celebrating her 85th birthday. Harriet’s paintings depict empty suburban houses surrounded by natural landscapes. Like snapshots that appear real, they evoke questions about whether the people who live there actually see the beauty around them. These houses relate to Simone’s experience in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, where she saw the beauties of nature and homes behind of the gates of the concentration camp.
This exhibit that makes us wonder about the many things we may take for granted, such as labels, lines, and being at home but not looking outside. It extends beyond the usual mission of Holocaust exhibitions which exhort the public “not to forget” about the genocide and inhumanity of the past, but to confront the prevailing prejudice in the present. It explores the parallels between the social aspects of the Holocaust, such as the erosion of the rights of the Jewish people and the willful ignorance of the general populace. This awareness is reflected in contemporary indifference in suburbia, and suggests that humanity harbors the potential to foster genocide once again.