Renée Green


Renée Green (born 1959 in Cleveland, Ohio) is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. Her pluralistic practice spans a broad range of media including sculpture, architecture, photography, prints, video, film, websites, and sound, which normally converge in highly layered and complex installations. Green studied art at Wesleyan University, with an intermediary year at the School of Visual Arts in New York. Green also attended the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course, at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. In 1989 she was a participant in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (ISP).

Green wrote Discourse on Afro-American Art as her graduating thesis from Wesleyan University, a “textual analysis of criticisms, which were written by both Black and White critics from the 1920s and the 1960s.[1]” A seminal influence was Green’s participation in cataloging Sol LeWitt’s donated collection to Wadsworth Atheneum. Green wrote the catalog[2] entries for Adrian Piper, and Lawrence Weiner.


Green’s work adopts the form of complex and highly formalized installations in which ideas, historical events and narratives, as well as cultural artifacts, are examined from myriad perspectives. As scholar Alexander Alberro notes, Green’s attempt is not a didactic one, rather an invitation to participate in the construction of knowledge, as well as shifting perception: “Green consistently gives the spectator a central role in the process of deconstructing genealogical discourses and assuming subject positions. Indeed, a feature that recurs in her installations is the production of interactive environments that galvanize the viewer into the role of an equal participant in the construction of meaning.[3]

Green explains in her own words the impetus behind this activity of collecting and exhibiting different data and materials: “I wanted to begin by examining an artifact, a text, a painting or a group of paintings, a decorative object, an image, a novel, a poem, a garden, a palace, a house. By beginning with these objects or places, and the contexts in which they appeared, it was possible to detect the intricate working of certain ideologies which were being put forth […] and to attempt to decipher the contradictory pleasure which might accompany them.[4]

A lot of the materials collected for her projects come from the immense repository already in existence in our culture, but her work can not be considered as a mere assemblage of cultural artifacts, nor an appropriationist practice. In each of her projects, Green produces works of art in different mediums like photography [Secret (1994–2006)], prints [Code: Survey], films [Some Chance Operations (1999); Wavelinks (2002), Elsewhere? (2002], and sound [Vanished Gardens (2004), Muriel’s Words (2004)], which are integrated in highly designed installations or environments. Due to the selective accumulation of materials Green’s work has been labeled in some instances as archival.[5]

As a result of the complex web of relations and conceptual links among the materials and projects, these normally take place during a duration of time, and in different locations, in which the same theme is presented in different formats. For example, Import/Export Funk Office (1992), was presented as an installation in Cologne and Los Angeles, and exists also as Cd-Rom (1996); or Code: Survey (2005–2006) takes the form of a permanent public work installed at the Caltrans Headquarter in Downtown Los Angeles, and as a website, which can be accessed worldwide. [1]


      artist, Renée Green, gets major retrospective in Lausanne | art ...      


A brief description of selected Green’s projects.

Import-Export Funk Office (1992) is a subjective map of the flow of hip hop music and related culture between New York, Los Angeles and Cologne. The work explored “the process of information gathering and the international, national and local transfer of cultural products (specifically hip-hop music, various material produced as a result of the African diaspora… [and] other forms of cultural commerce).[6]” Green positioned herself as an artist-ethnographer, studying the “import/export” of Hip Hop culture through German cultural critic Diedrich Diederichsen, whom Green treats as a “native informant” while he assessed that state of Hip Hop in the United States through German magazines. Green confronted ideologies surrounding cultural economy and pointed to disparities between the production and economy of culture. The archive of cultural fragments she displayed challenged the ethics of cultural appropriation without historical context; images of Angela Davis and Theodore Adorno serve to further confuse the contexts of social translation.

Mise-en-Scène (1992), an investigation of the role in which French cities like Clisson and Nantes played in the Atlantic slave trade.

Secret (1994). Green inhabited an apartment at Le Corbusier’s Firminy Unité d’Habitation, and documented her stay via photographs and video.

Partially Buried in Three Parts (1995–1997). Robert Smithson’s land art work Partially Buried Woodshed (1970) functions as the starting point in Green’s examination of student’s protest movements in the United States, which focuses in the Kent State shootings, as well as in Kwangju’s student’s massacre which took place in Korea in 1981, also known as Gwangju Democratization Movement. In its installation form, the work presents an examination of the year 1970 from different perspectives.

Some Chance Operations (1999). An essay-film about Italian filmmaker Elvira Notari.

Elsewhere? (2002–2004). The film Elsewhere? was created for an installation located in a garden setting in Kassel, for Documenta 11, Standardized Octagonal Units for Imagined and Existing Systems (2002). The film explores the idea of imaginary places, as well as the history of gardens and gardens architecture or follies. In 2003 Elsewhere? was presented as an installation at Portikus, Frankfurt where 1400 colored imaginary places names covered the spaced walls [2].

Endless Dreams and Water Between (2009). In this project commissioned by the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Green created an immersive environment in which through drawings, sound, banners and films ideas of islands, physical or mental, are explored. In a film titled as the exhibition, fictional characters write to each other reflecting on a different range of subjects, among these historical figures like George Sand, Laura Riding, Frédéric Chopin, Robert Graves, and Llorenç Villalonga; the characters also investigate longer histories of the three locations that they inhabit: Majorca, Manhattan, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Endless Dreams and Water Between.

Due to the density and formal complexity of her different projects, Green uses the standard catalogue published alongside her exhibitions, as a part of her work. These books function in a variety of levels: as an exhibition catalogue, as an artist’s book, as a repository of documents, as transcripts of conversations and scripts of the films and videos produced for the different projects .

In 1997 Green was chosen by the American Federation of the Arts to design Artist/Author: Contemporary Artist’s Books.[7]

Green has also written extensively, and her work has been published in different publications from United States and Europe. Among the publications are October, Texte zur Kunst, Transition, Sarai Reader, Multitudes, and Collapse.

Green as educator

Even though an artist, Green has also been working as an educator. She has been guest faculty at the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program (ISP) since 1991, and became the Director of the Studio Program in 1996-1997.[8] From 1997 to 2002 she was Professor at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Vienna. In 2003 she moved back to the United States to become Distinguished Artist Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. From 2005 to June 30, 2011 Green was Professor and Dean of Graduate Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute. During her tenure as Dean she directed Spheres of Interest, the Graduate Lecture Series. She is currently a Professor at the Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) Program, School of Architecture and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Other teaching venues as guest professor have included Yale University, Vermont College, Hochschule der Kunst in Berlin, and the Hochschule für Angewandte Kunst, Vienna.[9]


In 2010 Green won a United States Artists Fellow award.[10]

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