Daria Martin’s work often explores the importance of performance and film in the history of modern art. Here she revives the concept of the ‘total artwork’. This idea that fusing the arts together could offer a far richer experience than any one art form alone was central to European modern art in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In Birds, five performers enact a three-dimensional moving composition followed by periods of still poses to a soundtrack of early electronic music. Their costumes are created from ordinary materials such as painted paper plates and coloured cellophane. Is the result a performance or an abstract sculpture or painting? The answer changes at different moments in the film.
Birds ends moments after the performers relax and one of them reacts obviously to the camera’s presence. The film reveals its artifice as the fantasy world of performance switches to the private interactions of the group of performers, though this ‘natural’ moment is presumably staged too. Martin has said
In my films, the fakery of their making is foregrounded… I want to seduce viewers into an imagined space but to allow them ways out of it.
Her reimagining of the total artwork, which moves between art forms and reveals its own construction, makes room for viewers to question what they are experiencing.
Curated by Andrea Lissoni with Valentina Ravaglia.