The human body has a privileged place in explanations of how emotions are communicated. Tangible human bodies, it is hoped, can provide a conceptual and empirical bridge sufficient to convey intangible human experiences; a hope shared by technologies such as avatars and embodied robots. Surface tension explores this idea by testing the boundary between the embodied and disembodied expression of pain. The installation uses motion-capture data of people describing personal experiences of pain. Their original gestural movements are extracted and translated into mechanical gesticulations that stretch and trace forms onto the surface of a canvas; mapping the twists, turns, contractions and accelerations of fingers and hands articulating an experience of pain. We manipulate the parameters of the original motions to ask in what ways can a disembodied translation of a human description of pain evoke recognition or empathy in the viewer? Arduino, servos, 3D printed parts, Vicon motion-capture and Processing.