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Shana Moulton review

  • Art
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Courtesy the artist & Zabludowicz Collection. Photo: Tim Bowditch

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Anxiety is at epidemic levels. The painful agoraphobic stress of contemporary life is everywhere, and we’re all looking for a mindful way to escape it.

American video artist Shana Moulton uses a character called Cynthia as an avatar for all of that modern angst. Cynthia does calisthenics, communes with nature, collects crystals: she claws desperately for a solution to the crushing weight of anxiety. It’s uncomfortably relatable.

The sound of tinkling water and gentle pop-opera fills the gallery’s three spaces. With her grainy, 1990s infomercial aesthetic, Moulton puts Cynthia through a series of trials by wellness. Cynthia spins on a traction table, locks herself in a sauna tent and endlessly googles for answers to life’s big questions. But throughout, she stays trapped. In one video she’s a damsel in distress – imprisoned by capitalism in a big pink tower – in another she’s a paranoid recluse, scared shitless of ecological disaster. Mundane everyday life is everywhere, and it’s unbearable.

The main space is filled with a giant pink tower and a gentle digital waterfall for you to dip your toes into. The rooms are filled with knick-knacks like crystals, LED alien faces and mini water features: weapons in a fight against anxiety.

Moulton’s work isn’t exactly satirical – she’s too generous-hearted, and too earnest and American, to outwardly mock the mindfulness industry and the people who so desperately need its help – but it is a bit of a pisstake. Moulton acknowledges that people feel anxious and sad, she knows life is mundane and overbearing. By making this bright, twinkling, clever art about modern anxiety, she’s giving the viewer exactly what we need: a little escape, a little perspective, and a little bit of critical distance from all that everyday bullshit.

Eddy Frankel
Written by
Eddy Frankel


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