AboutDaria Martin's first survey exhibition in a UK public gallery presents a selection of short 16mm films made over the last 10 years, including the premier of an ambitious new work, Sensorium Tests. Throughout this period, Martin has pursued a sustained enquiry into numerous pressing issues relating to film, art and culture, including enchantment, voyeurs and artificial intelligence.
The exhibition includes the following films: Closeup Gallery (2003), in which a magician and his assistant engage in a strange game where cards dance, as if dramatising an inner world; Soft Materials (2004) where intimate relationships between man and machine are nurtured in an artificial intelligence laboratory; Harpstrings and Lava (2007) a dark narrative that animates dream images through clashing textures and structures; and the new film Sensorium Tests (2012), which revolves around a recently recognised neurological condition called âmirror-touch synaesthesia'.
People with this condition experience a physical sense of touch on their own bodies when they see other people, or sometimes even objects, being touched. Using staged scenarios based on a real life experiment into this condition, the film explores how sensations might be created and shared between people and objects.
Encountering art has always produced varying degrees of engagement and interaction, whether triggering personal memories, associations or feelings, or more recently in literal, physical responses to immersive, participatory installations. In some ways, Martin's work turns these distinctions on their head, using mirror-touch synaesthesia to render virtual or remote activities indistinguishable from literal actions.
Martin's work often raises questions about what it means to be âtouched' by cinema and alternates playfully between luring the viewer through sensuous images and lush archetypes, and pushing them back into an awareness of artifice. This intentionally crafted push and pull, Martin says, is a reflection of the essential contradictions of the medium of film: its ephemerality and sensuality together with a physical realisation of fantasy.
Combining elements of painting, sculpture, performance art, dance, music and science, Martin's films re-enact on a modest basis the historical ideal of the âgesamtkunstwerk' or total artwork in order to create new frictions. Her casts frequently include musicians, choreographers and actors, and practitioners of professions or members of subcultures not normally placed before the camera. Sensorium Tests' cast comprises the Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca as well as several non-actors, including the synaesthete James Wannterton, who âtastes words'.
The exhibition design has been produced by London-based architects and designers Melissa Appleton and Matthew Butcher from Post Works, while the accompanying publication has been designed by APFEL A Practice for Every Day Life.
Daria Martin (b.1973, San Francisco) studied Humanities at Yale and received her M.F.A. from UCLA in 2000. Based in London since 2002, Martin's solo exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2006), Kunstverein in Hamburg, Kunsthalle Zurich (both 2005), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2009) which toured to the New Museum, New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Her work is currently on view at the Pompidou Centre, Paris in Danser Sa Vie and a solo show opened at Galleria Raffaella Cortese, Milan on 15 December 2011. She has been a senior lecturer at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at University of Oxford since 2006.
Excerpts from the artist's films may be viewed on www.dariamartin.com.
The artist is represented by Maureen Paley, London. www.maureenpaley.com.
Publication: Sensorium Tests
Texts by Melissa Gronlund, and Daria Martin, with postface by Anthony Spira. RRP £19. Available to pre-order. Details at www.mkgallery.org/shop/books
Exhibition supported by The Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation, Maureen Paley and the Daria Martin Exhibition Circle of Friends. 'Sensorium Tests' is supported by the Wellcome Trust.