Dreaming of Islands
Gray, Ros. 2010. Dreaming of Islands. In: , ed. Renée Green: Endless Dreams and Time-Based Streams. San Francisco, CA: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. [Book Section]No full text available
Abstract or Description
This catalogue essay takes Renée Green’s exhibition Endless Dreams and Water Between as a pretext for exploring about how mapping, film and ideas of utopia are inter-related so as to consider how the artist’s work facilitates creative thought. Meandering through the art works included in that exhibition, the essay considers how the show enfolds earlier works within it both as prelude and integral part, thus embodying a key idea that there are past events, connections, stories and hopes for the future that can only be glimpsed at through fragments in the present. The essay investigates the fictional and historical figures Green assembles in intriguing organizational structures and examines the modes of collective speculation her characters embark upon so as to engage with ‘past feeling, times and histories’ that have been ‘forcefully forgotten’, to see how these ‘can fuel the present, in the wake of feeling a sense of lack and absence.’
Much of Renée Green’s artistic practice is concerned with the forms that social existence and culture have taken at different moments and locations, and how they have been translated and have changed in the movements of peoples through migration and travel. The exhibition Endless Dreams and Water Between includes various pictorial, sonic and filmic mappings of islands and forms of island life. These evoke, trouble and reflect upon the notion of utopia. The essay suggests that film can have a utopian function, through which past dreams and aspirations for the future can be folded into the present. Film can operate as a kind of mapping, with montage bringing together seemingly tenuous connections to reveal the gaps in what we know. If the cinema screen is a place where people dream together, the screen operates as a site of possibility for collective dreams and aspirations, creating moments of intensity in how our past, present and future are imagined and understood.
There is a notion of utopia proposed by Ernst Bloch that chimes with Renée Green’s practice, in which utopia may be defined as a ‘a momentary nexus’ that ‘embraces the present’. Her art deals both in sincerity and irony, with fact and fiction, often at the same time. Circulating through the works, however, is also a sense of longing, a yearning that suggests that even in this age of extreme technological connectivity, in Brecht’s phrase, ‘something’s missing’ in the present.