Soft Materials is a new 16mm film shot in the Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Zurich where scientists research 'embodied artificial intelligence'. This cutting edge area of AI produces robots which, rather than being programmed from the head down by a computer brain, instead learn to function through the experience of their physical bodies.
Soft Materials introduces the robots to two performers, one man and one woman, trained in body awareness and acutely sensitive to the nuances of movement. These performers shed skins of soft fabric, bearing their joints like the frank structure of a machine, and then, naked, they perform a series of dances with the robots. Creating intimate relationships that are in turn tender, funny and eerie, they bend flexible human fantasy around tough materials.
Soft Materials creates a new image of 'man and machine', thus continuing Martin's aspiration to revisit the questions of the early Modern period. However, Soft Materials also connected with 1960's performance practices, which honed bodily relationships to physical objects. One inspiration for the project was Robert Morris's film, 'Neoclassical', which depicts an idealised interaction between his sculptures and two viewers.
Soft Materials, created during what some call the 'Digital Revolution', saw a return to the physical object in an arena of embodied play. Ironically, the objects in question were technological creations, and ones that mimic our own animal physicality. Soft Materials took to a new level Martin's ongoing concern with tangible fantasy and the power of artifice.
Soft Materials is commissioned by The Showroom.
Daria Martin has exhibited at Hotel, London, and Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York. Her work has been included in high profile shows such as 100 Artists See God, ICA; The Moderns, Castello di Rivoli Museum of Contemporary Art, Turin; Art Now Lightbox, Tate Britain; In the Palace at 4am, Asprey Jacques.