Wynne Greenwood: Stacy . . . Kelly

BETWEEN 1999 AND 2006, artist and musician Wynne Greenwood toured as the queer-feminist band Tracy + the Plastics. She performed live as front woman “Tracy” alongside other prerecorded, bewigged, and made-up selves: brunette “Nikki” (the “artistic” keyboard player) and blond “Cola” (the “political” drummer). Appearing on small TVs or in video projections behind her, the two virtual band members would harmonize, interrupt, and converse with her (and each other), creating a complex, layered set of performances. The group has now been both revived and archived in two exhibitions, for which present-day Greenwood refilmed the Tracy parts, performing with the original backing videos. The catalogue, Stacy . . . Kelly, is a slim, exquisite book of essays, interviews, illustrated partial transcripts, and new artworks.

Tracy + the Plastics, This is for Forever, 2001/2014, performance and digital video, color, sound, 29 minutes 3 seconds.
Tracy + the Plastics, This is for Forever, 2001/2014, performance and digital video, color, sound, 29 minutes 3 seconds. Courtesy the artist

In the videos, as colorful cartoon elements bloom across the screens, the various Greenwood personae give each other a hard time, often creating mildly surrealist moments: Mid-show, Cola holds out a note toward the camera that Tracy retrieves from behind the monitor and reads to the audience; when Cola’s away, Nikki asks Tracy, “You like me better, right?”; one bandmate tells another, of the remote literally glued to her palm, “You are like way too attached to that thing. Just let it go.” Greenwood’s gifts as a musician, video artist, and performer are equaled by her knack for dialogue. The talk between songs is a witty and heartrending late-1990s patchwork of academic analysis and the semi-therapeutic, passive-aggressive sincerity of groups trying to resolve their tensions (“I really care about your experience, but . . . ”).

Especially in the book’s video stills, it’s hard to differentiate between layers, to see where Tracy’s (now older) body separates from the projected Plastics: The hierarchies and divisions Greenwood explored blur even as they’re made visible. Her ideas about the fragmented self, and about how people from marginalized groups construct their identity from culture’s spare parts (and must fight over these scraps), become legible to all. She dramatizes both internal conflicts and external constraints—shows how encumbered and unfree we are—creating a multidimensional space in which nothing is easy, but many things are possible.