Marta Mantecón

«It is all about erring»

«Inmersión», Ed. Centro Puertas de Castilla, Ayuntamiento de Murcia, 2019, pp. 102-108.



Imagine you fall. But there is no ground.


We live in a free fall permanent state -or at least intermittent-, says Hito Steyerl[1], although we barely realize it. Such disorientation is due to the loss of a fixed horizon that makes thing visible as it was in the past. We rather find ourselves, continue the artist, in front of a new type of vertical sovereignty that caused the loss of consciousness about what is above and what is down, what is before and what after, where our bodies are and which are their limits. At the time that the perspectives are multiplied, classical conventions about the stability of the subject, time and space are also distorted. New technologies have transformed our way of orienting and our gaze, de-embodied and intrusive, is filtered through machines and objects that can be activated by remote control. It deals with a perspective that “projects illusions of stability, security and extreme control over an expanded 3D sovereignty backdrop and, at the same time, recreates societies turned into “urban abysses of free fall and divided lands susceptible to occupation, aerial surveillance and biopolitical control”[2]. There is no way of touching the ground, given that there is no existence of a stable base to arrive. In this infinite fall the ground is the fear, warns us Chantal Maillard, who considers that rising no longer belongs to us but, on the other hand, we do neither want to descend to the abysses, perhaps because for the first, innocence is needed and for the second, a certain lucidity. However, there is always an inferior level than the one below: “Down, rhizome, and lower, mirror”[3].

Marina Núñez proposes a free fall journey through a vertical imagined world. The camera glides over an unusual landscape, apparently bottomless, empty, that possess a hybrid nature, halfway between the stony, the mineral and the vegetable. Telluric and immense, it presents a sheer geography and a changing tectonic, perforated by geometric formations filled with inlets and outlets that generate millions of trenches or cavities more or less deep, so that the possible itineraries are multiplied to infinity evidencing in passing how our gaze is unable to account for everything. The journey describes an immersion from the exterior to the most remote places -something like a descent to hell or a trip to the centre of the Earth-, that oblige us to penetrate into the abysm of a bottomless cliff, given that it reappears and reconstruct itself while we descend, as if there was no limits or these were each time more uncertain. From a world, another one arises and so on and so forth, without interruption. The metamorphosis is continuous, but always from the same pattern. The fall is not abrupt because we feel a certain weightlessness; something similar to a depth without vertigo or, at least, not an uncomfortable vertigo, but a magnetic and mysterious effect that gives us an unexpected pleasure. However, the disorientation goes through all the route, as the perception of the scale is being modified as we descend, in such a way that any presumption of visual certainty breaks time after time. Like the protagonists of Jules Verne’s novel, we are confident that the compass points north when we are actually traveling south.

The landscape is being actualized at the same time we are moving forward. Its detail level is invariably the same. Fractal geometry allows the reproduction of self-similar shapes at different scales, in the way that the landscape is a copy of itself and every fraction contains all the information[4], in a sort of integrated circuit that suggests infinite motion. The variations, at first glance, are imperceptible. Everything seems to be interconnected, the same as when we look through a kaleidoscope. Myse en abyme enables that the same fragment reproduces itself inside another of a smaller size, without concealing its artifice and revealing, therefore, its lack of meaning. It is all fiction. The fractal landscape, same as the narration, indefinitely opens itself to other meanings that are again contained in other words and so on to infinity. The difference here is that the resolution and sharpness of the shapes remain constant.

Orography, on the other hand, recall the round shapes of mandalas, that constitute a representation of the world that symbolises non-duality and is born precisely to transcend the oppositions “of the multiple and the one, of the decomposed and the integrated, of the differentiated and the undifferentiated, of the exterior and the interior, of the diffuse and the concentrated, of the apparent visible and the real invisible, of the space-time and the timeless and the extra-spatial” [5]. Likewise, the relief keeps a similar aspect to the muqarnas, with their characteristic multiple-face hanging prisms that are repeated and chained revealing their cells, combining typologies and reproducing themselves into intricate formations, synthesis of rhythm and geometry, to adapt to any surface, chasing the dynamic and changing play of light and shadow. This type of ornamental mask paradoxically constituted a representation of the light blue dome[6] that symbolises the search of a perfect and organized cosmos; maybe the same reason Marina inverted her position.

