Joseph Cornell’s mixed media piece “Hotel Eden” created in 1945, presents a memory that never happened. This interactive artwork aims to engage the viewer as it changes its time and space depending on their interaction. The artwork features a music box filled with everyday items and found objects arranged in a box, producing original compositions of sound.
Cornell was an American artist influenced by Surrealism and primarily known for his avant-garde experimental films and assemblage works made from ordinary materials. He was interested in creating fantasy worlds, which allowed him to stay connected to the mystery of the world while he cared for his invalid brother and mother until their deaths.
The piece, “Hotel Eden,” is one of Cornell’s most renowned works that explores the themes of memory, nostalgia, and longing. Cornell’s decision to involve viewers in this particular piece is significant because their interaction contributes to continuously rearranging the existing memories within it. As viewers interact with Hotel Eden, they are given agency over how they experience it which ultimately reflects back to them experiencing their own interpretations of nostalgia at present moment.