“Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night had greatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from each other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with drink and the trees that shaded me with their foliage. I was delighted when I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals who had often intercepted the light from my eyes. I began also to observe, with greater accuracy, the forms that surrounded me and to perceive the boundaries of the radiant roof of light which canopied me. Sometimes I tried to imitate the pleasant songs of the birds but was unable. Sometimes I wished to express my sensations in my own mode, but the uncouth and inarticulate sounds which broke from me frightened me into silence again.”

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

Maureen Paley is pleased to present Daria Martin’s first solo exhibition at the gallery. Her most recently completed film, Harpstrings & Lava, will be screened in the ground floor gallery, accompanied by a series of related works on paper. The film was first shown at S.M.A.K in Ghent and as part of the PERFORMA Festival in New York in 2007. This will be the first opportunity for audiences in the UK to see the work.

Harpstrings & Lava 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.

Accompanying the film are a series of drawings depicting a cave-like environment, some showing the cave from the inside looking out, towards the light, and some depicting views into its shaded interior. These drawings reflect Martin’s interest in the cave as “a place for retreat, gathering, sorting and play.”

Harpstrings & Lava was commissioned by Outset Contemporary Art Fund, PERFORMA, New York and S.M.A.K, Ghent.

Previous solo exhibitions have included the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2006, Kunsthalle Zürich, 2005, and the Kunstverein in Hamburg, 2005. Martin’s trilogy of films were recently acquired by the Tate and were on display at Tate Britain earlier this year. Her work was included in Manifesta 7, 2008, The Tate Triennial, 2006, and the touring exhibition Uncertain States of America. She is currently working on two new films, one of which, Minator, will be shown early next year as part of the 3M Commission, at the MCA Chicago, the New Museum, New York and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.