We plunge into the abyss, penetrate its interstices and, at the end of the route, we see one, two, three figures. The immersion was deep until we came across them. “There where the is nothing left, the Other must appear” [7], noted Baudrillard lucidly. We, the intruders, have just experienced a fall similar to that of Ícaro. The vertical journey has led us to the zones of not being, an underground and invisible world where the others live, non-human or sub-human, whose construction is always intensely corporal. These off-stage beings, with no place in the celestial Eden, occupy an alternative and fractal territory which, like chaotic systems, has a dynamic that is as unstable as it is unpredictable. This is how an outside is constructed.



Do not stop fiddling with my festering orifices, extending my limit.


More than two decades ago, the VNS Matrix collective[8] announced the birth of a perforated, synthetically reconstructed body that sought to escape from binary logic. The figures that we find after our immersion in the images and videos of Marina Núñez harmonize with that description. They look like duplicates of themselves, as if the biological and the artificial had melted into a single being, evading the boundaries between the human, the animal and the machine. We are faced with repeated beings, apparently identical, non-essentialised clones, which challenge the notion of original and, consequently illegitimate, which reveal their nature built from a fractal plot similar to every of their parts point by point, including the landscape from where they come from, with which they maintain a relationship of affinity and similarity, not dominance. Capable of integrating with any element, their hybrid character, in constant mutation and metamorphosis, seem to led them create their own environment to later arise from it -or from another body-, in a sort of infinite unfolding, possibly because “there is no form of identity that does not include the strangeness of the division and fragmentation of being”, as Menene Gras Balaguer[9] says. The speculative game between the figure and its environment may also allude to our perpetual exercise of nomadism that produces identities that dissolve and regenerate themselves, always under construction, where the process prevails over the finished.

The high-angle point of view, practically overhead, assert our necessity of control, but it also nurtures a certain empathy. Its colour, similar to the environment that serves as context, have been restricted to black and white, or more like a whole range of greys which replace the “skin colour” that the occidental culture, with its whitening cosmetics, has agreed to identify the universal subject. The grisaille, throughout Art History, in its persistent search of immortality, used to be applied in those work which should be interpreted as statues, and therefore as non-living beings. In this case, although it contributes to reinforcing the materiality, weight and gravity of bodies, their aspiration for permanence is unstable, since they are perforated beings[10]. Their completely perforated anatomy, tattooed with grooves and bifurcations, traversed by an infinite number of holes or cracks with multiple inlets and outlets, form a reversible and porous membrane which does not isolate anymore from the world like an armour nor preserves the unity of a unitary and compact self, but links with the exterior so that we can penetrate into their cracks and holes. Their crack identity (fractal comes from the Latin term fractus that means broken or fragmented) denounces their fragile and vulnerable condition. They do not need to cover their holes. They breath, think and feel with all their body-prosthesis, full of openings to multiple connections, beyond any scale. Their epidermis, weaved with the same substance than of the environment where they live, speak to us of their openness to exchange.

In front of the closed, impenetrable and opaque body, with perfectly defined limits, Marina Nuñez presents an incomplete, unstable, exposed and deeply abject[11] body, built with the same elements of its environment and open to dynamics of change, of transformation and of symbiosis, diluting the demarcations between interior and exterior; a body that, simultaneously, is territory. It never loses its form, because this, as well as the space it occupies, is recomposed again and again. Boundaries, the true foundation of the occidental domination, don’t have any sense here, given that there is no place from which to negotiate an inside and an outside.

The figures emerge from the confines of an abyss of lights and shadows, but they are not alone or incommunicado. They form a small community without hierarchies that tends to multiply exponentially. They seem to be part of a complex system that, precisely because of its artificial character, is liberated from the fictions of race, species, sex or gender. We cannot assign them to an origin. We do not know their age. Nor do they have features that would enable them to be identified, if not for the pattern of their orifices. They are not run by any centre. They rather have multiple centres that expand themselves, change place, shape and scale. Their flesh is elastic, spacious. There is no fixed structure to sustain them, since their dermoskeleton is changeable and full of holes, as if they could not be contained within their own borders. Every time the body mutates, its identity is modified. Its appearance is that of a group of warriors who openly wear their fighting masks, whose texture is similar to that of the rest of the body. In Greek theatre the “mask”, which corresponds to the definition of “person” in Latin, served to identify the character. On the other hand, the somatopolitical fiction of the femininity is built as masked, as Joan Rivière[12] explained, something that for Marina Núñez can become as pleasant as subversive[13], considering that an ontologic femininity does not exist, but a performative, constructed from a parodic repetition. We find ourselves in front of post-human bodies (preceded of a prefix which, according to Hito Steyerl, marks a previous immobile history) that participate in some features of the Donna Haraway’s cyborg, of the Rosi Braidotti’s nomadic subject, of the Remedios Zafra’s netianas’ myth and, that obviously are in tune with Judith Butler’s theory of performativity, for whom our bodily being is no more than a way of being for the other.

