Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art presents Silvia Martes: Mechanical Manifestations from February 2 to March 26, 2023.
Mechanical Manifestations is the first solo exhibition in Germany by Dutch artist Silvia Martes, who works largely with video. She experiments with nonlinear storytelling on numerous levels, ranging from thriller and sci-fi to documentary, melodrama, and comedy. She frequently studies power shifts in filmic representations, reflects on autobiographical storytelling, and investigates the blurring of boundaries through pseudo-fiction.
Martes’ broad scientific interest, which includes neurology, psychology, and physics, informs her daring, fun, and often humorous—yet not wholly prescribed—film scripts. Her stories emerge gradually as a result of study and committed talks with both her actors and the filming sites. This purposefully erratic working style is visible in the finished films. Because the stories are intertwined with autobiographical facts, Martes maintains as much control as possible over the production, doing practically every step of the filming process herself: she designs the sets, runs the camera, performs, directs, and edits. With the staging of conflicts and her association-heavy, dreamy storytelling style, she depicts conflicting and highly uncomfortable ideological and political challenges.
The incorporation of images, voice-overs, and quick cuts into filmed material acknowledges the fact that every story contains connections to other stories, the majority of which go unarticulated and untold. One such hidden narrative inspired Martes’s recently commissioned multimedia piece, Heru Ku Heru pt.1. (Iron With Iron pt.1) (2023), which was inspired by the artist’s family’s travel itineraries. The work centres around the complicated history of descendants of émigrés from the Caribbean island of Curaçao to the Netherlands and is presented in two parts: a fictitious story that follows characters visiting a Curaçao cafe and nonfictional interviews with Dutch citizens with Caribbean heritage. Heru Ku Heru delves into their mythological memories and analyzes colonialism’s sensitive and complex legacy from a contemporary perspective.
The Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art’s solo exhibition of Martes’ work concentrates upon a distinctive element of her oeuvre: her magnificent yet handcrafted film sets and spatial arrangements, which weave a mesmerizing atmosphere. This show intends to take these sceneographic creations on a new path, allowing them to take over the gallery space and transcend filmic constraints.
Silvia Martes’ exhibition, presented as part of her Foundation of Lower Saxony 2022 Grant for Media Art, provides considerable insight into the artist’s vibrant practice, which retains a tone of hope, and sometimes humor, even as it deals with complex and heavy issues.