Daria Martin Birds 2001 Joe Humphrys Tate Photography © Tate 2016
Tate Modern

Daria Martin

Blavatnik Building Level 3

Daria Martin Birds 2001
Joe Humphrys Tate Photography © Tate 2016

Birds 2001 brings together performance, sculpture, film and music in a single artwork

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.

Daria Martin, 'Birds' 2001
Daria Martin
Birds 2001
© Daria Martin


Tate Modern
Plan your visit

All rooms in this display

Find out more