Their carved morphology, in an intermediate space between the stony, the vegetable, the mechanical and the cybernetic –or it can be about a tattoo, a bas-relief carved into something similar to plaster or a textile membrane- accounts for their instability. Marina Núñez build these bodies with metalsmith precision, carrying out a detailed work, of profound aesthetic appeal and iconic pregnance, which somehow make the ornamental problematic. The iconography of canonical Art History has insisted actively and passively in the idea that man’s beauty is natural; that of the woman, built. Women’s body, place where the production techniques of power and truth meet, require ornament. But the ornament is testimony of a conflict that represents the limit space of the social constitution, explains Juan Luis Moraza. It forms a reserve that admits, in a convulsive way, everything that is overlooked and, therefore, it is necessary to avoid: the obscene, what is outside the law or the agreement of a classical order, the monstrous, the undesirable, the other; in short, any manifestation that introduces the emergence of the real, hence it is interpreted as an artifice that escapes the truth. It is not a simple «external additive», but an «internal subtraction»; that is why the Law always avoids the ornament, because in it dwells «the problematicity of the system that affirms and denies it»[14]. Its abolition presupposes the elimination of the conflict but, in these works by Marina Núñez, its ubiquity is strengthened, thus multiplying its problematic dimension.

In troubled or uncertain times, the arts tend to indulge in equivocation, the trompe-l’oeil, lying or denial[15]. The monster, always outside the canon, lurks insistently to check certain somatopolitical prescriptions or propose a diverted use of them. Perhaps that is why these warriors wear the ornament on their own skin. From their exile position, they look at us and somehow question us, showing an open and defiant gesture. Their bodies speak[16]. They watch. They resist. They slide out of the Law. They form a community that restores the memory of the one below, like a nest of termites capable of knocking down any structure. They confront the system to disobey it and subvert its normative codes. They are there to sow confusion.

Body and landscape share the same plot[17]. Their skin, like a woven interface, looks like a fitting that takes us back to a consensually feminine practice, linked both to creation (uniting, repairing, darning, recomposing, suturing) and to destruction (wounding, cutting, nailing, poking, pricking). Their doing and undoing incorporates ancestral, collective, relational knowledge, banished to a lower hierarchy with respect to capital arts, despite having generated technologies of high precision and efficiency (the needle, for example, has not been perfected since its invention in the Palaeolithic), capable of connecting different temporalities, which have acted as an inexhaustible source of discourse throughout history. Classical mythologies have given us countless cases of expert weavers (Aracne, Athena, Ariadne, Penelope, Panfila, Electra, Helena, Clitemnestra, Filomela, the Moiras or the Parcas and a very long etcetera) that were used as models of interpretation of a reality with which to legitimize the dominion over women, pioneers on the other hand in the application of new technologies. From Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer, to the telecommunications operators or the analysts of the first computers weaving perforated cards similar to looms, women, attached to the material world and to mechanical work -and, consequently, inferior by nature, which is as much as to say by Law-, have carried out a task similar to that of machines[18], hence the subversive alliance that exists between them, perfectly embodied by the cyborg identity. Marina Núñez thus confronts mechanics with craftsmanship, high and low culture, high & low technologies.

This tribe of warriors or amazons construct themselves to endow themselves with identity and narrate themselves as subjects. They have freed themselves from the frame that constricted them to make strange patterns that model a landscape that we wander through in an erratic way, configuring a space as magnetic as it is unintelligible. In reality, their entire body is woven; a strong fabric that, when broken, regenerates itself automatically. Inhabited by the net, they are net. And the net, like the orbicular tissue that expands from their body to the territory, functions as a system of defence and survival, perhaps also as a trap or weapon of seduction, but above all as a form of writing with political value. If we consider that «the quotation is the condition of possibility of the act of appearing, the incalculable of the body that appears and of its excess as a subversive promise”[19], we can conclude that we are in front of text-bodies that appear to quote other bodies and other places of enunciation.



Who are you who strangely are I?


