A barcode can be something you look at without it having any meaning.
For Simone Alter-Muri, this thought came to life as she drew her pictures, as a part of her exhibit “Morph Code,” which is on display in the William Blizard Art Gallery from October 15 to November 8.
“In this current exhibit I attempted to visually describe how images morph into each other,” said Alter-Muri, the director and founder of the undergraduate and graduate Art Therapy and Art Education programs at Springfield College.
“The images [are] of the trees turning into barcodes, the tree bark into barcodes, the trees into barcodes and the images morphing into each other,” continued Alter-Muri. “My work is about data collection and how collection of data can change things around us. When we do not pay attention to things around us they can change. My examples span from genocides to climate issues.”
Alter-Muri has been working on this for the past three years, with her inspiration coming from when she journeyed to Auschwitz and Birkenau in Poland with a group of over 300 people from all over the world.
“I went there with a suitcase of drawing paper treated with charcoal and erasers trying to draw light from darkness,” stated Alter-Muri. “I was able to meet with museum curators and see a collection of 3,000 pieces of art created by the prisoners there. I saw the power of art in times of trauma.”
This journey changed how Alter-Muri looked at art. After her return, she began creating her artwork differently. She combined the art she did with landscapes and the power of the sharp lines she had seen when she was there. This varied between the lines of the barb wire, the stripes on the prisoner uniforms, and the dehumanization of people into skeletons.
“I tried at first to paint barcodes as I researched the links between barcodes and data collection and the use of the early computers to collect information on people,” said Alter-Muri. “I decided to use simple computer graphics to depict the exactness I could not do with a brush [on] a more mechanical looking image, something without a human touch,” continued Alter-Muri.
“As I experimented with different media I knew I needed sharp lines and in the last years I have been printing my barcodes and images.”
Along with the drawings, Springfield students have created dialogue to go along with the images. The two rooms filled with images all have words that students have put together, making this Alter-Muri’s favorite part of the exhibit.
“[It’s great] to have people dialogue about the issues presented by my work and how art speaks the language we all know – the language of the heart,” said Alter-Muri.