(Re)Housing the American Dream is a community based, performative documentary project. It provides a collective forum for refugee and American born children to engage critically with their intersecting issues of immigration, segregation, housing, and happiness. It is structured as a free, three-week summer camp in Milwaukee’s Near West Side. The first iteration of this camp took place in June 2016. In the months prior to camp I had many conversations with local organizations and I reached out to local schools,(Highland Community School and MACL Newcomers’ Program), to extend these conversations and engage with youth. I worked with the students during class room hours to develop writing projects that explored themes of home and belonging. Student discussions gravitated toward concerns about the rise of Donald Trump. The summer camp grew out of these conversations. I created a porous framework within which the students were afforded their own sense of agency. As a result, the project responded directly to the context (psychological, geographical) in which the collaboration took place.
Personal histories and experiences shared by participating Milwaukee middle school students, served as metaphors to explore the real versus imagined interpretation of the American Dream. The students re-envisioned the constitution and turned these into protest signs. Together we created a choreography for a ‘American Dream Machine’ and took over a parking lot to build houses from cardboard. These and other performative actions became the narrative material for a three-channel video installation and other works exhibited at the Haggerty Museum of Art . This summer I am working with the same group of youth to develop a response piece, post-election, which will be produced and shown at the museum as well.