Two distinct trends have dominated in the recent history of installation art. Some practitioners have attempted to dazzle the senses of visitors to their engulfing environments, designed to invoke the power of the beautiful and sublime. Others have transformed exhibition spaces into participatory social settings and/or service centers. The former offer private aesthetic experiences, prompting intense physical and emotional response. The latter foster progressive, ameliorative communal interactions.
In a little more than a decade, Renée Green has pioneered a profound and influential third approach. Her work blends aspects of these other practices with documentary and biographical narrative elements presented in interactive installations, variously involving found objects, extant and original texts and images, film, video, and sound. Her physical structures and spatial arrangements, which have encompassed modes of display ranging from labyrinths to individual units, effect how a viewer may encounter diverse material spanning ephemera and film. In this way, Green offers loosely structured encounters with fragmentary information that may be woven into partial, personal accounts of important constellations of thought and activity in our common history. She resists the production of master narratives and the suggestion that there is anything approaching an absolute truth of collective experience, preferring, as she says, to demonstrate the complexity of things Green writes, “to make any one kind of authoritative statement about the ways things are is specious.”Her explicit subjects have been wide ranging-- from the social valence of race and gender in the twined histories of Saartjie Baartman (known as the “Hottentot Venus”) and Josephine Baker (Revue, 1989), to the real and imagined relationship of artistic modernism in the work of Robert Smithson to contemporary political protest of the war in Vietnam (Partially Buried, 1996), and the suggestive nature of cultural exchange between U.S. and European popular and intellectual cultures (Import/Export Funk Office, 1992). But her deep subject--the formation of the individual consciousness and the fluid nature of human subjectivity--has remained consistent throughout.
In her series of wavelinks projects, Green explores the many different relations people have to sound-electronic sound and music, in particular. Using many sources of original and sampled film footage, and her own interviews with and documentation of individuals who produce, write about, and listen to music, she suggests the power of manipulated aural experience to impact the listener at the level of and below consciousness.