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Tonight the World: Daria Martin explores her grandmother's dream diaries


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As part of The Barbican’s 2019 Life Rewired season, Daria Martin’s first major solo commission Tonight the World is on display in The Curve. Martin combines film and gaming technology to create an immersive environment that explores what it means to be human in a world of advancing technology.

Daria Martin’s Tonight the World explores the vivid writings of her grandmother, Suzi Stiassni, who fled from the imminent threat of Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Stiassni’s diaries consist of over 20,000 pages of forensically recorded accounts of her dreams over 35 years, with them often returning to her abandoned childhood home.

aria Martin

Tonight the World, 2019


16mm film transferred to HD




Daria Martin, 'Tonight the World', 2019. Anamorphic 16mm film transferred to HD, 13.5 minutes. Copyright Daria Martin, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

The exhibition starts with Refuge, a three-dimensional rendering of Martin’s grandmother’s villa in Brno, where she grew up. The artist worked with gamers in Brno during the creation of this film, which is now one of the major gaming hubs in Europe. The viewer is guided through various rooms of the childhood home they had to abandon, engaging with some of the recurrent objects in the dreams, like a group of miniature terracotta warriors and a robot figurine.

There is a contradiction of emotion here, with the audience guided around these rooms with familiar confidence, but interacting with unknown objects. This empty grey house evokes a sense of nostalgia, yet is unfamiliar to the audience. This digital rendition is enhanced by the dark atmosphere of The Curve, with the winding corridor echoing the ideas of intrusion and construction in the video game.

Daria Martin, 'Tonight the World', 2019. Anamorphic 16mm film transferred to HD, 13.5 minutes. Copyright Daria Martin, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

The hypnotic corridor is an elongation of this dream world, drawing the observer towards the glowing orange light. Through a window in the rounded wall, 275 illuminated pages of Stiassni’s journal are pinned to the surface, creating an overwhelming wall of text. Here, the practical objective of these diary entries is highlighted. Initially used for psychoanalysis, these pages are presented in a grid-like sequence, emphasising Stiassni’s need to find rationality in the irrationality of her dreams.

Continuing around The Curve, the blue robot from the video game can be seen perched on the wall, peering down from above. This silent voyeur is unsettling, a remnant of the dream world that has escaped into real life, breaking down barriers between what is genuine and what is fake. Martin praises the architecture of this exhibition space: “My exhibition explores another sort of ‘back room’– a lost dream diary archive… it enables a cinematic journey of successive ‘reveals’– but also with the space's more eccentric insides.”

Daria Martin, 'Tonight the World', 2019. Anamorphic 16mm film transferred to HD, 13.5 minutes. Copyright Daria Martin, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

This robot connects the videogame walkthrough with the final part of the exhibition, in which five of Stiassni’s dreams are reimagined by Martin in film, using actors to recreate these visions. These films emphasise the peculiarity of Martin’s grandmother’s visions, bringing these fears to life. Each sequence focuses on dreams of anxiety about intruders, echoing Stiassni’s real-world fears of Nazi invasion.

The films are accompanied by the corresponding dream diary entries on the wall, allowing the audience to experience both the reconstruction of the dream world and the accurate recollection concurrently. Martin envisages that this exhibition will become a portrait of her grandmother, and an exploration of intergenerational trauma, loss and perseverance.

Daria Martin, 'Refuge', 2019. HD videogame, still. Copyright Daria Martin, courtesy Maureen Paley, London.

The artist aims to create a continuity between people and objects, dreams and reality, the internal and external. “In lifting the dreams off the page and placing them on screen”, Martin explains, “I wanted to reinvest them with what I imagine was their original physical and emotional intensity.”

Daria Martin’s Tonight the World can be seen at The Curve in The Barbican until 7th April. To find out more information, click here.

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