Solo exhibition by Shana Moulton, part of the ongoing exhibition series Control: Technology in Culture.
Description: New York-based artist Shana Moulton works in video, performance, and installation. Her practice investigates the relationship between American consumer culture and the New Age movement, highlighting consumerism’s influence on wellness and spiritual fulfillment. In her videos and performances, the artist always plays Cynthia, a mute character inhabiting highly artificial environments, who seeks spiritual enlightenment, physical comfort, and healing through her ritualistic interaction with various mass-produced items. In search of a transcendence that ultimately eludes her, Cynthia navigates a psychedelic fantasy world tinged by longing.
For her exhibition at YBCA, Moulton presents a multimedia installation featuring Cynthia as she experiments with a biofeedback machine to alleviate pain. The principle of biofeedback rests on the assumption that one can train the mind to control the body’s functions by monitoring and responding to internal, physical responses. The central video begins with Cynthia plugging into the MindPlace Thoughtstream Biofeedback System, a real product, to measure her body’s functions through sound and light. This is an entrée into Cynthia’s journey, punctuated by magical gloves that make objects wiggle, whispering autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) soundtracks to tingle the listener’s senses, and a dance routine to an Activia Yogurt commercial.
Kitsch, mysticism, pop culture, and spirituality collide in Cynthia’s humorous, playful, and, sometimes painful world. Objects from the video appear as sculptures and looped clips within the installation, allowing the viewer to fully inhabit Cynthia’s enchanted universe. Outside of the gallery, Moulton designed a faux doctor’s office waiting room accompanied by a series of new collages and sculptures. By following Cynthia’s unending struggle to treat both mind and body through cure-all gadgets and self-help guides, the exhibition provokes a deep reflection on the anxiety and superficiality prevalent in contemporary life.
Control: Technology in Culture is a series of exhibitions in the Upstairs Galleries showcasing work by emerging and mid-career artists who examine the social, cultural, and experiential implications of technology. The exhibitions in this series seek to prompt timely questions about the profound and far-reaching influence of technology in our daily lives by focusing on artists whose work spans a multitude of disciplines and relates to a diverse set of issues, including architecture, acoustics, psychology, labor, consumerism, the environment, and the military.
The term “control” refers to philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s theory that, as a result of the ever-increasing role of information technology, Michel Foucault’s “disciplinary society” of the 20th century has given way to a “control society” in the 21st century. In contrast to discipline, which molds the individual through confinement in factories, prisons, and schools, control is diffuse, adaptable, and ubiquitous, modulating rather than molding the individual.