Daria Martin: One of the Things That Makes Me Doubt

Daria Martin’s films employ a distinctive aesthetic of 16mm to unfold extra-sensory zones of memory, dream and the unconscious. Curator Juliana Engberg says of the attraction of the works: “Daria’s films take the viewer into a kind sombulant state with their hypnotic pace, use symbolism and myth, they present as dreams in a continuous exploration of character and experience”.

Influenced by performance and choreography, the works embody a sense of inner worlds, and present these emotions as new occurrences carried out through bizarre constructions of actions and objects in space. Like a dream, the works don’t make logical sense, but at the same time they connect almost naturally to an alternative version of reality. They aren’t coherently put together as a linear narrative, but rely on textures, rhythms, patterns, and sound, to fuse together fragments of waking life, and re-mix them into new formations of unraveling and re-occurring moments.

Sensorium Tests, 2012, explores the neurological condition ‘mirror-touch synaesthesia’, a rare and only recently diagnosed condition in which people see someone or something else being touched and feel the touch themselves. Influenced by scientific experiments on this condition, Martin has created a film that reconstructs and explores the empathy, unexpectedness and confusion of this rare sensation. It connects the overall idea of many of her works: the sharing of physical sensations between people and objects, and visually externalising inner worlds.

As well as films, the exhibition also presents paintings and diary entries by Martin’s grandmother that reference dark undertones of psychoanalysis, and relate to the Jungian idea of dreams. Engberg explains: “Jung contended that we share a ‘collective’ consciousness, that our patterns and interconnections follow certain similar characters and attributes and these are traceable to all and shared by all from the particular to the general. Daria’s films, related to her Grandmother’s diaries, are shifting the personal to the collective and travel to myth and dream and the unconscious where Jung (and Freud in a different interpretation) first found them”.

Martin’s treatment of the medium of film also feeds into the friction between real life and its re-interpretations. The archival quality of 16mm film suggests realistic scenarios that are broken apart by evoking fantasy worlds, a reminder that film, and art, is constructed. This is carried through to elements of art history, architecture, fashion, and theatre. Engberg says of these references: “Daria employs tableaux, linking her films to other depictions from art history, such as the paintings of the Symbolists and Surrealists, as well as the costumes and attitudes of the Bauhaus theatre”.

Birds, 2001, is composed of five dancers whose costumes and set is designed with low-tech materials including cellophane and painted cardboard shapes, and props such as coloured balls, wheels, and rods. The makeshift nature of the scene light-heartedly points to ephemeral aspects of art and cultural movements that can easily fall apart.

Martin’s films are distinctive and intriguing through their sensuous imagery, playful historical references, mismatching of reality with fantasy, and an embodiment of human sensations that usually can not be described. She remixes art forms and eras to light-heartedly deconstruct the art world, while also reconstructing dreams and nightmares to externalise internal psychological states of the unconscious. The works are rich with a texture that, as if we are experiencing mirror-touch synaesthesia, we can almost physically feel ourselves.

Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
25 May to 28 July, 2013

Sensorium Tests, 2012, 16mm film

Birds, 2001, 16mm film

Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London.