Renée Green’s Other Planes of There

BOMB Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Thom Dono­van

Duke Univer­sity Press, 2014

Renée Green’s col­lec­tion, Other Planes of There, which spans over twenty years of the artist’s ca­reer, holds an al­lur­ing sense of re­turn for me, of­fer­ing a kind of fos­sil record of an evolv­ing de­bate among pro­gres­sive artists and cul­tural crit­ics. It be­comes clear that this dis­course—which con­cerns the role of art in cul­tural pol­i­tics, the reemer­gence of sub­merged cul­tural his­to­ries, a move­ment be­yond in­sti­tu­tional cri­tique, the cu­ra­tion of “glob­al­ism,” and the cor­re­la­tion of ethno­graphic and aes­thetic prac­tices—haunts the archive of con­tem­po­rary art.

What also be­comes clear is that Green’s work presents a kind of counter- archive within this dis­course. It does so through the range of prac­tices that it bears wit­ness to, as well as by the ways that she tends to con­tex­tu­al­ize and doc­u­ment in the present (not un­like the auto- ethno­g­ra­pher, whom she makes fre­quent ref­er­ence to) and in­vites col­lab­o­ra­tion and di­a­logue with her con­tem­po­raries. An­tic­i­pat­ing the artist’s ex­panded func­tion—the var­i­ous “turns” of the 2000s—Green wears many hats, act­ing at once as a cu­ra­tor, ar­chiv­ist, events or­ga­nizer, and in­de­pen­dent dis­trib­u­tor (a role she calls “free media agent”).

There is a cu­ri­ous time sense in this book, which has been or­ga­nized so that we may re­gard the ways that re­search, crit­i­cism, doc­u­men­ta­tion, and var­i­ous aes­thetic pro­cesses feed­back with one another, cul­ti­vat­ing modes of meta- dis­course. Mo­ti­vated by oc­ca­sion and de­posited mostly in Euro­pean art cat­a­logues and pe­ri­od­i­cals—raised and ed­u­cated in the United States, Green has lived much of her life abroad—her writ­ten texts have a sense of emer­gency and ac­cre­tion. In this way, I am­re­minded of Robert Smith­son’s and Adrian Piper’s writ­ing, much of which, in a sim­i­lar man­ner, con­tin­u­ously re­cal­i­brates their so­ciopo­lit­i­cal, eth­i­cal, and epis­te­mo­log­i­cal po­si­tions in tan­dem with their aes­thetic out­put.

In­ter­mit­tently, Green evokes what she calls “ne­go­ti­a­tions in the con­tact zone,” a phrase she bor­rows from scholar Mary Louise Pratt, which forms the axis of her 1991– 94 sym­po­sium by the same name. Con­tact zones mark en­coun­ters through which the re­la­tion­ship of self and other, of­fi­cial and unof­fi­cial knowl­edge, mar­gin and cen­ter, be­come pro­duc­tively am­biva­lent. Like Trinh T. Minh- ha and other con­tem­po­raries work­ing in con­tact zones through their crit­i­cal writ­ings and vis­ual works, Green labors tire­lessly against com­mon sense (for in­stance, her in­ter­ro­ga­tions of the terms po­lit­i­cally cor­rect and site speci­ficity) as well as against a cat­e­gor­i­cal com­pul­sion of the art his­to­rian (for in­stance, Hal Foster’s chap­ter, “The Artist as Ethno­g­ra­pher,” from his 1996 book, The Re­turn of the Real, which she takes to task). The re­sult is an im­por­tant re­source for those seek­ing to un­der­stand what has hap­pened in pro­gres­sive art dis­course for the past twenty years. Other Planes of There also of­fers a model for how artists might sit­u­ate their work through a crit­i­cal, process- in­ten­sive writ­ing prac­tice. — Thom Dono­van is the au­thor of The Hole (Dis­placed Press, 2012) and With­drawn (Com­pline Edi­tions, forth­com­ing in the fall of 2015). He coed­its ON Con­tem­po­rary Prac­tice, ed­its Wild Horses Of Fire, and is the coed­i­tor of col­lec­tions by Etel Ad­nan and Robert Ko­cik.

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