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Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 3.160
"You Cannot Say You Did Not Know": Holocaust Memorial Selfies and the "Yolocaust Project"
In January of 2017, Shahak Shapira’s “Yolocaust Project,” a digital exhibition of tourist selfies taken at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial with images from concentration camps photoshopped into the background, went live. The exhibit sparked discussion around appropriate behaviors at the memorial site, as well as the effectiveness of the site itself in facilitating memories of the Holocaust. Building on John Ellis' theory of media witnessing, this paper posits the Berlin Holocaust Memorial as a failed "remembering text" and understands the selfies taken at the site as second-hand remembering texts. Shapira’s response to these texts, and perhaps to the failure of the memorial site itself, demonstrates a new type of media witnessing that has only recently become possible through the proliferation of shared digital spaces and easy access to editing software. By replacing the background of the memorial selfies with images from the actual concentration camps, Shapira has removed the distance in space between the memorial visitor and the actual place of atrocity, effectively “re-placing” the visitor at the camps themselves. Additionally, by using images taken at the time of the Holocaust, he has similarly removed the temporal distance between the memorial visitor and the event. This remediation of remembering texts forces the memorial visitors to "re-witness" the Holocaust while simultaneously enacting a form of social policing that serves as a deterrent to innappropriate selfie-taking at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial, and possibly Holocaust memorials writ-large, for all who witness it.