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(Re)Housing the American Dream, 2016, video stills

(Re)Housing the American Dream is an ongoing community-based performative documentary project directed by Artist-Filmmaker Kirsten Leenaars (Dutch b). Leenaars creates work by engaging specific communities in a participatory framework that, often through humor and play, prompts participants to consider their own points of connection and sense of shared humanity. Influenced by philosopher Hannah Arendt’s concept of “the space of appearance,” which emerges when multiple actors with different positions and perspective relate to one another through speech and action, Leenaars’ explores the role of film in capturing the plurality and unpredictability that, according to Arendt, produces political action.


Initiated in 2015, (Re)Housing the American Dream has continuously and simultaneously existed inside and outside of the museum’s walls. Each year, the same group of refugee and American-born children—introduced by Leenaars during her artist residencies at the Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language International Newcomer Center and Highland Community School—have collaboratively developed a theme to explore. An annual summer camp, devised by Leenaars and informed by characteristic elements of her hybrid social, performance, and video practice, has served as the forum for the group’s critical engagement with complex social and civic issues. The films produced during the summer camp—ranging from traditional interviews to more poetic three-channel art installations—have been exhibited at the Haggerty each fall. Project website:

(Re)Housing the American Dream, 2016

(Re)Housing the American Dream, three-channel video, 2016, duration 13:22 min

Personal histories and experiences from the participating middle school students served as metaphors to explore the real and imagined reality of the American Dream. Collectively students and artist developed public performances, interventions and video work. The project raises questions about the notions of home, belonging and happiness in context of the American Dream. Delving into the complex notions of place, person, community, family, country, origin, land, or a moment of time as a site of identification, with being a person. The different works ponder the enduring question of what it means to be human and how this has become inextricably from the question who we are to each other? How is the American Dream both an individual and collective dream? These young residents of Milwaukee imagined and (re)envisioned the American Dream and what is most required to allow this dream to unfold.

We the People

Video, duration 16:59 min, 2016

Part of the (Re)Housing the American Dream project.
Interviews with all the participating middle school students about home, belonging, segregation, the American Dream, Donald Trump and immigration.

New and Definitively Improved

Video, duration 14:14 min 2016

New and Definitively Improved is part of the (Re)Housing the American Dream project. Participating middle school students present their dream homes to you in improvised ‘tell sell’ commercial style.

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