Continuing through August 2, 2015
For Shana Moulton’s solo exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door,” the artist once again takes on the persona of the mute character Cynthia, and we are immersed in her world. The exhibition is comprised of a main video room featuring a central video on one wall and several other complementary videos on the other three walls; outside of that are interactive works, readymade objects, another video, and collages.
The central theme is the commercialism of alternative healing tools as well as popular peace-generating practices. The narrative of the show, which plays out in the groovy, otherworldly central video—chock full as it is with special effects that make objects turn watery and Cynthia get absorbed into her dress, among other truly fantastic occurrences—traces Cynthia’s quest to cure her IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) using, it seems, every sort of alt health-promoting tool that’s been advertised to her. Her pursuits feel at once naive—Is she (are we?) being hoodwinked by crafty snake-oil marketers?—and incredibly earnest.
The highlighted tool Cynthia employs is a biofeedback machine (it’s a real-world product, a ThoughtWave; one of the interactive pieces provides the machines for viewers to try). But additionally she eats Activia yogurt—at which time the video changes to the Shakira music video sponsored by the product—wears a back brace, uses a hot water bottle, and walks through a meditation maze. It’s clear, she’s open, eager to try anything and readily responds to marketing messages.
The videos are enormously inventive and imaginative; colorful, fluid, quirky—there’s definitely a hippie vibe to the whole show. Cynthia’s innocence is both entertaining and endearing; as well, she provides an opportunity for us to laugh at ourselves and our own vulnerability to cure-all, life improving treatments and tools. And while the show as a whole can feel a bit heavy-handed—the readymades are objects with the purported power to provide good fortune, youthful vitality, and health; the collages use imagery that captures the same message—that is exactly the point: we can’t get away from this; advertising is everywhere.
Who isn’t just a little interested in spending $19.99 for two sets of life harmonizing flameless color changing glow candles (as advertised in the final video of the show, which then also provides instructions for using the biofeedback machines situated nearby): just lay back and let them magically change your being! And I wouldn’t believe anyone who wasn’t at least a little curious to try the ThoughtWave. For my part, I skipped it—I already have one at home.