Artist Shana Moulton and composer Nick Hallett’s wild and wonderful Creative Capital Project Whispering Pines 10 is a cross-platform opera, unfolding as episodic, serialized video art. In it, a bright-eyed, beauty-loving woman named Cynthia would really like to rescue humanity from its ills, but her own obsessions with extreme wellness care (along with fear of failure and some undiagnosed OCD) make even changing her flowery nightgown all but impossible, much less physically leaving the house. She’s going to need a more spiritual mode of transportation if she wants to get anywhere, literally and figuratively. And although its iterations have evolved since Moulton first began the project in 2002, its new installment presciently encapsulates the current dilemma of the pandemic zeitgeist — a kind of namaste nihilism, where every catastrophe is just a fresh opportunity for personal growth.
In 2013, Moulton and Hallett had received a grant to re-configure Whispering Pines for the internet, and in 2018, the first few chapters of that new, made-for-streaming adaptation launched through the New Museum’s digital portal and parts were also screened at galleries from Paris to New York and Zurich. In solidarity with closed institutions, art-deprived audiences, and anyone who could use a micro-serial about inner peace, transcendence, and finding your life’s calling, they’ve just made the entire online work viewable, for free. But pay attention because there are scattered clues throughout the episodes, and to gain access to the finale, you need to figure out the password!
In a recent interview for the Creative Capital launch, Moulton says that “Whispering Pines is named after the mobile home park where I grew up, near Yosemite, California. I appear in [the videos] as my alter ego, named Cynthia, who is essentially me when I am alone, feeling anxious, alienated, or filled with existential dread about how I can prevent aging and illness. But she is also me when I have a creative or mystical revelation.” The new episode, Whispering Pines 10 was directly inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill’s nearly two-year up-a-tree sit-in from 1997-99, which saved a Giant Redwood grove, and which Moulton experienced as, “both activism and as a durational performance.”
Throughout the series joyful surrealism, astral projection, invisible forces, otherworldly music, soaring vocals, syncopated rhythms, sparkling synths, inanimate objects learning to move, secret passages, and stylized scenarios combine for a visual experience that is both avant-garde and extremely relatable. In the same interview Hallett muses that, “perhaps this is Cynthia’s moment. Self-care has never been more important, on a global level. The creative potential of solitude is going to be completely rethought.” And no spoilers, and the password is a little tricky to guess — but if you can get there, the finale is…memorable.