We live in a strange era in which the world is dominated by social media. It’s a Black Mirror episode where human value is essentially based on “likes” and our daily lives are dominated by behavioral and demographic data. Social media exists as a place to not only connect, but to share your most intimate personal moments, as well as the most inane. Privacy is for the uncool and every event (and non-event) is a fun-loving photo opportunity, laid bare on an endless, scrolling landscape.
A disturbing and related trend is one in which people snap selfies at inappropriate times and place, including riots, exploding buildings, car crashes, and even national memorial sites. Artist and activists Shahak Shapira is the creator of Yolocaust, a project dedicated to (hopefully) ending this practice, at least a little. His interactive website, Yolocaust.com, uploads photos from profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Grindr, and Tinder (yes, even hookup sites), of people glibly posing at the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. He removes the background of these images and replaces it with actual images of the atrocities of the Holocaust. By doing so, Shapiro wants to explore “our commemorative culture by combining selfies from the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin with footage from Nazi extermination camps.” The results are sobering indeed.
Don’t believe there’s enough location-based photos to sustain the project? If you scour any social media site you’ll find that countless photos exist of people duck-lipping in front of this sprawling installment, seemingly unaware of what it stands for.
In a time when the US President is nothing but a Twitter-ranting, reality TV star, what difference does it make to defile a memorial with a pose-y selfie, one might ask? The answer is twofold: first, it’s just disrespectful to the hardship and destruction of millions of lives, but second, it perpetuates the callous (and infantile) selfishness of our current throwaway culture. Nothing is sacred, because, well, we are not scared. We are for display purposes only. Our experiences only exist in the capsule of our social media. And while that might be a blanket statement, you don’t have to look far (just go to your Facebook) to draw your own conclusions on that.
Yolocaust is thought-provoking, disturbing, and absolutely necessary. It holds a mirror up to the guilty parties for them to see the error of their ways. Let’s see what good it does them.
The artist Shahak Shapira