Day 7: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

Who are we, as the new generation of ‘freedom fighters’ advocates, organizers, leaders, change makers? What is our role, how can we take charge? How do we take action? What does action look like? What do we need in order for freedom to exist? What conditions? What freedom principles do we need?

Day 6: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

What do you stand for, what would you fight for, what is the message you want to broadcast to the world? What do you think is something everyone should consider, think about? What do you have to say? And who do you want to say it to? What are ways in which you can say it?

Day 5: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

What are ways we transmit messages, facts, meanings, opinions, stories, perspectives, propaganda, fears, desires, hopes? Through which kind of media exits our freedom of speech? Who can broadcast, who can listen. Who has access to this information? We look at the historical role of radio throughout the times, from WWII through radio pirate boats in the seventies and Radio Freedom; the radio propaganda arm of the African National Congress during the anti-Apartheid struggle from the 1970s through the 1990s. How has radio been used in pursuit of freedom and how has radio been used to oppress, instigate, retaliate? We also contemplate: what does freedom feel like? What does it feel like not to be free?

Day 4: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

What does it mean to have a voice? What does it mean to express yourself? What does it mean to use your voice? What will you use your voice for? What will you stand up for, fight for? What does it mean to amplify someone else’s voice? What does freedom of speech mean, freedom of expression? “We must not be confused about what freedom is. Basic human rights are simple and easily understood: freedom of speech and a free press; freedom of religion and worship; freedom of assembly and the right of petition; the right of men to be secure in their homes and free from unreasonable search and seizure and from arbitrary arrest and punishment”. (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1948) “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning”. (Maya Angelou) “The human voice is the organ of the soul”. (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Day 3: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

What does it mean to be a body in public space? Is every body as free to move, to protest, to take up space, to celebrate? What does it mean to be a person of color, or female, or transgender, a Muslim, or a young black male, navigating public space? How is your body perceived? How is a collective body perceived? What kind of bodies is a collective body made of? How can we use our bodies to claim space, create space, space, mark space, protest, resist, shape? How does your body move towards freedom? What are the signs, the gestures your body makes? What is a choreography of resistance, of change?

Day 2: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

What is the geographical, economical, historical, symbolic and metaphorical meaning of a bridge?  How is the idea of a bridge connected to the idea of freedom? What does it mean to encounter someone else, ‘the other’? Can the other be a bridge, if so how, in what way? How does ‘the other’ impede, or give you your freedom? Are you independent of the other person, or do you depend on each other, rely on each other for your existence? How do you relate? What do you realize about yourself through encountering another person? We look at the philosophy of the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. He states: when we come “face to face” with another person, the experience is a social and ethical one (rather than intellectual, aesthetic, or merely physical). Through encountering the other we realize our own vulnerability and our responsibility towards the other.

Day 1: (Re)Housing the American Dream: Freedom Principles

Free·dom |ˈFrēdəm/. We dive heads in first into to bold and complex concept of freedom. One of the very foundational ideas the American Dream and the American constitution relies on. A concept the group collectively suggested we explore for this year’s (Re)Housing the American Dream iteration in response to a time in America, in which certain freedoms seem to become under threat (again) and others are questionably protected (the right to bear arms). In our work space, we discuss what different definitions of freedom and what freedom means to each of the participants.  We look at the language that’s circumscribes freedom: movement, power, distribution, restriction, breaking free, play, entanglement, joy, signals, messages, knots, speech, speaking, sound, voice, confinement, right to, protection, enclosures, migration, celebration,  chaos, forward, progress, regression, oppression, liberation.

Installation Views (Re)Housing the American Dream: A Message from the Future at the Haggerty Museum of Art


October 6, 2017 – January 14, 2018

During the summer of 2017, Chicago-based performance and video artist Kirsten Leenaars reprised her collaboration with a group of 24 middle school students from two Near West Side schools—Highland Community School and the International Newcomer Center in the Milwaukee Academy of Chinese Language—to create a video, (Re)Housing the American Dream: A Message From The Future.

During the 2016 film shoot—which was structured as a three week summer camp—personal histories and experiences from the participating students served as metaphors to explore the actual and imagined reality of the American Dream. In 2017 Leenaars and her collaborators revisited that model to imagine America fifty years from now. Where will they be? What will the world look like? How will people reflect on the present moment? The students resumed conversations about complex issues of the day, including the environment, economics, race, gender, equality, education, technology, and (im)migration to collectively envision their tomorrow. 

Video Interviews: The Shape of Things (Come Tomorrow)

Video interviews, part of (Re)Housing the American Dream:A Message from the Future
The participants talk about their future selves, a future America and the future of the world – while reflecting back on our times today. 
What does it mean to be a human being? 
What does it mean to be of my culture?
What does it mean to live in the place I do?
What does it mean to have a voice?
What does it mean to be an American?

Three Channel Video: (Re)Housing the American Dream: A Message from the Future

How to imagine a future America when you are thirteen in what feels like a rather uncertain time? How are our desires and fears marked by the reality of today? How to give shape to these future imaginations through performative actions?