New York

Wynne Greenwood: More Heads at Soloway

In the mid-2000s, Wynne Greenwood‘s video persona sparked an adolescent idolatry in me that really started everything. In Tracey + The Plastics, Greenwood’s three-person electro-pop band, she played all the characters, performing live shows in conversation with pre-recorded projections of herself. Watching Greenwood essentially talk to herself through Tracy, Nikki, and Cola, I was delivered a vision of the millennial queer future in which we now routinely commune with our fantasy selves through the veil of the screen.

Wynne Greenwood. Pink Head, 2013; ceramic and acrylic paint; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Soloway.

Wynne Greenwood. Pink Head, 2013; ceramic and acrylic paint; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Soloway.

For us, Wynne Greenwood was a kind of star of the lo-fi, DIY riot grrrl scene, and during my undergrad days in Seattle—one of the hotbeds of West Coast riot grrrl culture—I was lucky enough to take a workshop with her called “Video, Performance, and Identity.” For Wynne, doing it yourself was closely linked to doing what’s inside of you—keeping the work you make close to yourself both in the means of production and in the material you focus on. Greenwood makes music and performance, she says, to “practice culture-healing.” Her videos present an intoxicatingly simple mix of self and self-fantasy.

In her current two-channel video and accompanying sculptural installation at Soloway, Greenwood continues her practice of multiplying herself through video as she presents, quite literally, “more heads.” The show offers a pared-down continuation of one of Greenwood’s consistent motifs: repetitive images of herself integrated into self-drawn landscapes. These spaces are often dotted with disembodied cartoon heads that lie like boulders or rocks on the floor; sometimes Greenwood draws these cartoon heads on her own body. At Soloway, the heads in her videos are haunted by their abandoned, tangible counterparts, displayed in the gallery’s back room.

By literally constructing alternative spaces that traverse both sides of the screen, Greenwood practices productive techniques of queer world building. I remember her saying in class, “If you don’t own a camera, maybe use the camera on your phone. Which might be better anyway.” This feminist technique of hacking the method of media production as a way to control our own technological reproduction has stuck with me as a powerful tool for resistance. Though he tends to align with the historically patriarch-obsessed school of abstract painting, we might borrow from artist Kenneth Noland’s 1977 comment in an interview with Diane Waldman: “…We wanted to use materials in an economic, basic and fundamental way…. This is something that artists have always done. They’ve always used a minimum of the means of technology in any given period…  Art has never used the maximum of what technology has to offer, only the least…. There is always the instinct to use a minimum means.” [1]

Wynne Greenwood. More Heads/More Heads, Belgrade, 2013. Installation view, More Heads, 2013. Courtesy of the artist and Soloway.

Wynne Greenwood. More Heads/More Heads, Belgrade, 2013. Installation view, Soloway, Brooklyn. Courtesy of the artist and Soloway.

Greenwood provides an important model, and in viewing her work we must take intricate note of everything that appears to be very bare. For working in “minimum means” is also an effective method for keeping production close to personal truth. If we can control as many aspects of the technology we use as possible, we might get closer to alternative methods of reproducing our technological archetypes. Wynne’s sarcastic Valley-Girl affect (a hallmark of her videos) always provides us with little slivers of recognition. Her head conversations are marked by thick ellipses that betray either a kind of spacey carelessness or extreme caution. I always get the sense that everything is inside the pauses between her words, but I can only guess at what that everything is. The contemplation and chatter of the heads (at least, what we are allowed to hear) are only fragments, suggestive of some deep and incisive cavern that goes deep.

As we film ourselves, we repossess the gaze. Greenwood uses video as a space to reconstruct her identity, but by the same token, her flippant multiplicity of conversations refuses to commit to any one fiction that might constrain it. The heads chatter in barely coherent slivers of the everyday, and Greenwood’s subject fidgets, elusive inside the silences between her commentary. But… like… whatever…

Wynne Greenwood’s More Heads is on view at Soloway through November 2, 2013.

[1] quoted by Diane Waldman, in an excerpt from “Color, Format and Abstract Art: An Interview with Kenneth Noland by Diane Waldman,” Art in America 65, no. 3 (May-June 1977): 99-105.