Trapped in a Pyramid Scheme
The artistic practice of Shana Moulton (b. Oakhurst, 1976, lives and works in Fresno) revolves around a woman who is searching for meaning and purpose in a commercial wasteland of consumer goods and beauty products. The role of that woman is played by Moulton’s alter ego, the naive Cynthia – Moulton in a wig. On her way to enlightenment, hypersensitive to the obsessions, neuroses and anxieties associated with contemporary Western society, Cynthia seeks refuge in TV gurus and all kinds of beauty products that are designed to combat the signs of ageing.
Cynthia is in many respects the product of Moulton’s own compulsive thoughts – and those of millions of others. The alter ego functions as an irrational self-portrait that has been created in order to submit to a world in which prescription medicines, esoteric movements and products targeted at female consumers by the health, wellness and beauty industries all combine equally to determine physical and mental wellbeing. In performances and videos that deliberately evoke a surreal Twin Peaks-like atmosphere, which is often as hilarious as it is terrifying, Cynthia moves through a pastel-coloured world of kitsch and decadence, which brings to mind the clichéd image of the west coast of America.
For Brief Encounters, Moulton created a performance, in which Cynthia was trapped inside a pyramid of wooden beams, to which various New Age items and physiotherapeutic devices were attached, all intended to improve her spiritual and physical state of being. While Cynthia attempted to free herself from the pyramid in a Houdini-like struggle that also evoked associations with the victims of medieval public torture, her prison gradually transformed into an orgone generator, a wooden cabinet that is believed to turn negative energy into positive energy, an invention created by the Austrian psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich. This allowed Cynthia to master the situation, and she experienced perfect balance in her spiritual, emotional and physical states; purifying freedom and peace of mind in the forest.