Carolina Performing Arts will present Whispering Pines 10: An Opera by Shana Moulton and Nick Hallett at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 27th and 28th, in Memorial Hall on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus. A one-act opera created by video/performance artist Shana Moulton and composer Nick Hallett and directed by Elyse Singer, this multimedia show premiered in April 2010 at the Kitchen in New York City. It is being presented in partnership with the UNC Department of Art (http://art.unc.edu/) and in conjunction with Moulton’s art exhibition, entitled “To Seek Out, to Explore, to Doze, to Snooze,” from March 13th to April 6th in the John and June Allcott Gallery in UNC’s Hanes Art Center, 115 S. Columbia St., Chapel Hill, NC 27514.
According to Carolina Performing Arts:
“With a wry, unsettling humor and a low-tech, pop sensibility, the wildly creative New York video/performance artist Shana Moulton’s hilarious multipart Whispering Pines features her alter ego Cynthia, a confused, hypochondriac agoraphobe prone to colorful hallucinations and absurd fantasies.
“Abstract and dreamlike, Cynthia’s interactions with the everyday world are both mundane and surreal, initiating uncanny relationships with objects and consumer products in a domestic sphere just slightly askew….
“This performance takes place in our Loading Dock configuration, with audiences and artists sharing the Memorial Hall stage. Seating for this performance is limited, and directions will be distributed with ticket purchases.”
According to preshow publicity for a January 2011 performance at the New Museum Theater in New York City:
“… While Cynthia seeks health and total happiness within her virtual environment — an interactive video set that utilizes real-time multimedia techniques its creators call ‘live animation’ — she usually settles for fad cures and new-age kitsch, creating situations in turn comic, contemplative, and surreal….
“Whispering Pines is the celebrated video serial created by [Shana] Moulton in 2002 that has previously spawned nine episodes, along with related performances, videos, and gallery installations. Whispering Pines 10 — the latest installment — is an innovative performance hybrid that incorporates elements of traditional opera into contemporary video and performance art. Its premise — a woman alone in her private environment, aided by technology — enables a flexible sensibility wherein popular and experimental forms can mingle.
“The original music and libretto composed by [Nick] Hallett takes advantage of the narrative’s dream logic to weave what is essentially a pop music vocabulary into an experimental idiom, enabling a virtuosic exploration of the human voice. As the protagonist does not effectively speak, the sounds of her inner psychology are sung — glossolalia [i.e., speaking in tongues] and the songs in her memory, ostensibly derived from tacky pulp culture, but somehow heightened. The work is a conversation-generating update of the monodrama or ‘mad scene,’ realized within a mediated, medicated, feminized, and quintessentially American vernacular.”
According to the UNC Department of Art:
“Shana Moulton became known through her ongoing video saga Whispering Pines, in which she plays the role of ‘Cynthia,’ both a fictional figure and the artist’s alter ego. Cynthia is a fearful hypochondriac who resorts to the paraphernalia of esoteric instruments, alternative medicine, and natural cosmetics to escape the boredom of everyday routine. Cynthia’s home environment proves to be a magic and uncanny universe furnished with symbols and signs borrowed from art history, new-age philosophy, and advertising. Whispering Pines has spawned related performances, videos, and gallery installations, which stage pixilated, neon rainbow dream worlds in southwest landscapes using a mix of found objects and video projections. Moulton’s world is a thoroughly captivating combination of the absurd and the transcendental — a critical but humorous engagement with self-help culture, commodity fetishism, and new age spirituality.
“For her exhibition at UNC, Moulton transforms the John and June Allcott Gallery into a space inspired by the term ‘snoezelen,’ a neologism formed from the Dutch word snuffelen (to seek out, to explore), and dozelen (to doze, to snooze). ‘Snoezelen’ is a kind of controlled multisensory stimulation used for people with mental disabilities. Rooms constructed for ‘snoezelen’ use lighting effects, color, sounds, music, and other physical sensations to deliver stimuli, which are intended to help stimulate one’s sense of balance. The power of Moulton’s work lies in her ability to be simultaneously earnest and tongue-in-cheek, allowing viewers to both laugh and empathize with Cynthia’s ever-evolving neuroses.
“Shana Moulton’s exhibition opens a two-week residency as a visiting artist with the Art Department at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her residency will conclude with a two-night showing of her acclaimed live performance, Whispering Pines, with her musical collaborator, Nick Hallett, as part of Carolina Performing Arts’ Loading Dock Series….
“Shana Moulton lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She earned a BFA from the University of California, Berkeley; an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University; and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and De Ateliers, Amsterdam….”
In reviewing previous performances of Whispering Pines 10:
Kareem Estefan of BOMB (Brooklyn, NY) wrote, “Whispering Pines 10 playfully demonstrates Cynthia’s loss of power to chic ideologies of self-empowerment, as Moulton’s character, mute, is subsumed by a digital video backdrop and kitschy pop librettos…. The pained narcissism of incessant healing and grooming is masked as a heroic journey to wellness, for which seclusion is a necessary step.”
Michael Connor of Radiovisual (New York City) added, “[Moulton’s] relation with this character is somewhere between irony and pure love. You can never quite tell how much of it is mockery and how much of it is sincere appreciation for this aesthetic and style; and that’s what makes the works so interesting, because Cynthia is a ridiculous person who is completely out of control of her environment … and we sort of sympathize with her and we laugh at her and we laugh along with her.”
Andy Horowitz of Culturebot (New York City) notes, “The audience — complete with art stars and downtown celebs — loved the show and I can understand why. There’s a lot to enjoy from the piece and it is clever and amusing … the music was absolutely delightful.”
SECOND OPINION: March 20th Chapel Hill, NC ReeseNews preview by Nicole Leonard: http://reesenews.org/2012/03/20/whispering-pines-opera-in-memorial-hall-march-27-and-28/38172/.
Carolina Performing Arts presents WHISPERING PINES 10: AN OPERA BY SHANA MOULTON AND NICK HALLETT at 7:30 p.m. March 27 and 28 in Memorial Hall, 114 E. Cameron Ave., Chapel Hill, NC 27514, on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus.
TICKETS: $20 ($10 UNC students).
BOX OFFICE: 919-843-3333 or https://www.carolinaperformingarts.org/tickets/.
VIDEO PREVIEWS: http://vimeo.com/13714652 and http://vimeo.com/25039353.
Whispering Pines 10: http://picaresourceroom.org/index.php?/theworks/shana-moulton-and-nick-hallett/ (PICA Resource Room).
Shana Moulton: http://shanamoulton.info/ (official website) and http://www.shanamoultonweb.com/ (her blog).
Nick Hallett: http://www.harknessav.org/ (official website).
To Seek Out, to Explore, to Doze, to Snooze (art exhibiton): http://art.unc.edu/News_Events/Events/CCM3_035650 (UNC Department of Art).
UNC Department of Art: http://art.unc.edu/ (official website).
Hanes Art Center: http://www.unc.edu/tour/LEVEL_2/hanesart.htm (official web page) and http://art.unc.edu/About_Us/Contact/MAP_DIRECTIONS (directions).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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