Isabel Tejeda


«Inmersión», Ed. Centro Puertas de Castilla, Ayuntamiento de Murcia, 2019, pp. 92-96.


Almost twenty years ago, I had the luck of coordinating an exhibition by Marina Núñez in Sala de Verónicas, Carne. It was one of the first projects in which this artist, with whom I happened to meet several times, has worked from the concept of dystopia. The sample -in which blue and luminous beings with winged stalks floated under the dome of that old church and fell disjointed (red) into boxes/coffins they could never get out of- swam against the ride regarding the thinking trends that predicted in an utopic way happy, prosperous and free futures for the human being thanks to the use of new technologies. Without, of course, becoming technophobic, Carne forged an allegory in the form of intervention in space. It departed from the idea that citizens from the beginnings of the XXI century could live existences in the net parallel to that they experiment in the world of contingency, new lives in which they would get rid of unelected bodies and identities that they rejected in order to build a desired and perfectly designed avatar. These questions started to discern in the possibilities of a still immature internet and in a moment in which social media like Facebook or Twitter weren’t born.

The sources that then Marina Núñez crossed in Carne were, on one hand, purely scientific (we have to underline that in her daily life she is surrounded familiarly and emotionally by mathematicians, engineers and chemists) and, on the other hand, popular culture; Marina Núñez quoted me in those days novels like Neuromante by William Gibson (1984),[1] and in my case recent films resounded too, like the Matrix trilogy directed by the Wachowski sisters (whose first round was presented in 1999). The artist warned in these pieces about the cybernetic, the post-human, how by then practically all individuals had something of cyborgs (even though it simply supposed a change in our social behaviour patterns, in the different ways of looking for information, in the knowledge generation or in a contact lens that will take the place of our original cornea).

At that moment I dared to quote in the text of the catalogue another achieved utopia which ended frankly badly: the desired entrance of the Enlightenment in Spain by the French at the beginning of the XIX century was resolved violently, with impositions and with thousands of corpses. Goya underlined his disappointment and pain in Yo lo ví when describing with severity the brutality that resided in the Gallic army while a turmoil of scared and defenceless people was running away in stampede of sabres, carbines and bayonets.[2] The dream of the reason really produced monsters.

And here we are again in Murcia. In this case, what nourishes the current exhibition of the artist from Palencia in Centro Puertas de Castilla, Inmersión, is not a dystopia but an utopia; it should be clear, however, that, like any open work, the readings that can be made of this video installation remain in the interpretative whim of the possible audience. For this we have imaginary collectives that, since our childhood, have been weaving structures on which lies what we know; that architecture of the memory do not discern between the cult and popular, the good or bad quality, what lives with us since decades and the new acquisitions, the deep and with layers of reading or, how Byung-Chul Han likes calling it, “the polished”, the superficial, the destiny of our times.[3] These imaginaries simply emerge without previous notice.

So, at first glance, soon, the new video installation of Marina Núñez reminded me of the Death Star, that big artificial planet -spherical, black, cold- in which millennial monsters with viscous tentacles and disgusting perfume lived together in sewers and drains (the wet), with cold and technological control rooms from where one can contemplate, well accommodated and with panoramic screen, the destruction of other worlds pushing a tiny bottom (the dry); the apparent perfection hides miseries in which monsters nest. This is also the world for which Luke Skywalker, that heroic acne galaxy walker, slithered with his ship beyond the dermis of the cold planet looking for his weak spot. Skywalker dodged the handsome enemy-hunters with elegant bucklers that ended up clumsily colliding with the sphere in which they were born and jumping into a thousand pieces – incomparably better, by the way, the design of objects belonging to the Empire.


Of spider-women

Later, in a calmer reflection, many other referents arose, some formal, from Andalusian art and its muqarnas and yeseria -that is, plasterwork-, to the curled stone of the Portuguese Manueline style, to the openworked stones of the gothic Lonja de Valencia, or to the filigrees that my grandmother Isabel woven with her crochet needle; all elements of decoration that takes the surface to exhaustion and in which the ornament surpasses the epidermis to become fractally the very structure of things.

Since Adolf Loos wrote Ornamento y delito in 1908, we have experienced a crusade against the decorative whose influence has of course permeated the architecture, but also the industrial design and visual arts.[4] For the Austrian, the cultural development, the idea of progress applied to human creative production, obligatorily involved the elimination of ornament bounded, therefore, to the tribal, the popular, the old, the atavistic, the past. It was also connected with slavery and religious liturgies.

