Daria Martin (born 1973 in San Francisco, USA; lives and works in London, England).
16-mm film, projection, color, and sound; 7 min 30 sec.
“Birds (2001) is the second in a trilogy of films. It is preceded by In the Palace (2000) and succeeded by Close-up Gallery (2003). The film follows five dancers on an all-white, moving set. At first they wear highly stylized, predominantly white costumes before switching to all-white leotards and coloured cellophane headdresses with matching extensions on each of their fingers. The dancers form complex compositions comparable to abstract paintings and hold their poses in tableaux. At other points they explore parts of the moving scenography. Birds ends just after the performance stops and the dancers relax, and one of them reacts to the camera’s presence.
“The costumes, props and sets used in Birds are made out of everyday materials and appear makeshift. Parallelling the colored cellophane of the headdresses, the set comprises clear and coloured Perspex shapes intersected by javelin-like rods. There are also colored balls and a large wheel, inside which a dancer stands and rolls across the set. The costumes and props, as well as the choreography and compositional sequences, pay homage to the German Bauhaus artist and choreographer Oskar Schlemmer’s (1888–1943) Triadic Ballet (Das Triadische Ballett) of 1922. As Schlemmer’s ballet transformed the dancer’s bodies into geometric shapes, in Birds abstract forms and the human figure collide. However, just as the work translates the dancer’s interactions into compositions resembling the plastic artworks, it also shows the interactions between the dancers. This is particularly evident in the moments of repose at the end of the film. In this way Birds exposes the private world of the group as well as the fantasy, artificial world of theatre.”
—Andrew Wilson, “Daria Martin: Birds,” Tate, last modified March 2007.
“Trained as a painter, she first made her name with a trilogy of films that brought modernist art into a realm of playful make-believe. Birds, from 2001, translates Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus ballet costumes into a hand-painted, knocked-together set with retro-futuristic fancy dress, in which Martin’s cast strike campy tableaux vivants. It’s a sweet but not uncritical daydream, about living in another age, and highlights modernism’s ill-conceived love of pure geometric forms at the expense of actual living people.”
—Skye Sherwin, “Artist of the Week 181: Daria Martin,” The Guardian, March 15, 2012.