When Jarman award-winning artist and filmmaker Daria Martin’s Jewish Czech grandmother Susi Stiassni died in 2005 aged 82, she left behind a meticulous typewritten record of almost 20,000 dreams recorded over a 40 year period.
Afterimages at Holocaust Centre North until 4 May 2023, features a trio of short films based on her almost improbably detailed dream diary, which Susi invited her family to explore after her death. Retracing the legacy of her grandmother’s emotional history, Martin considers the unconscious underpinnings of intergenerational trauma, loss and resilience. Afterimages includes the premiere of Martin’s final film in the series, Nostalgia Ranch.
Tonight The World (2019) (13.5 mins) draws from over 300 recurring and unsettling dreams about intruders in Susi’s childhood home, Villa Stiassni, a modernist mansion built by her prominent textile manufacturer parents Alfred and Mitzi in the Czech industrial hub of Brno. Shot on location at the villa, which has been open to the public as a national heritage site since 2014, it was first shown at The Curve gallery at the Barbican. The film tells, across five chapters, a narrative of threat and escape that parallels Susi’s lived experience.
Refuge (2020) (11 mins) is an interactive video game based on a 3D rendering of Villa Stiassni that Martin designed with game developers in Brno. The game operates simultaneously as a portrait of Martin’s ancestor, a self-portrait, and an exploration of intergenerational trauma, intolerance, migration, loss, and resilience. Refuse enables a return to the Villa, discovering dream diary pages along the way. Does a hidden threat lurk, or is the viewer themselves the intruder?
Nostalgia Ranch (2021) (8 mins) (PREMIERE) concludes Martin’s restaging of her grandmother’s dream diary, and premieres at Holocaust Centre North. Melding videogame back projections with live-action slapstick, song and dance, this final chapter embodies a peculiar dream of resilience. Two comedy crooks, upon encountering an uncanny pair of colonial explorers, are forced to think twice about their crimes. It is based on a dream from 21 February 1974, when Susi was 51, a year older than Daria is now.
For the final film in the three-part series, Daria generated the text and lyrics through social dreaming workshops with descendants of Holocaust survivors, thus furthering her ongoing exploration of trauma transmission and collective experience. Social dreaming is a technique pioneered at the Tavistock Institute in the 1980s, in which participants share their own dreams and respond to them.
Daria’s grandmother Susi, an artist herself, fled the imminent Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and was evacuated to a British boarding school. From there she travelled with her parents to Brazil, and finally settled in California. She started the dream diaries aged 43 alongside psychoanalysis, at a time when family drama had reignited childhood Holocaust trauma.
Afterimages is at Holocaust Centre North in Huddersfield until 4 May 2023
About Daria Martin
Born in 1973 in San Francisco, Daria Martin’s work has been exhibited extensively across the world. Solo exhibitions include Curve Gallery, Barbican, London (2019); Maureen Paley, London (2016); One of the Things That Makes Me Doubt, ACCA: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, Australia (2013). She is the winner of the 2018 Jarman Award for moving image artists and is Professor of Art at The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford.