Tonight the World, Daria Martin’s new installation, co-commissioned with Barbican, London, combines computer gaming technology and film to explore the unconscious memories of her grandmother, Bay Area-based artist Susi Stiassni. As a teenager, Stiassni and her family fled then Czechoslovakia from the imminent Nazi occupation, eventually settling in Marin County, where Martin was born and raised.
An immersive and atmospheric environment, Tonight the World stages a series of intimate encounters with an extensive archive of Stiassni’s dream diaries. Created over a thirty-seven-year period, these meticulously recorded accounts—originally chronicled for the purposes of Jungian psychoanalysis—amount to over 20,000 diary pages. Stiassni’s dreams frequently return to the disquieting history of her childhood home, a modernist villa built for the prominent Jewish textile industrialist family in the city of Brno in 1927. The Gestapo seized the villa following the family’s departure in 1938, after which it was occupied by various Czech governments. The Villa Stiassni remains a National Heritage site in Brno today.
The multimedia exhibition includes Refuge, a computer game based on a 3-D rendering of the Villa Stiassni that Martin designed with game developers in Brno; a selection of nearly 300 pages from Stiassni’s original dream diaries explicitly referencing Brno; a selection of Stiassni’s original paintings, created with Ann O’Hanlon’s Mill Valley group Sight and Insight; and culminates in Tonight the World, an original film bringing Stiassni’s dreams to life. Shot onsite at the present-day Villa Stiassni, the film reimagines five dream diary vignettes, amplifying recurring themes of anxiety and intrusion. The installation operates simultaneously as a portrait of Martin’s ancestor, a self-portrait, and an exploration of intergenerational trauma, intolerance, migration, loss, and resilience.
The exhibition premiered at the Barbican Curve Gallery, and has been co-commissioned by Barbican, London and The CJM. Daria Martin: Tonight the World is curated by CJM Senior Curator Heidi Rabben, with exhibition design by Melissa Appleton.