This question, asked by Hélène Cixous[20], is very much present in the work of Marina Núñez, for whom the question of identity constitutes a backbone. The videos and infographics that articulate this project are completed with a series of figures frozen inside crystals and backlit by the base, crossed by a tangle of lines, tangled cables or connected circuits that ascend from the ground. These beings in progress, indissolubly united to their environment, seem to have multiplied their circulatory and sensory apparatus, amplified their physical and mental frontiers in an arborescent or rhizomatic growth. The threads, or perhaps branches (curiously, the word clon comes from the Greek and means branch, bud or cuttings), are projected in multiple directions, linking again interior and exterior. They are, in any case, emanations of the sensitive that simulate the nervous, lymphatic or blood system, or possibly a network of electrical components or telecommunications that arises from their bodies taking greater advantage of their capabilities and enhancing a more fluid transmission. It is as if the fibres or ducts that subjected them to a stable identity had overflowed, without any control or containment, narrating their own insubordination and their resistance to any taxonomic reduction or homogenizing reading. As we advance, they reproduce, because they have broken with that becoming less than the official history assigned to all the bodies that departed from the canon. Theirs is an image that resists being fixed, since it tends to disorder.

These root women or tree women, through their filaments, rhizomes and other forms of chaos, are weaving a net of connections permeable to pollution, contagion, infection. The flows that run through them are like the secretions of the spider, excrescences of the organism, of its traumas and fears, which openly show their chaotic, imperfect, polysemic reverse, and aspire to empathize with the other, any other, so that affections such as love, fear, pain, hatred or indignation circulate among their bodies, aligning or misaligning them. Marina Núñez proposes, like Hélène Cixous, an intense and passionate exercise of re-knowledge where each one «would finally run the risk of the other, of difference, without feeling threatened by the existence of an otherness, but rejoicing to enlarge on the basis of the unknowns that it supposes to discover, to respect, to favour, to maintain”[21]. Their cyborgs have labile identities that «need to connect» because «they seem to have a natural sense of association on fronts for political action»[22]. Theirs is an interactive, multiple self, mouldable in terms of contact with others, as part of a net that is in perpetual transformation.

However, Marina Núñez’s corps do not lack weight, as the net promises. They are not a binary code or a circuit of information, but a constellation of desires, impulses and fluids. They are willing to enjoy, to experience their own jouissance. The crazy, hysterical, dead, monsters and cyborgs of yesteryear are now standing women, endowed with a common identity with their environment, forming net-woven communities. They do not rise or float weightlessly, but step on the ground, affirming their difference. For politics to take place, the body has to be present, warns Judith Butler. But the West has no body because it lacks empathy towards the other and, precisely, radical empathy has to do with learning to put the body in the place where someone has been violated. In addition, others, particularly women, are always bodies, hence the protagonists of this story metamorphose into circuits carrying other flows and other forms of power or pleasure that favour «contestation, deconstruction, passionate construction, intertwined connections» to ultimately transform «knowledge systems and ways of looking,» as proposed by Donna Haraway[23]. In the face of the Platonic, Christian and Cartesian gaze, which rejected the corporal in favour of ideas, spirit or reason, there is no basis for speaking of a bodiless, demomatized existence, since life is a continuum with matter. The old certainties that based the definition of subject in a rigid identity that legitimized the colonization and the dominion of other bodies, submitted by means of the necropolitical or biopolitical control, manufacturing a universe of dualities and binarisms that many individuals have come to assume docilely and to reproduce as their own, are no longer useful. We know that our identity is an apocryphal construct, an eternally unfinished illusion to which only a ritualized, performative reproduction is possible. Our «I» cannot be autonomous, since it is constructed in relation to the other, that other that we carry within.

Marina Núñez offers an iconic and conceptual mise en abyme that generates unexpected plots and openings, breaking prescribed modes of repetition. Their strangely beautiful bodies suggest other ways of appearing, communicating and amplifying their resonance. The gift of travel belongs to them, so they are permanently in transit, under construction. They pour themselves into the world through their multiple orifices to connect with others. They inhabit a dislocated temporality and an unstable space to which they are never immune, as if they had learned to exist in the interstices of exile where it is no longer a question of being included in the repertoire of the legitimate or of entering into any canon. They are made of the same substance as their surroundings and are visible from the mask, short-circuiting the logic of recognition. They threaten order from the depths, eroding learned certainties. They know that the body is the topos of language and, from there, they propose other possible statements. Their strategy consists of diverting them from their essence to make them work with another code, transferring them, according to the formula proposed by Jean Baudrillard, from the field of law, where meaning, value or capital reigns, to that of the rule, where the guidelines of play, ritual, ceremony, repetition[24] operate.

For the encounter to be possible, immersion is necessary, even if the descent forces us to precipitate through a territory full of abysses, as happens in Julio Verne’s novel. Looking at other realities requires us to let go of the burden of fear. It is true that the journey involves a risk, a journey through the unknown, but fortunately fractals always provide a promise of continuity, placating our feeling of emptiness, even if the journey is infinite. Galileo stated it emphatically centuries ago: «All is to err vainly through a dark labyrinth».



