For their 2019 annual commission, the Zabludowicz Collection is delighted to announce the solo exhibition by American artist Shana Moulton, giving audiences in London a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in her highly influential practice.
In the first institutional solo show of Shana Moulton in the UK, new video work and sculptural installations commissioned by Zabludowicz Collection are presented alongside key recent projects, all linked together by an exploration of feminist spirituality. Ideas central to today’s cultural debate, such as ecological fragility, the personal wellness industry and alternative models of living are addressed with off-kilter humour and a strange sincerity.
In 2002 Moulton began a body of work she collectively titles Whispering Pines, the name taken from the senior citizen mobile-home park near Yosemite, California that her parents ran. Using video, sculptural installation, costume and performance, Moulton has created a distinctive psychic and aesthetic realm anchored around her alter-ego, Cynthia.
Beset by hypochondria, agoraphobia, and general helplessness in the face everyday life, we join Cynthia on flights of imagination as she seeks to escape the mundane. The domestic environment, both physical and psychological, plays a central role; Cynthia’s home is populated by objects and ornaments that range from ancient and new age totems, to gift- shop modern art and dollar-store kitsch. The narratives in Whispering Pines chart Cynthia’s personal tribulations and the interwoven relationship between spirituality and consumerism in contemporary society.
At the centre of the show is a new commission single-channel video work which explores the religious and folkloric motif of a woman trapped in a tower. It references the legend of Saint Barbara, a virgin martyr of the early church who imprisoned and ultimately beheaded by her wealthy pagan father for converting to Christianity and refusing an arranged marriage. In a twist to the tale, on his return home the father was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes.
This new video is presented in the Main Hall at the base of a pink tower structure which rises over six meters and is based on Montessori School children’s stacking blocks. Seven other channels of video on monitors of decreasing size spiral upwards round its face in a cascadeof images and sound, outlining steps to self-actualization and self-healing. Facing this, on the gallery’s church altar architecture, is a site-specific waterfall and pool installation, which will double as a stage for a new performance Moulton will present with her musical collaborator Nick Hallett on 14 December 2019.
Moulton’s references to a woman in a tower or a damsel in distress suggest notions of visible yet isolated entrapment. It offers a metaphor for how contemporary patriarchal capitalism, predominantly via the structures of the internet, channels aspirations of freedom back into a feedback loop of anxiety-inducing ideals, goals and failures. It is also reminiscent of the madwoman-in-the-attic trope of Victorian gothic literature, in particular Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847). Moulton uses these stereotypes to reclaim ownership over them, transforming constraints into modes of resistance: what appears to be imprisonment or agoraphobia might actually be a choice to explore one’s inner life.