Dorothea Braemer b. 1961, Our House, 2007; DVD installation with dollhouse, monitors, dvd players, video, and 8 mm film projection, dimensions variable, total-run-time looping; Gift of the artist, 2008
When the installation Our House, which includes 10 short documentaries about my childhood home, was presented in Beyond/In Western New York 2007, at the University at Buffalo Art Gallery, the following statement by Curator Sandra Firmin was included in the exhibition catalog:
The title Our House implies inclusiveness. In this multi-media video installation [shown with a dollhouse and monitors], Dorothea Braemer is not only referring to her childhood home in Starnberg, Bavaria—an all-female universe where she grew up with a mother and three ‘opinionated and strong-willed’ sisters—but to memories of home in general. Through Super 8 and video documentary footage, we are privy to a life experience filtered through the eyes of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with their adult responsibilities while simultaneously summoning childhood memories. The installation comprises a dollhouse in which tiny monitors, installed in representative rooms, display reenactments of a difficult scenario unfolding—the decision to sell the childhood home and help transition a parent to assisted living. Using masks and paper cutouts who type passionate emails, Braemer reenacts the arguments between herself and her sisters, each sibling assuming she knows what is best for her mother.
What is this home environment? Typically, when stories are told from a child’s point of view, everyday objects and their surrounding landscape undergo a magical transformation. Yet, in this case, we are presented with the realism of an old house with broken windows and crammed with bric-a-brac. ‘In the gardens,’ Braemer describes, ‘two containers are filled with broken furniture, old paper, books, and other suddenly useless items. But for a child,’ she explains, ‘it was a place to dream and play…a world where afternoons drifted by like butterflies and days disappeared in a dark hold.’