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Inside/Out: Memory Archive


Image by Caitlin Duennebier.

Being a pack rat and a sucker for attachment to objects, I’ve put a lot of thought into the value of things if you are using memory as a currency.

Recently my sister Nicole Duennebier and I were invited to participate in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum ongoing project Living Room, created by Lee Mingwei. The series was inspired by Gardener’s collection of art and her desire to share it with others. Different people are invited to host the project, bringing in several objects from their personal collection. The items range from bones to shopping bags, and all have a story that visitors are encouraged to engage in and discuss. In September my sister and I will be showing a collection of objects we stole from each other.

Why are these things important to us? Perhaps the object becomes a key that subsequently unlocks a memory. A memory that would otherwise be lost. When I moved back to Boston from London I packed up all my belongings on a large wooden pallet where it was tucked into a shipping container and put on a boat for three months with hundreds of other shipping containers. During that time I did not miss anything on that boat and when it arrived I was inherently surprised I had forgotten about all my memory-inducing objects. I thought about how there is probably still a very nomadic aspect of our brains, with the ability to move on, forget and start over.

Collected objects of Caitlin Duennebier

"Dandelion my first boyfriend put in my hair, four-sided die, golden peanut, shell, red sea glass, rabbit stamp, flattened penny, key to my childhood home." Image by Caitlin Duennebier.

One of these objects is a black lock box from my childhood filled with pretty much everything you can imagine a child might collect including arrowheads, wheat pennies, red sea glass, wisdom teeth and my first pack of cigarettes. I continued the collection into adulthood, only adding objects that had great significance and creating a sort of object-based timeline of my life. The last couple of objects are the wedding band from my failed marriage and a polaroid from last New Years Eve.

Artist-made mix tapes

OKAY GREAT DAY #1. Images by Caitlin Duennebier.

I’ve been incorporating these ideas of memory and objects in my most recent project OK GREAT DAY. Each cassette tape is unique and given to anyone who wants one. I ask for nothing in return but in some instances participants have reciprocated by sending back their very own mix tapes. These I cherish and have added to my ever-growing memory archive.

About Author

Caitlin Duennebier is an artist based in Boston, MA, where she creates work under the name "Oh Papa." She earned her BFA in photography at MassArt, and studied abroad on scholarship at University of the Arts London. Her work has been shown at Space Gallery, Boston Sculptors Gallery, Lincoln Arts Project and Thomas Young Gallery.

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