I have been reflecting these days and I doubtless believe that Loos’ speech collaterally affected women’s home and domestic production, the spider-women who, entangling woollen threads, erected fabrics (the women’s major production until the XX century), and this is because it is precisely inserted in sceneries belonging to popular culture. In the fabric, and applying this discourse to my immediate cultural past, Loos’ essay could be translated into eliminating my spider-grandmother’s fingers, following point by point the openwork of her bedspreads or night table skirts, the bootees that protected the feet from the humidity of the winter sheets, by an electric loom that generates a perfectly smooth, without openwork, uniform surface. Without mistakes. And without slavery. Deep inside, the speech of the Austrian architect referred, with regard to the design of everyday objects, the use of machines and the substitution of crafts, to the elimination of the hands of craftsmen and craftswomen. And in the case of the latter, practically to the disappearance of all their cultural production. And the thing is, in this type of productions, the ornament was not a surface, but a structure in itself. The object was the whole ornament.[5]

In this dialectic leap which allows me to connect this exhibition of Marina Núñez, Inmersión, with mannerisms and the popular, with echoes that refer to the tribal, but also to the history of women placed in spite of themselves on the margins of science, of history, of a culture which linked them to their lower productions, handcrafted. The one that leads me to the references of the past that, from an entropic point of view, can suppose the utopia of a possible future world. It looks paradoxical that this defence of the ornament by Marina Núñez, and everything that it implies, is made with minimal colour resources, contained in an infinite range of greys, black and white. They are anthropomorphized landscapes or “landscaped” figures that are located halfway between the organic and the geometric, because in their skin, but also in all their “flesh”, is repeated the fractal pattern that generates this wild nature at different scales and that is crossed with a proper and irregular order. What Benoit Mandelbrot defines as self-similarity and that is found in every aspect of our natural world.

Marina Núñez allegorically analyses our relationship with the environment in which we are born, grow up and pass away. In this allegory, the beings that populate these worlds apparently emerge towards their surface, although they share an identical nervous system, the same epidermis. It is the form that defines, that makes us recognize an individual, an anatomy similar to that of human, mostly bodies that seem feminine because they have breasts. With head, body and upper extremities. The inferior ones, however, are the planet itself, as the feet are part of the nerve connections of the planet as living being; they are feet that are not good for walking but only for connecting. That may have remained as the obstacle to what they were, like the toes of the Homo sapiens sapiens or the last vertebrae of the spine – remains of the mutation by which we cease to be hominoids and descend to the ground from the trees.

The artist has generated hybrids among elements that the western culture differentiates as different components, especially in regard to what we consider as subject and what we understand as object. In each of our actions as civilization, we underline this dichotomy: the object, the planet and the rest of beings that inhabit it, is exploited by the subject, the human being. Nevertheless, we do not seem to be free from objectifying some of our fellow men as the origin of an act of possession and submission, an instrument to not considering them as equals but as inferior beings (unfortunately, history is full of these slavery cases from one culture to another, from one gender to another).

It seemed to me that these Amazon women, inhabitants of the filigree craters, live in an apocalyptic setting; I imagine a brutal extraction of raw materials that has left the environment dry, openworked, and therefore they have also become dehydrated, which would lead to a shortage. But it could also be a world that was born in this way, where there is no difference between the individual and the context, but a chameleonic empathy between the two.


Of tree-women

There are some crystal cubes in the exhibition which in every interior keep the size with laser of a female figure whose legs simulate roots that are intrinsic to the base of the translucid material. It seemed that the glass that protect them from the exterior, for them is glass itself: that see-through mass, in hard and heavy appearance, is in reality their epidermis. Meanwhile, their limbs generate beam of light, of electricity (I remember a twin work that was already in Murcia twenty years ago, Sin título, Ciencia ficción, 2001), although they could also be luminous branches of a firefly tree.

In fact, it is as common in popular culture as in mythology, the existence of mutant beings that are placed as hinges between subject and object; among them I would like to mention, in this occasion and because of a certain formal comparison, those individuals that are half human, half tree, characters that can be men, like the Tolkien’s Ents[6], but in general, they are incarnated by females, the dryads. Like Daphne, whose story is cited in Hyginus’ Fábulas or in Ovidio’s Las metamorphosis, a nymph that is rooted to the earth, in her escape from Apollo, a god who chases her no matter how unrequited her love is.[7]


«Nymph, I beg you, of Peneus, wait! An enemy does not follow you;

Nymph, wait! So the wolf’s lamb, so the lion’s deer,

so the doves flee from the eagle with their trembling wings,

of the enemies, each one its own; love is for me the cause of following you. (…)

«Lend me, father», she says, «help; if the numen currents you have,

for which I have too pleased, mutating it loses my figure».

