Anne In New York is a series of images which continues my exploration into the representation of the Holocaust in American culture. There is a certain irreverence to using Anne Frank's visage in anything other than a sacred context. By doing so, I am attempting to wrench the viewer out of the more familiar trappings of Holocaust imagery: barbed wire, flames, black and white images of trains, etc.
"She is perhaps Hitler's best known victim, but what was Anne Frank really like?" So reads the postcard pinned to my bulletin board, which advertises the recent film, Anne Frank Remembered. Most of the hype surrounding Anne Frank is not really concerned with Anne herself (and the film really isn't, either), but is concerned with what I have come to call The Cult of Anne Frank. She has been made into the quintessential Holocaust victim for a variety of reasons. She wasn't an observant Jew, and as such assimilated American Jews can relate to her. As a young girl, her "innocence" is redoubled by her age and her gender. And, her story ends neatly, we do not need to read about her suffering. In fact, many are unaware that Anne died in Bergen-Belsen.
Anne's face, made slightly forlorn and opaque by its translation into a graffiti stencil, has come to symbolize the suffering of millions of people. Can one image really bear that kind of weight? As a monochromatic "tag", the image takes on the iconic status of such images as Warhol's Monroe, Che Guevara, and others. She looms about New York City, locus for American Jewish culture, such a seamless part of the urban landscape that she is scarcely noticed by passersby. Her translation into American culture is so complete that when her image is reunited with its original caption, "I usually look quite different," in her own handwriting, we hardly notice that the caption is in English, while Anne Frank wrote in Dutch.
Rachel Schreiber is an artist and writer who works with photography, video, and computers. Her videotapes have screened internationally in such festivals as the World Wide Video Festival, the London Jewish Film Festival, the New York Video Festival, the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Women in the Director's Chair Festival in Chicago. Her writing has been published in such journals as Index: Contemporary Art and Culture; the New Art Examiner; and Afterimage. She received her MFA in Photography and Critical Writing from the California Institute of the Arts, and subsequently participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. Schreiber lives in Baltimore, where she teaches electronic media at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.