Soft Materials is a curious, touching but also disturbing sequence of confrontations between two people: a man and a woman, and machines. Shot in the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the University of Zurich, the humans and the machines mirror each other’s actions. It is unclear which party takes the lead. Do the humans mimic the machines or are the machines following the humans? Each of the protagonists, whether human or mechanical, are vulnerable and naked –the humans stripped of clothing and the machines lacking protective covering. Like the celebrated film “Ballet Mechanique” by Leger, Martin’s film suggests the erotics of the mechanised world. The film evokes a history of modernist aspiration for utopia where man and machine would become bedfellows or at least entirely complimentary. The machines learn to think and act like humans echoing their appearance and actions. The work references both American body performance art of the 1960s and 1970s as well as Robert Morris’s work “Neoclassic” in which a naked dancer was filmed interacting with his sculptures at the Tate Gallery in 1971 in a series of peaceful, trancelike actions.
A number of Daria Martin's films explore the relationship between humans and machines and make reference to modernist art, whether through the work of the Bauhuas (Schlemmer), Surrealism (Giacometti's Palace at 4 AM) or American art of the 1960s and 1970s. Her films involve performance and many are shown as 16mm projections – assembling memories, reveries, scholarly research, and imported citations drawn from a wide range of sources including early twentieth century painting, sculpture, fashion, stage, and dance productions. “I came to the medium of film because of its open potential,” writes Daria Martin, “Its invitation to travel through time and space within an imagined world.” The artist values the contradictions of the medium of film, in particular the tension between the private fantasy it stimulates and the public physicality on which it depends.
Daria Martin was born in 1973 in San Francisco. She lives and works in London.