Daria 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 equivalent with inner worlds; 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 ‘mirror-touch synaesthesia’. 

People affected with mirror touch synaesthesia 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 ‘touched’ 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 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 ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ 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. The cast of Sensorium Tests comprises the Romanian actress Anamaria Marinca as well as several non-actors, including the synaesthete James Wannterton, who ‘tastes words’.

A diverse programme of public and family events accompanies the exhibition, including free exhibition tours, regular and February Half Term children’s workshops, a Friday night film programme selected by the artist (to enrich the references to these works in the catalogue), and Daria Martin In Conversation with Catherine Wood, Curator, Contemporary Art / Performance Tate Modern, on Thursday 23 February at 6.30pm.  See our Events pages for full details.  

Artist Brief Biography
Daria Martin (b.1973, San Francisco) studied Humanities at Yale and received her M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2000.  Based in London since 2002, Martin’s solo exhibitions include the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2006), Kunstverein in Hamburg, Kunsthalle Zürich (both 2005), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2009) which toured to the New Museum, New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.  Recent group shows include Move: Art and Dance Since the Sixties, shown at the Hayward Gallery in 2010 and toured to Munich and Dusseldorf, 2011, and Animism, presented by the Generali Foundation, Vienna, 2011.   Martin has also exhibited her films in venues such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and Tate Modern, London.  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 in December 2011. She has been a senior lecturer at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art at University of Oxford since 2006.  The artist is represented by Maureen Paley, London.    

The exhibition design has been produced by Post Works (Melissa Appleton and Matthew Butcher), whose work combines built structures and installations, with performances and film; recent projects have been seen at the ICA and Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The accompanying publication Daria Martin: Sensorium Tests, has been designed by APFEL – A Practice for Everyday Life, a London design agency working with some of the world's leading brands, companies, institutions and individual. They frequently collaborate with architects and curators; clients include the Hayward Gallery, ICA Boston, Tate Modern & Britain, Turner Prize and the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Exhibition generously supported by the Stanley Thomas Johnson FoundationMaureen Paley and the Daria Martin Exhibition Circle of Friends, including Sarah and Louis Elson, Nicoletta Fiorucci. Alison and Paul Myners, Valeria and Gregorio Napoleone, Maria Sukkar, Bina von Stauffenberg and those who wish to remain anonymous.  Sensorium Tests is supported by an arts award from The Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England.