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(Re)Housing the American Dream:

Freedom Principles, 2018

(Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles, 2018, 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: Freedom Principles

(Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles, 2018, duration 15:16 min

(Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles explores the historical, cultural and personal notions of freedom through performative actions that have been developed collectively during a one-week intensive film production. The group spent a significant amount of their time exploring the roots to various freedom struggles in Milwaukee, specifically looking to the speech and actions of the youth chapter of the NAACP, who were instrumental in leading a number of civil rights protests in the city in the 1960s. Together, the artist and participants moved throughout the city, visiting the different historical sites where important civil rights actions took place. Marking, building, commemorating, (re)claiming, imagining, occupying, embodying, framing, performing, transmitting many facetted ways freedom can take form.

Self Portraits (Face Time)

Duration 41:11 min, 2018

Part of (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles. Participants imagine and describe their own face from memory.

What a f what a f what a freedom

Duration 43:12 min, 2018

Part of (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles.The participants talk about the concept of freedom, its historical context and their personal interpretations. How does freedom feel, when do you not feel free, what freedom would you fight for?

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