|Sam Breen joined a group of students and graduates presenting “CalArts Plays Itself” at PACT Zollverein (Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2011) in Essen, Germany, one of Europe’s up-and coming culture centers.
The show featured original cutting-edge work that crossed artistic disciplines. Breen’s contribution, “The Trailer Trash Project: Life Meets Art in a Tin Can,” used a 15-foot inflatable model of a trailer which he used to tell the story of how he lost his family home after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans and his mother—a former filmmaker for the United Nations refugee agency—was left without a place to live. A few years later, Breen took on his unlikely project: 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 became an emblem at CalArts for student-driven creative work, a backdrop and catalyst for many cultural events around the institution. At Essen, his gallery space was crammed with the oversized model, making it hard for visitors to ignore his invitation to step inside. The inflatable served as a dominating yet fragile symbol, a reminder of those who turn to transient living as a last resort.
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 presentation with his audience. He invited fellow artists— musicians taking part in other performances at the festival— to impromptu jam sessions inside the trailer. Daily conversations with patrons helped shape the installation. Many noted how the inflatable, sustained by two household fans, appeared to “breathe” as people entered and exited. It had a similar effect on Breen, who returned to Los Angeles energized 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.