Entre Deux Eaux: Adrien Missika

10 Nov 2020 - 15 Jan 2021

Entre Deux Eaux, the title of Adrien Missika’s second exhibition at Galeria Francisco Fino is rooted in the French expression “nager entre deux eaux” (to swim between two waters), meaning to hesitate, to manage two divergent conditions.


Yet, Entre Deux Eaux hints at Lisbon’s particular condition as a city between two streams: where the Tagus river runs towards the estuary in the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean, who in turn inflows the river according to its tides. Focusing on the water element and the lands it reaches, Entre Deux Eaux also demands for a movement among waters while we navigate between the abstracted borders and surfaces of the artist’s map-gesture.


As we navigate through a meta-map, a sound piece reciting tree names, a pebbl-y timeline and a piece of Styrofoam eroded by waves, these simultaneous distinct but reciprocal elements are turned into evidences of the times we live in, the geological phenomena we witness and the human interventions we experience. In this exhibition, Missika digs into the sensorial and affective experience of making a world voyage fit the gallery space.


Atlas Ô, the exhibition’s main installation, embodies a translation of an atlas where the global ocean is framed by native woods sourced from the lands surrounding it. Whereas (western) history has relied on maps as pedagogical and political tools which accomplish(ed) the subordination of oceans and seas to the land-rule, Missika creates an installation which concentrates on the water, turning land into enveloping borders, almost a casing. The oceans and seas make out a world-map which in turn mirrors the space where they are laid flat. Building on a critical approach of the positivist globe projection, or Mercator system, from where early modern Atlas are derived, Missika compensates the scale of the water masses in relation to their real, mathematical measures, thus deterring from the side-effect of all planispheres – the disproportion of objects as they grow apart from the Equator line, like happens with the Earth poles which stretch beyond infinity. This negotiation between scales and projection systems infiltrates Missika’s research as if “swimming between two waters”. The question of scale and planning is complemented by the interweaving of the names of each sea and ocean as they are cut out in each section, thus connecting one frame to the next and mimicking the organic relation between oceans and seas. Inviting the audience for a walk between waters and trees, Atlas Ô elicits a feeling of tranquillity which is haunted by the strangeness of its layout – the frames, usually on walls, become water banks from where we lean forward.


Arboretum is a sound piece created as an echo of Atlas Ô, a forest of voices like a spectral monument to threatened biodiversity. In this soundscape, Adrien Missika and Sarah Ancelle Schönfeld recite the names of the trees, acknowledging their visual and sonic presence in the making of the installation. Engaging with the Mayan cosmovision and sequencing of cardinal points, the score is composed as a whirl which begins where the sun first rises, chanting the names of the trees clockwise, from East to South, West to North.


In between the southern shores of Baja California and the mainland of Mexico, stands the island formerly known as Isla Ceralvo which, despite protests from local communities, was renamed into Isla Jacques Cousteau in 2009. An official homage to the marine life filmmaker and explorer, this renaming operation was a diplomatic gesture aimed at France. Notwithstanding the light shed on the petroleum explorations of JacquesYves Cousteau, the name change was approved by the Mexican government. To this day, more than a decade after the decision ruling, the island is still commonly called Isla Ceralvo. The Sea of Carson by Adrien Missika is a tribute to marine biologist Rachel Carlson, the visionary and avantguard ecologist. In her book The Sea Around Us (1951), Carson reveals the magic and the science of the sea. The blue, sun bleached cover of the 1952 French edition held by Missika, sways a mise-en-abîme: the waves breaking in the cover embrace the real sea in the back – the Gulf of California, formerly known as the Sea of Cortez and named the aquarium of the world by Cousteau. This work was renamed by Adrien Missika in 2020. The original title was Isla Jacques Cousteau.


Stranded on the shore of the Aegean Sea, a piece of extruded polystyrene, made by humans but shaped by the sea, was scooped and preserved by the artist in the summer of 2018. Adopted by the waters of the Global Ocean, Triste Galet tells the story of a foreigner raised by the Earth’s hydrologic and geologic systems. Like Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book stories, Missika reunites this petroleum pebble with their family, the fellow mineral pebbles. Laid atop an architecture of coloured plastic crates filled with stones, this sea-shaped polymer, tells a story of the Plasticocene.


Timeline is an ongoing project started in 2018, and which builds on a collecting process and a compositional practice. The act of collecting suffuses many of Missika’s bodies of work as it grows from observation and acts of caring – be it for other artworks and artists, reclaimed or causal materials, fragments of nature. Here, he looks at pebbles, stripped pebbles more precisely, gathering them at every opportunity – as many and as big as his hands and pockets can hold. And then he cares for this humble collection, assembles his findings and arranges them in relation to one another, literally ali(g)ning them to create a stripe-time-continuum in a salt-dough slab. The salted bread composition of stones stands as an imbrication of subjectivity, growing with and from the artist’s gesture, and as a(nother) “living archive” that expands the notion of a shared stance of time. Baking each slab himself and at home and sharing the recipe, Missika imparts the daily and the familiar in this ever-growing work.