Deborah Aschheim: Involuntary Memories:
Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and the Nixon Years

2013, Great Park Art Gallery, Orange County Great Park
Irvine, CA

Guest curated by Meg Linton

Involuntary Memories is an installation of drawings, sculptures, artifacts and text from interviews I conducted with park visitors during my 2011-12 residency at OCGP (formerly Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which closed in 1999 and reopened in 2007-10 as the Great Park).  I was interested in people in Orange County’s changing relationship to the Nixon/Vietnam era in now that 40 years have passed since the war and since Watergate. I interviewed people who stopped by my open studio on Sundays for the seven months that I was in residence, collecting stories that were triggered when people looked at my drawings of iconic images of the early years at UC Irvine, Nixon, marines and protestors circa 1960-73.

In the installation, I combined text from on site interviews with original sculptures and drawings based on archival images I researched, many of them from UC Irvine Archives and Special Collections. In the ad hoc interviews, visitors to the open studio talked about the original dream of Southern California suburbs, (the creation of UC Irvine and William Pereira’s master plan for the City of Irvine) versus the growing escalation of the war in Vietnam and the rise of antiwar activism, they re-lived the day the President resigned, and related their feelings of compassion or anger. A middle aged U.S. Marine veteran told me about the last time he had stepped foot on the site where we were standing: he was an enthusiastic 18 year old recruit who had come with his sister and mother to board his flight to Southeast Asia, on what turned out to be the last normal day of his life.

The exhibition also featured a video by Penny Lane and Brian Frye, the directors and producers of Our Nixon an all-archival documentary created from never before seen home movies filmed by Nixon staffers.  Land and Frye compiled a reel of excerpts from The Silent Majority: Super 8 Home Movies from the Nixon White House for Involuntary Memories.

Read Meg’s intro here: MEG LINTON INTRO PDF

Read Indre Viskonta’s essay, Remembering is a Creative Act: INDRE VISKONTAS ESSAY PDF

Note: Texts in quotes below the drawings are excerpts from interviews I conducted with Park visitors in 2011 and 2012. Photos of drawings by Lee Thompson except for January 23, 1967 (UC Irvine) photo by Ed Glendinning. Photos of installation by George Katzenberger.