Sam Breen joined a group of students and graduates presenting â€œCalArts Plays Itselfâ€Â (September 29 â€“ October 2, 2011) at PACT Zollvereinin Essen, Germany, one of Europeâ€™s up-and coming culture centers. The show featured original, cutting-edge, cross-disciplinary work, including Breenâ€™s â€œTrailer Trash Project: Life Meets Art in a Tin Can.â€ Using a 15-foot inflatable model of a travel trailer he told the story of how he lost his family home after Hurricane Katrina ravagedÂ New Orleans. Â He explained how his motherâ€”aÂ former filmmaker for the United Nations refugee agencyâ€”was left without a place to live after the storm. A few years later, he took on unlikely
project: he began transforming a 33-foot long trailer into a green place to live (for his mother) and a moveable place for him and his fellow artists to showcase their work. Even in its un-restored state, the 1951 Spartan trailer soon became a emblem at CalArts for student-driven creative work, the backdrop and the catalyst for many cultural events around the
institution.Â In Essen, Breenâ€™s gallery space was crammed with the oversized blow-up model, making it hard for guests to ignore his invitation to step inside. The inflatableÂ served as aÂ dominatingÂ yet fragile symbol, a reminder of those who turn to transient living as a last resort.
â€ Sam Breenâ€™s inflatable trailer project â€¦ lays bare contemporaryÂ Americaâ€™sÂ white whale: the housing problem, its connections to the current economic crisis, and to Hurricane Katrina. Like Jonah in the Old Testament, Breen was swallowed up by the whale. Several months later, he has been vomited out: the whale has turned into a screen onto which new stories are projected. The contemporary state of collapse has turned into a space of play, where new individualities and collectivities emergeâ€
Breen, who recently received an MFA in acting from CalArts, considered his 10-
day stay at the PACT-Zollverin festival as a residency, using the opportunity to develop his presentationÂ with hisÂ audience. He invited fellow artistsâ€” musicians taking part in other performances at the festivalâ€” to impromptu jam sessions inside the trailer. Daily conversationsÂ with patrons helped shape the installation. Many noted how theÂ inflatable, sustained by two household fans, appeared to â€œbreatheâ€ as people entered andÂ exited. It had a similar effect on Breen, who returned to Los Angeles energizedÂ with a new perspective on his project. He is planning to conduct more residencies, this time inside his actual trailer, which he will bring to the parking lots of cultural institutions in and around Southern California to continue renovating the trailer and performing art.
The Trailer Trash Project is a recent recipient of an Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation.
This post is part of a series documenting Sam Breen’a Spartan Restoration Project. Please see his first post here and check out the archive here. The CSPA is helping Sam by serving in an advisory role, offering modest support and featuring Sam’s Progress by syndicating his feed from http://spartantrailerrestoration.wordpress.com as part of our CSPA Supports Program.