“To trace, to touch. A finger moving over a page, following contours, locating place names, pointing out words, underlining them in pencil, testing their sound with a voice. Returning again and again to the books and to places, to find something previously missed. Something that has a different meaning after different encounters, different inhabitations, and different journeys over the passage of time.“
Renée Green, from Come Closer (2008)
Renée Green with her Cinematic Migrations project was the guest professor in this year XXII edition of the CSAV – Artists Research Laboratory which was held at the Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como from July 1st to July 23rd 2016.
Organized as part of the Research Laboratory Tracing is Renée Green’s first solo exhibition in an institutional space in Italy.
In Tracing, Green continues her recurrent and ongoing process of examining forms of relation—of perception, sensation, feeling, thinking. This includes the question: What is specific about a sentient being defined as human?
Taking into consideration the monumental architecture of the church of San Francesco in Como, which displays traces of its alterations since medieval times, Green presents physically light and ephemeral works; tracing many pasts, the works resonate with the architecture in a conceptually rich installation in which films, sounds and a Space Poem made of textile banners are combined with the perceivers’ circulation through space to provide a layered and kaleidoscopic sensory experience.
The visitor is welcomed to the former church by two sound works: Vanished Gardens (2004), and Imaginary Places (A to Z) (2002); placed in two of the aisle’s chapels, both pieces set the exhibition’s sonic tone with an incantatory whispered recitation invoking both imagined and vanished locations.
San Francesco’s central nave’s ceiling hosts Space Poem # 6 (Tracing) (2016), thirty colorful textile banners produced in Como by Ratti S.p.A; specially created for Tracing, each banner bears the name of a historical garden which has vanished or changed through time, as well as a variety of cartographic references spanning 2000 years; by combining gardens, exemplars of physically attainable paradise, and maps, images drawn to represent the world culled from this planet’s vast storehouse of existing lands and cultures, Green’s Space Poem #6 provides an exquisite reminder of humans’ perpetual attempts to link what is desired with what is imagined, amid earth and the cosmos.
Projected in a suspended screen in the apse is Green’s film Begin Again, Begin Again (2015), and hidden in the recesses of the church one can encounter the projection of the film Elsewhere? (2002); originally produced for Green’s Standardized Octagonal Units for Imagined and Existing Systems, a garden folly installed in Kassel during Documenta 11, Elsewhere? provides a poetic meditation on “beauty plus pity,” from paradisiacal gardens to eccentric architecture, the film traces human’s aspirations during different times and places as a meditation on what has been imagined and enacted in a world of uncertainty.
In Tracing, Green’s ongoing questions of configurations, architectures, and spaces emerge in relation to people and subjectivities that exist in the world: What is inherited and what is made, gained, lost, and transmuted through time, amid change and migrations, amid contestation, repetition and difference, or imagined as utopian, even when violent? What efforts do live creatures exert to begin again? What traces do these leave behind?
All images by: Agostino Osio