Whispering Pines 3
Whispering Pines 3 is an extension of Shana Moulton’s original Whispering Pines video that highlights her alter ego “Cynthia.” The original video is a psychedelic trip through the tacky world of “Cynthia.” However, Whispering Pines 3 is a more monotone/humorous take on a specific yet cliché type of American lifestyle. The video displays a trinket and cat obsessed middle-aged woman named Cynthia reading from her Diary. While listening to Cynthia, we learn about her obsession with worthless items, and we are also informed in great detail that her cat has recently explored too far away from home. The setting of the video (see thumbnail) features a painfully tacky room, with items that would be found at the local dollar store or flea market. The room itself is a comment on materialism and its worth.
“Moulton gets inspiration for episodes from her finds rather than "casting" them in predetermined storylines. Objects drive the plot. Wonder at a thing's appearance can be a narrative hook that doubles as a more conventional dilemma, and ultimately offers a key to an episode's insight. At the beginning of Whispering Pines 3, Cynthia is composing a diary entry about her runaway cat and a newly acquired knickknack that baffles her with its twisted script.” Droitcour, Brian. (April, 2010) "The Object Whisperer: Shana Moulton's Whispering Pines". Rhizome.
The most fascinating aspect of “Cynthia” is that she is self-reflexive of the artist herself, as opposed to embodying a completely different personality.
“It's me in the bathroom; it's me worried about aging; it's me looking at a beauty magazine... We share a brain. I don't even think of her as a character. It's just me.”Beck, Graham (October, 2012) "Focus: Shana Moulton". Frieze.
This alter ego represents the duality that all humans possess. All of us have a “Cynthia” somewhere deep inside. Moulton’s work calls out the search for perfection in a self-obsessed world. She also highlights societies unhealthy fixation of worthless material things, as well as insalubrious outside perceptions of judgment. These recurring themes make one reflect upon their own self worth, self-judgment, and self indulgence. The work also makes one question the importance of commonplace standards involving appearance, acceptance, consumer culture, and feminine stereotypes.
While Moulton uses this alter ego in numerous works, it is easy to compare Whispering Pines to any of Shana’s other videos. A specific video that came to mind while reviewing Whispering Pines is a work from 1975 by artist Martha Rosler titled Semiotics of the Kitchen. Martha’s video is a denunciation of the “housewife” of the 1970s. The parallels between the videos come from Moulton’s alter ego being held captive by her material objects as well as what she believes society expects from her. Another comparison is the video Despair by Alex Prager. The video highlights consumer culture and the need for acceptance within one’s society. In the video, actress Bryce Dallas Howard is made up to look extraordinarily glamorous - she is adorned in a bright blue dress and accompanied by red heels to match her flaming red lips. As pretty and perfect as she looks, she walks though a busy street only to be ignored by everyone around her. Distraught by her lack of acknowledgment, the character runs up a building and jumps to her death, only to leave behind her red heels as evidence of her once glamorous existence. The video's final message is both strong and effective; regardless of how one may look on the outside, isolation and despair can still be prevalent due to extreme societal standards and self-isolation caused by false expectations of reality.
“Shana Moulton is a media artist who explores contemporary anxieties through her filmic alter ego Cynthia. Based in New York Shana uses colorful psychedelic performances to describe pathetic situations with humorous surrealism.” Beck, Graham (October, 2012) "Focus: Shana Moulton". Frieze.
Whispering Pines has been featured in the following exhibits and galleries:
• Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY (2014)
• Creative Capitol Public Theatre New York, New York (2014)
• Hybrid Naples, Fondazione Morra Greco Naples, Italy (2013)