[1] Hito Steyerl: “In free fall. A mental experiment about the vertical perspective”, in Los condenados de la pantalla. Caja Negra, Buenos Aires, 2014. pp. 15-16.

[2] «Just as linear perspective produced an imaginary stable observer and horizon, top-down perspective produces an imaginary floating observer and stable floor. […] New technologies have allowed the distant observer’s gaze to become increasingly global and omniscient, to the point of becoming massively intrusive: as militaristic as it is pornographic, as intensive as it is extensive, microscopic and macroscopic at the same time». Ibid., pp. 27-28.

[3] Chantal Maillard: La mujer de pie. Galaxia Gutenberg, Barcelona, 2015. P.34.

[4] The fractal is characterized because all the information relating to the object is enclosed in the smallest of its details: «Transcendence has exploded into a thousand fragments that are like the splinters of a mirror» and «each splinter contains the entire universe», in Jean Baudrillard: «Videosphere and fractal subject», in Videoculturas de fin de siglo. Cátedra, Madrid, 1990. p. 27.

[5] Jean Chevalier and Alain Gheerbrant: Diccionario de los símbolos. Herder, Barcelona, 1986. p. 679.

[6] “Muqarnas express the coagulation of cosmic movement, its crystallization in the present in a pure state”, in Alicia Carrillo Calderero: “The muqarnas domes: General considerations about their symbology”, in Imafronte, nº 17, 2003-2004. p. 10.

[7] Jean Baudrillard: La transparencia del mal. Ensayo sobre los fenómenos extremos. Anagrama, Barcelona, 1995. p. 135.

[8] VNS Matrix: “Bitch Mutant Manifesto”, 1996. Translation available in Remedios Zafra: Netianas. N(hacer) mujer en Internet. Mujer de trapo, Madrid, 2005. p. 131.

[9] Menene Gras Balaguer: “The myth of Ophelia and the mythology of the cyborg in the work of Marina Núñez”, in M-Arte y Cultura Visual, nº 26, 2017. p. 39.

[10] “Where order is broken, a breach opens up. Everything unknown appears in the breach”, in Chantal Maillard, op. cit., 2015. p. 271.

[11] “That which disturbs an identity, a system, an order. That that does not respect the limits, the places, the rules”, in Julia Kristeva: Poderes de la perversión. Siglo XXI, Buenos Aires, 1980. p. 11.

[12] Joan Rivière: “The femininity as mask», in Athenea Digital, nº 11, 2007. pp. 219-226.

[13] Marina Núñez: “Masks”, in Transversal. Revista de cultura contemporania, nº 15, 2001. pp. 57-65.

[14] Juan Luis Moraza: Ornamento y Ley. Procesos de contemporización y normatividad en el arte contemporáneo. CENDEAC, Murcia, 2007. pp. 7-36.

[15] María Luisa Caturla: Arte de épocas inciertas. Revista de Occidente, Madrid, 1944. pp. 17-35.

[16] «The body, by means of gestures, becomes tongue. There is an appropriation of the language that goes through twisting it, by generating fissures in its interior. Changing the word for the body entails an aesthetic mediation, a question about the ways of saying and a questioning about the ways of representing», in Maite Garbayo Maetzu: Cuerpos que aparecen. Performance y feminismos en el tardofranquismo. Consonni, Bilbao, 2016. p. 23.

[17] «The Latin verb trameare means to cross: through (trans) a passage (meatus). The Greek word trêma means hole, and trêsis means perforation. To warp the plot is to pierce», in Chantal Maillard, op. cit., 2015. p. 106.

[18] «To carry, to bring, to give birth to the children, transmitting the genes for the family tree: they have been treated as technologies of reproduction and domestic apparatuses, communicating vessels and matrons of orgasms. Stepford’s wives for the intimate fraternity of man. They were supposed to be adding machines, always producing the same thing while men went out to mark the difference», in Sadie Plants: Ceros + Unos. Mujeres digitales + la nueva tecnocultura. Destino, Barcelona, 1998. p. 106.

[19] Maite Garbayo Maeztu, op. cit., 2016. p. 34.

[20] Hélène Cixous: La risa de la medusa. Ensayos sobre la escritura. Anthropos, Barcelona, 2001. p. 189.

[21] Ibid., p. 35.

[22] Donna J. Haraway: Ciencia, cyborgs y mujeres. La reinvención de la naturaleza. Cátedra, Madrid, 1995. p. 256.

[23] Ibid., p. 329.

[24] Jean Baudrillard, op. cit., 1995. p. 153.