In the middle of sets, sometimes interrupting songs, the lead singer of Tracy + the Plastics would stop to work out her relationships with her bandmates, who felt neglected or wanted to discuss the dynamics of collaboration. But the band’s only “real” member was Wynne Greenwood, who performed live as Tracy with pre-recorded images of herself wearing other hats and outfits to portray Nikki and Cola, her spectral bandmates. They first appeared on monitors when the band first started performing in 1999, and later as projections on the stage. Tracy + the Plastics last toured in 2006, but Greenwood recently reconstructed her performances in video works, which are on display in “Kelly,” her fifth floor exhibition at the New Museum, along with masks and busts from Greenwood’s recent sculpture series. Her work, like that of Miranda July or K8 Hardy, was too prescient to be properly understood when it first appeared, and too early to be easily situated among the experiments with self-portraiture, identity and digital media that have taken off thanks to accessible software tools. “Kelly” locates Greenwood in a historical trajectory, beside archival material from New Museum exhibitions in the 1980s and ‘90s of queer and feminist video. But the catchy populism of Greenwood’s music and the guarded sincerity of her personas make her relevance for the present equally apparent.
Pictured: Tracy + the Plastics: Can You Pause That for a Second?, 2003/2014, performance and video, 25 minutes 11 seconds. Courtesy Wynne Greenwood and Fourteen30 Contemporary, Portland.