Mesovelia, or The Water Treaders

Within the Linnaean taxonomy of animal classification, the genus Mesovelia fall under the family, Mesoveliidae, whose members are also known as the water treaders. Unique to this family of insects is their ability to overcome what is known as “Denny’s Paradox”, the apparent impossibility of surface-dwelling animals to generate enough propulsive force in water to move. They accomplish this by generating not capillary waves but hemispherical vortices in the water. These vortices carry sufficient backwards momentum to propel the animal forwards.

Vietnam has emerged over the last decade as one of the fastest growing economies, surpassed in Asia only by China, and this year finalized its membership into the world trade organization. In its effort towards rapid modernization and global integration, its people have quickly been submerged in unfamiliar terrain. There is a yearning for what was before, an inverse tendency to seek what has been lost. The series of images were taken in this setting of artifice, a retreat with a constructed waterfall.  It is a simulated environment where the participants are protected by life jackets and are able to engage the rapids safely. It is a confidence building exercise.

In its early stages, as all new swimmers, they must first learn to keep their head afloat and tread water. Positioned between an emerging free market economy and an environment of cultural control, the participants must generated the vortices necessary to slowly propel themselves upward while their bodies remain entirely submerged. These are the water treaders.

Thermocline: New Asian Waves in Publications



Thermocline - New Asian Waves
ZKM Center for Media Art Karlsruhe
Photography. Series of six images
100 x 75 cm

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