Aschheim's installation is about people's memories of events that took place during the Nixon Presidency and the summer of 1974. Aschheim was artist-in-residence for seven months at the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro (now the Orange County Great Park). President Nixon, family, guests, and staff would travel to El Toro by Presidential helicopter during visits to the Nixon home, La Casa Pacifica, in San Clemente.
Nixon's connection to El Toro and Orange County inspired Aschheim to interview park visitors about their own memories tied to events in the Nixon era. Aschheim made large-scale pen and ink drawings based on images from the Nixon era to inspire "involuntary memories" (the term, from cognitive psychology, refers to spontaneously triggered memories of autobiographical experiences) and to encourage people to tell her their personal stories. Text from these interviews is incorporated into the installation alongside the original drawings. "Richard Nixon's close ties to Southern California continue to reverberate in the memories of many local residents," states acting Director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum Susan Donius. "These ties make Involuntary Memories timely, informative, and an interesting way in which to view the life and career of the 37th President."
Deborah Aschheim makes large-scale immersive installations, sculptures, and drawings based on invisible worlds of memory and information. For the past ten years, she has been trying to understand and visualize memory, a subject that has led her to work with musicians and neuroscientists.