As soon as the prayer ended a heavy numbness occupies her organism,

is girded with a faint bark on her soft thorax,

in foliage her hairs, in branches her arms grow,

the foot, not so long ago so fast, with morose roots is latching on,

her top face possesses: her nitor remains only in her.

And Phoebus loved her also, and put his right hand upon her wood

he still feels trepidation under the new cortex in her chest,

and grasping those branches with his arms, like limbs,

kisses gives to the log; flees, even so, his kisses the log”. [8]


Daphne’s character appears constructed, therefore, as Apollo’s desired object, he is invariably subject; in fact, the god, after his impossible hunt and the conversion of the nymph intro laurel, decides to appropriate one of her branches to design a crown, honor that we must read as a reward, a prize. For her part, she has sacrificed herself as she has no choice but to become something else, something apparently different. The only form of liberation is metamorphosis. Protected by its connection with nature. Converted in this case into crystal.


Of crater-women

In the video installation, the camera, as the subjective eye that we are, the spectators, gets into a space built as a Russian doll: an atmosphere that contains in its interior other similar one, and then other, and another. A crater gives us access to an esplanade of the world where there are more holes… the camera choses one and the situation reiterates again. When we arrive to what seems the finish line of the journey, we find these figures -in the first video, it is a woman; in the second, two; in the third, three- who look up impassively (they seem to have perceived our eyes), although perhaps they do so in a threatening way; their bodies sink into the epidermis of the planet becoming the embroidery land, being the embroidery land. For this, the artist generates a narrative structure in which the camera makes a travelling to the interior of the image, an overhead journey that seems to not have an end and looks hypnotic. Meanwhile, a common allegoric resource is created in some of the videos of the artist: subject and object end up melting, they both exchange or they are born of each other, because deep down, as Marina Núñez wants to indicate, they are the same. Because that separation between subject and object does not cease to be a convention that can easily be subverted: as soon as the domination relationships change… or as soon as they disappear. Let’s think about the latest productions of this artist like El Infierno son nosotros (2012). In this work, a video installation that presented in the chapel of Patio Herreriano in Valladolid, some characters -again, almost all women- seem to run away from flames; they do it one by one, but when they crawl upstairs, they turn into fire making evidence that they were fleeing from themselves. In the same way they crawled, they fall once again melting with the bonfire.[9] We can also cite Phantasma (2017), a series of videos (the artist always work with similar pieces at a time) that present close-up faces; they are beings of sand that seem to be vanishing grain by grain because of the wind erosion.[10] Finally, the video restarts, returning to the starting point. They are beings who were one and the same time many.

Fire beings, sand beings, arboreal beings, hybrid beings… The idea of the eternal return is planned on these works, a story that narrates how the worlds that are extinguished are created again with the same matter. Because they are self-similar.



[1] William Gibson, Neuromante, Barcelona, Minotauro, 1997.

[2] This sanguine belongs to the collections of the Museo del Prado. Vid (Online. Last entry 28/3/2019)

[3] Byung-Chul Han, La salvación de lo bello, Barcelona, Herder, 2018, pp. 11-23.

[4] Adolf Loos, Ornamento y delito y otros escritos, Barcelona, Gustavo Gili, 1980.

[5] Time and our ways of living the relationships between everyday life, leisure and work have allied with Loos’ pretensions. It is difficult for most of today’s women to be aware of these traditional tasks that were fundamentally connected to domestic life, the only way out of work for our mothers and grandmothers. And although the producers have disappeared, not so the production of ornament, made from textile machinery.

[6] Ents are tres, but also trees’ shepherds and they move, though very slowly. Vid. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Barcelona, Minotauro, 1993.

[7] Hyginus, Fábulas, Madrid, Gredos, 2009; Ovidio, Las metamorfosis, Barcelona, Bruguera, 1982.

[8] Ibid., pp. 25-27.

[9] Vid. (Online, last entry 27/03/2019).

[10] Vid. (Online, last entry 27/03/2019). The wind has a strong presence in the audio of the piece, composed by Luis de la Torre, the musician who in recent years has been working with Marina Núñez.