Friday, March 22, 2013

"Deborah Aschheim: Involuntary Memories: Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and the Nixon Years" - Great Park Gallery of the Palm Court Arts Complex of Orange County Great Park, April 27 - September 2

I am honored to host artist Deborah Aschheim's announcement for her upcoming show at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. Material from my personal draft file is included in the show so I am eager to see it. For the Viet Nam vets and the people such as myself who had to jump through burning hoops to stay out of the conflict, it was cathartic to share our stories of those traumatic times with Deborah. Below is Deborah's statement about the show which we all, liberals and conservatives alike, really need to see to keep our country's historic actions fresh in our minds and in in proper perspective so that, hopefully, history won't repeat itself a third, fourth and fifth time.

Edward Cella, Tom Leeser, Deborah Aschheim and Meg Linton at the Edward Cella Gallery discussing Aschheim's "Nostalgia for the Future," September 25, 2010. Photo by John Crosse. (Author's note: I included much about the Anti-Viet Nam War protests at the Century Plaza Hotel in my review of this show, "The Kindred Spirits of Deborah Aschheim and Richard Bradshaw: Nostalgia for the Future: Deborah Aschheim at the Edward Cella Gallery Sept. 11 - Oct. 23, 2010" which we also discussed at the above Cella Gallery talk (see below for example).)

Los Angeles Times, June 24, 1967.

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

Washington, D.C., August 9, 1974.

From 2011-12, I was invited to one of the first Artists-in-Residence at Orange County Great Park in Irvine, CA, a new twenty-first century public space created out of the shuttered El Toro Marine Airbase. El Toro was a significant airbase for Southern California troop deployments during the Vietnam War, and President Richard Nixon used El Toro as his airport when he commuted between Washington and the “Western White House” in San Clemente, CA.  In my personal works on memory, I use my family movies and photos as what psychologists call “retrieval cues,” exploring the capacity of images to trigger my own emotions and memories. I decided to use this opportunity for public engagement to continue my exploration of the interrelationship between memory and place and this time, 40-50 years ago, that exists between memory and history, and I dedicated myself to triggering other people’s memories.

Washington, D. C., November 25, 1963.

For my Artist-in-Residence project, I made drawings of iconic images from the Nixon Era to serve as “retrieval cues,” inspiring park visitors to remember their memories into my digital field recorder.  Each week, I transcribed their stories and pinned them up on my studio walls.  I added new drawings based on the events they described until the studio became a continually evolving tapestry of verbal and visual memory. 

The conversations were candid, surprising and somehow transcended political divisions. People talked about the original dream of Irvine as a utopian American suburb, the creation of UC Irvine and William Pereira’s Master Plan for the city and the University, versus the growing escalation of the war in Vietnam and the rise of campus activism. People relived the day the President resigned and related their feelings of compassion or anger. A University of Southern California alumnus recalled his shock when his Sigma Chi brothers from the Nixon Administration were sentenced to prison for their role in Watergate. 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 project that evolved out of my site-specific residency, “Involuntary Memories: Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and the Nixon Years” documents this spontaneous narrative of optimism and conflict emerging out of the postwar period.

The Moon, July 21, 1969.

Washington, D.C., April 30, 1970.

The show will be an installation of drawings and text from transcribed interviews with visitors conducted during my artist-in-residence project in the park, along with 2 new sculptures, artifacts lent by park visitors The exhibition is guest-curated by Meg LintonDirector of Galleries and Exhibitions at Otis College of Art and Design, and is accompanied by an illustrated catalog with essays by Linton and Bay Area neuroscientist Indre Viskontas. The exhibition also includes a thirty minute DVD loop of excerpts from The Silent Majority: Super 8 Home Movies from the Nixon White House that was filmed by H. R. Haldeman, John Erlichman and Dwight Chapin which has been preserved and compiled by Penny Lane and Brian Frye - it is an excerpt from their feature film Our Nixon which is screening at South by Southwest and MOMA's "New Directors/New Films 2013" this month.

The Orange County Great Park is located off the 5 or 405 freeway at Sand Canyon and Marine Way in Irvine. For more information, please visit or call 949-724-OCGP. Great Park Gallery Hours are Thursdays & Fridays: noon - 4 pm and Saturdays & Sundays: 10am - 4pm.

Irvine, May 4, 1970.