mercredi 26 novembre 2008
Daria Martin (Maureen Paley Gallery, London)
Harpstrings & Lava (2007) focuses on the performances of the actor Nina Fog and the musician and composer Zeena Parkins, both Martin’s long-term collaborators. The two protagonists inhabit separate fictional worlds; Fog, as a feral, child-like character, is enclosed in a darkened space littered with rustling detritus, whilst Parkins, as alchemist, plays both the electric and the acoustic harp in an arcaded set bathed in golden light. As the camera closely follows the performers’ actions and moves between the two environments, oppositions between light and dark, and order and chaos are established and questioned. Martin was inspired to make the film after hearing a friend describe her fantasised vision of molten lava colliding with fine, tensile harp strings, which as a child she wilfully conjured up to arouse intense, but somehow pleasurable, anxiety. In Harpstrings and Lava, Martin attempts to “unpack and unfold the product of another person’s ‘mind’s eye’ “to open its obscurity to others’ similar experiences.
Daria Martin’s latest film has an unexpectedly personal origin: the articulation of a dream by one of her friends that hinged on the incongruous tactility of taught harp strings and molten lava. The oppositional premise is represented by a woman playing the harp in a trompe l’oeil colonnaded interior and another more instinctual, even feral, woman, who explores a raggedly organic nest-like habitat, her tentative handling of objects in contrast to the harpist’s attitude of self-possession and virtuosity. As the camera, with its shallow depth of field, roams through a thicket of visual signifiers, themes of empirical knowledge and mystical intuition, connected rather than segregated by their relationship to technology and nature, find form in the dualisms of interior and exterior, light and dark, culture and nature. When the two performers eventually encounter one another, however, Martin does not tip into narrative resolution. The broad, classical themes are made more complex by a collaborative approach to the onscreen performance, the translation from the psychological to the visual seeming more improvisational and convoluted than storyboarded and authored. While ‘Harpstrings and Lava’ can be read in almost essayist terms, it can also be luxuriated in as a painterly experience.