Daria Martin Birds
November 2 – December 15, 2001
Gallery 2

"There were some remarkable specimens, some a pinkish colour like the Virginale, which seem to have been cut out of oilskin or sticking plaster; some all white like the Albane, which looked as if it had been fashioned out of the pleura of an ox or the diaphanous bladder of a pig. Others, especially the one called Madame Mame, seemed to be simulating zinc, parodying bits of punched metal coloured emperor green and splattered with drops of oil paint, streaks of red lead and white . . . others such as the Aurora Borealis flaunted leaves the colour of raw meat . . . " -J. K. Huysmans, A Rebours

Daria Martin's most recent film, Birds, quotes early modern cultural movements, which idealistically combine the disciplines of design and art, then transforms these sources into a living, contemporary, questioning voice. Birds illuminates aspiration and failure, efforts to transcend, and that effort's flipside, melancholy.

This is Daria Martin's first one person exhibition. She received her undergraduate degree from Yale University and recently completed her Masters degree at the University of California, Los Angeles. Artforum (2001) featured Daria Martin as a young artist to watch. Martin currently lives and works in L.A.

In Birds, as in all of Martin's work, romance surrounds inquiry. Delicate lighting, fluid camera movements, a quietly haunting soundtrack and costumed actors posing inside hand-made sets cohere within what seems to be a phony interior world, an intimate theater. The actors in Birds preen in costumes fashioned with everyday materials, forming still tableaux that leave them open to the camera's scrutiny, while the environment around them turns, sways and floats. Both the camera and the sets are in constant motion, creating an almost liquid space in which it is difficult to situate solid ground, while a soundtrack of moog synthesizer music adds texture to that viscosity.

The opposite of an over budgeted Hollywood blockbuster, Birds is a kind of magic act that shows how the trick is done. Birds mines pre-digital tools to create low-tech special effects for today's world: archaic film tricks, the contrived staginess of theater, the old-fashioned pleasures of the "plastic arts" ¬color, form,-- and the transformative thrill of fashion to create a completely different kind of "virtual reality."

Fantasy is made tangible, as the viewer's awareness vacillates between the magic of the raw materials' transformation, and that transformation's failure. This element of gentle melancholy, of the magical illusion almost falling apart, keeps Birds just outside the realm of camp on the one hand, and of pretentious delusion or deception on the other, and within a shifting, sometimes humorous, realm where images glide, change, transform, physically as well as mentally.

In J. K. Huysman's A Rebours the effete anti-hero Des Esseintes tires of his collection of exquisite fake flowers and decides instead to seek out real flowers that are so spectacular that they look fake. This is the ultimate aspiration for Birds – that the film become like a hothouse flower, a fantastical bird, that owns a living beauty contained within its apparent artifice.