Algaerithms. On Adrien Missika's Gelassenheit
by Paul Feigelfeld
On September 24, 2013, new land rose from the ashes of tectonic annihilation. Sentimental sediments, seen from the French Pleiades high-resolution Earth-observing system, formed an almost geometrically precise circular island off the coast of Pakistan, which emerged from the ocean after a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck, 20km north-east of Awaran, killing at least 350 people.
On January 10, 1992, during a storm in the North Pacific Ocean close to the International Date Line, twelve shipping containers washed overboard the container ship Ever Laurel. They contained 28,800 Friendly Floatees, rubber bath toys, yellow rubber ducks, blue turtles, and green frogs. Some of the toys landed along Pacific Ocean shores, like Hawaii. Others traveled over 17,000 miles, floating over the site where the Titanic sank, and spent years frozen in Arctic ice to reach British and Irish shores 15 years later. They have been of great use for oceanographers tracking ocean currents, as have 61,000 Nike sneakers, which have been traveling the high seas in various island constellations since 1990.
Very recently, China has been in the news for creating artificial islands in the South China Sea, thus expanding their territory and creating international conflicts and a new need for legislature in international waters. What is, however, even more interesting in this case is that the raw material - sand - has quickly become an essential commodity almost more precious than the rare earth minerals used in the manufacture of information technologies.
Adrien Missika’s works, rather than forming an exhibition, constellate a similar hybrid archipelago, both in themselves, and as an assemblage. Created and grown to the same degree, they exist in an ecologically intermediate state, breaking the surface of a flooded world - or probing and fathoming the oceanic abyss below in a way which has yet to be explored.
His sculptural works in green OASIS Max Life floral foam and artificial plants drift through space like flotsam, volatile, biodegradable in a non-human-scale future, eternally artificial at the same time. Treating found marble plates with epoxy, Missika creates multi-layered cartographies of these ephemeral drifters, which work on a micro- and a macro-level. They are also reminiscent of the famous photograph of planet Earth - The Blue Marble - taken on December 7, 1972, by astronauts of the Apollo 17, at a distance of approximately 45,000km. It is one of the most widely circulated images of all time, while marble, this meandering material, carries with it a cultural history as one of the oldest and most desired sculptural materials. But Missika also works with scagliola, artificial marble made from sand, bone glue, spirulina, chlorella, and colored with cochineal, a carmine bug whose exoskeleton has been in use as dye since millennia. The exo-perspective from outer space overlaps with an eco-perspective on man-made and natural materials, such as the konbu and nori algae he employs after rehydrating them with a conservative glycerol and letting them bleach in the sun. Thus, certain layers of Missika’s work are subject to imminent transformation, a change of aggregate as well as visual states, yellowing, rotting, ultimately becoming translucent. Rather than just a result of laissez-faire or Heideggerian „Gelassenheit“, an idea heavily reflected in the homeostatic ideas of equilibrium and balance in Cybernetics, what comes into being here could be called an algaerithm. It is as much programmed procedure as it is morphogenetic, mutagenic randomness.
In the series New Colonies, Missika facilitates the emergence of palimpsests. Made by offset transfers on wood, algae, yacht wax, and hydroponics, and with hints of motives from cruise ships, penguins floating on ice shelves, we are reminded of catastrophic and post-catastrophic voyages like that of the ship-wrecked Costa Concordia, the flotilla of gargantuan arks saving mankind in Roland Emmerich’s apocalyptic movie 2012, or the depressed penguin in Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World, which unlike the other members of his colony walks not to the feeding grounds, but toward the center of Antarctica. Read this in Werner Herzog’s voice: „We saw him heading straight towards the mountains, some 70 km away. The scientist explained that even if we caught him and brought him back to the colony, he would immediately head back to the mountains. But why? […] The rules for the humans are: do not hold up or disturb the penguin. Stand still and let him go on his way. And here, he’s heading off into the interior of the vast continent. With 5,000 km ahead of him, he’s heading towards certain death.“
At the same time, many of the works almost seem edible, and partly they are. They could be gorgonzola, or a rediscovered relic of a Gorgon, an ancient demonic Greek beast, like Medusa, petrified by itself, an autopoetic sculpture. Crystallized by epoxy as the amber of the post-human, energy patterns form and reorganize the organic growth into the anorganic exile of repetition. Super foods like spirulina algae or Soylent, the recently developed powdered meal replacement (which, as the company marketing it insists, „is not people“) could be extracted from Missika’s pieces, psychotropic nutritional art with tropical flavours for the seasteads of the Age of the Deluge and Delusion.