New York

Wynne Greenwood, More Heads, Belgrade, 2013, video, color, sound, 2 minutes 43 seconds.

Wynne Greenwood, More Heads, Belgrade, 2013, video, color, sound, 2 minutes 43 seconds.

Wynne Greenwood

Wynne Greenwood, More Heads, Belgrade, 2013, video, color, sound, 2 minutes 43 seconds.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see a Tracy + the Plastics show, you know that Tracy as well as the two Plastics are all played by Wynne Greenwood and that a show is not only about music but also these three characters, with Tracy appearing live and the Plastics—named Nikki and Cola—as video projections. The three chat, theorize, complain, and stand around in what critic and curator Johanna Burton called, in Artforum in 2005, a “split-personality hallucination,” or perhaps a kind of ventriloquism performed with the artist’s own body.

For her recent exhibition at Soloway, Greenwood deployed a new kind of ventriloquism. Two looped videos, More Heads, Belgrade and More Heads, both 2013, were projected side by side, each showing a series of sculptural heads (sans bodies)—chatting, theorizing, complaining—all voiced by Greenwood. Each head is styled differently and has a distinct personality: There is a childishly aggressive pink-and-white soccer ball with broken bits of toys for features, a stuffed fabric version with pillowy lips that sleeps most of the time and awakens only to ask that the window be opened, and a spotted head, with a second set of features sprung out of its ear, that responds to everything with irritating hippie serenity. (Three of these objects were presented as sculptures in a smaller room off the main gallery, and discovering them felt like running unexpectedly into a celebrity.)

The videos are two distinct works and are not synched, so that each time they loop, the dialogues line up differently. Still, at times the heads in the different videos seem to converse with one another, and at others they seem to be trying to drown one another out. In More Heads, Belgrade, the characters cycle through topics in a disconnected way, babbling something about dying frogs (“What’s a frog?” asks one), and something else about violence. They rehearse lines, coaching and criticizing one another as if auditioning for the video in which we’re now seeing them. They seem to be aware of being part of a work—of being mouthpieces for lines written by someone else.

The characters in More Heads are in less forgiving territory. One—made of clay, with sensitively molded features and cardboard sunglasses—is positively simmering; each of its lines, even the everyday ones, is laced with rage. The serene hippie tries to placate it, drawling, “Peace, sister, peace,” to which it replies, “No fucking peace,” and the viewer can’t help but agree. A guttural voice that doesn’t seem to belong to any head begins suddenly—alarmingly—to whisper threats. The hippie asks for peace; a pink head with a delicate profile asks, “What is peace?” and then says, “I forgot the laundry, dammit.”

Explorations of the interiorized multiplicity of the self have a long history in feminist practice, from Joan Jonas’s Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy, 1972, to the many personae of Cindy Sherman; here, Greenwood makes the condition of the self divided against itself particularly vivid and intense. At any given moment, we might find ourselves inhabiting any one of Greenwood’s characters. Or we might be all of them at once, subjected to our own polyphonic interior commentary. This effect is reinforced by the rambling, disjointed nature of the dialogue, similar to a series of status updates: occasionally honest, often self-conscious, tending to bail out right when things are about to get deep. Sometimes the heads talk past one another, and sometimes they achieve a marvelous lucidity, a combination that makes these videos, for all their staginess and projection, feel like being inside a real person’s head.

Emily Hall