Surface Tensions

A: It’s difficult to see down here.

T: It’s murky, but I can feel how soft you are. You are very satisfying to touch.

A: This is a bit…intimate. There seems to be a lot of you.

T: Close up I can only just make out your wide mouth, and your obsidian eyes. I wish I could see more.

A: Would you like it if I described my body?

T: Yes. Start with your skin. It’s quite lovely.

A: Our skin is delicate. Permeable. Silky and silty like the mud. We are forever young. At one end of our bodies, where we suck in small wriggling beasts, there are frilly plant-like tendrils that help us breathe. At the other end is a strong, smooth tail. Unlike your fins, we have legs, four of them, with soft little fingers at each end.

T: Ah. That sounds wonderful. I have seen you before, but only a few hints of you over many seasons. I sense you have been here a long time.

A: Yes. We have been here a very long time.

Every wet season like clockwork, a daily downpour of rain attempts to reclaim the vast lake Texcoco that once expanded over Mexico city before it was drained dry by the invading Spanish. A small tangle of canals on the outskirts of the city represents the last vestiges of the pre-Hispanic canal system, and is also the last remaining home of an unusual amphibian. The Axolotl is a salamander that has been the focus of endless scientific studies due to their unique abilities, particularly their remarkable power of regeneration, they have also frequently appeared in the arts, literature and pop culture, have stood in as a metaphor for Mexican identity and a symbol of conservation. Though many have observed their inert bodies and pulsing gills in homes and pet stores across the world, the Axolotl is almost extinct in the wild. This “wild” home that was once fed by natural springs is now entirely fed by treated sewerage water, and is filled with introduced prey species and heavy metals. In Surface Tensions Nadege questions what is “wilderness”, and playfully explores the interconnections and paradoxes that exist between humans, our surrounding environments, and the non-human beings we share them with.

Surface Tensions is a series of works created after a residency with SOMA in Mexico City in 2018.

  1. Axolotl Guide
    fish bowl, acrylic, water, mirror, separatory funnel, headphones, sound 3:26 mins
  2. There are two types of collisions between two bodies (Feelin’ Fine)
    Mirror, motor, magnets, plastic axolotl toy
  3. Bottleneck (Axolotl Eyes)
    Crystal ball, projection, video 3:40 mins
  4. Surface Tensions
    Two channel video, sound, 15:03 mins
  5. Return of the Lake
    Digital photograph prints

Axolotl Guide audio


During the SOMA residency, participants collaborated on a publication. You can view a digital copy  here

Documentation of the residency can also be viewed on my photo blog here