Renee Green: Endless Dreams and Water Between National Maritime Museum London January 22 to April 21
'To make any one kind of authoritative statement about the way things are', the American artist and writer Renee Green once said, 'is specious'; hers is the oblique approach, the network of suggestions rather than the quest for a definite answer. Green's installations operate like three-dimensional mind maps of works-in-progress. Her dense National Maritime Museum solo exhibition 'Endless Dreams and Water Between' is true to this principle. Spreading over four rooms, the show is an archipelago of films, sounds, books, banners and drawings on the idea of the island and, by extension, the myths and stories associated with the sea. A series of characters - a woman called Clara, American poet Laura Riding, French writer Georges Sand--crop up in various media, inhabiting this conceptual and spatial meandering, accompanying the viewers from one gallery to the next, safeguarding the always-at-risk unity of this constellated presentation.
'Endless Dreams and Water Between' unravels in a visual and textual ballade where past, present, future, real and imaginary collide. This is characteristic of the artist's understanding of history and knowledge as defined by the personal and the fragmented, a position often reflected in the internal organisation of her installations and video works. In Green's well-known Partially Buried in Three Parts, 1995-97, the artist constructed an intricate portrait of the year 1970 by looking at the site of Kent State University where her mother studied, where Robert Smithson built his Partially Buried Woodshed and where four students protesting against the US campaign in Cambodia were shot dead by the National Guard.
Some Chance Operations, 1999, shown in the NMM's entrance room alongside two other older films, functions on the same principle of multiple plots united by a place. The film interweaves the story of Clara, a newcomer to Naples; interviews with foreigners asked about their relationship to the Italian city; and a filmic essay on Elvira Notari, the first Italian woman filmmaker of note, whose work has now largely fallen into oblivion. Some interviewees have never been to Naples before and reel off banal preconceptions; others have precise memories: an Italian lover, an arrival from Africa. Green deftly reveals the tenuous links existing between person and place, and the construction of a location's mythologies. She also reasserts her role--and perhaps implicitly the role of any artist - in the making of these stories. …