‘aXolotl’s Happiness’, HD video, 7min, 2014
aXolotl’s Happiness is a video inspired by the creature axolotl. The work draws upon Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolotl (1952), a Kafkian narrative about a man that transforms into an axolotl. The axolotl is a neotenic salamander endemic to the lakes of Mexico with the unique capacity to regrow lost limbs and remain in a state of eternal youth.
“The video aXolotl’s Happiness (2014) is my first work out of art school and (much to my surprise) I have exhibited it regularly since then. The work is inspired by Julio Cortazar’s short story Axolotl (1952), which is about a migrant who turns into an axolotl. I was 24 at the time and experiencing adulthood with a bit of a pessimistic outlook, when life felt like floating aimlessly in a fish tank. I researched ideas behind the axolotl, an animal that never ages and regrows limbs. Then wrote a script and storyboard inspired by early 70s video art, where artists are often seen performing boring gestures. I wanted to have a more cinematic take on this, without the grandiosity of artists like Matthew Barney, who turned video art performance into film with great success. Thus, I set the fantastical figure of a humanoid axolotl in my house, doing banal things, like (my real) dirty dishes.”
The idea of looking at foreigners as monsters is an ongoing theme in Ramirez’s practice. In his essay Semiotic Dungeons (2018), he traces this tendency to monsterise the other back early antiquity, when Greek travellers returned home with stories of ‘monstrous races’. This project also gestated Ramirez’ first article The aXolotl: a vehicle for knowledge and the postcolonial ‘return’ (2014).
Curator David Corbet discussing the original presentation of the work in South, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, 2014
The video was originally presented for installation alongside graphic works and reconfigured lithographs that extended the characterisation of this anthropomorphic figure.
Directed by Diego Ramirez
Videography by Nathan Ceddia
Location sound by Ryan Granger
SFX Make up by Moya O’ Brien
Special thanks to Hannah Garden