As Henry D. Thoreau (1817–1862) recalls in Walden; Or, Life in the Woods (1854), mythology and ancient poetry suggest that husbandry was once a sacred art; yet, today, it is "pursued with irreverent haste and heedlessness by us," for the primary purpose of owning and harvesting. The reality we live in is that of a bigger desire to regard "the soil as property." We know nature "but as a robber," as we commit to oblivion the sacred character it had once been granted.Thoreau is here referring to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, from which a growing, pitiless deification of material goods and a profound spiritual decline proceeded. How is one to return to a dialogue with Saturn and Ceres, those solar deities of renovation, creation, and liberation? And how is one to depict, or what is one to depict, when the soil itself grants life, is life, while still representing the whole logic of labour and activity? Or what is one to think when the soil consists in a general space of privatisation and domestication in which, primarily as a source material, all living beings are united?
Deploying a range of media and means of expression (among which photography, video, installation, and performance), Adrien Missika's (1981) body of work commits to revisiting diverse morphological forms as it attempts to retrieve and reposition the aforementioned questions within the context of contemporary artistic practices. Missika looks at them through nature, seen as the perfect display of the instability and impermanence that govern the life of living beings, among which humans are included. Over the years, a growing desire to take a multisensorial approach to the contradictions raised by these questions has increasingly pervaded his works, as his conceptual stance has come to emphasise the three inevitably interrelated major crises of the present day: the climatic crisis, the economic crisis, and the cultural crisis. In this sense, Missika operates within the natural forces without dominating them, evoking a state of alert for the signs that challenge the foundations of being, of all beings, in a time that seems to deceptively confine "nature in a process of dissolution" using W.G. Sebald's (1944–2001) words in his seminal poem Nach der Natur (1988)—a reverie which does no more than mirror the aloofness of the society that gazes at it. In his works, there is also a constant alternation between opposites that is carried out by an anthropological spirit which recognises the growing fading of the separation between nature and culture; a spirit which takes heed of the exploitation of the soil, long fettered by capitalist promiscuity, though it still insists on clearing land within a new "relational landscape," as Nicolas Bourriaud (1965) calls it in his book Inclusions. Esthetique Du Capitalocene (2021).
It would thus suffice to highlight Ontake-san 1 (Ash Paintings) (2014), with dry leaves of Japanese plane trees and computer cables covered in ash from the 2014 Mount Ontake (Japan) eruption, for one to understand that the nature Missika approaches—while recognising it has not yet been able to find the place of desired balance that advocates for a technical knowledge within the natural forces, instead of a violation of the latter in a relationship of domination—invariably repeats the idea of an automatous patriarch that operates by taking precedence over the laws of the
biosphere and ecological organisation. These "volcanic still lifes," at the intersection of the natural and the technological, make up a sort of premonitory vision of what another anthropologist may find in a near future—a reverie which, after all, is not that far from the real and which mirrors the hegemonic position technology currently holds, as it entwines, like a serpent, upon the scattered traces of nature, as it equates itself with it, as it takes precedence over it. However, one cannot disregard such a reversal; one cannot help but see that, in Ontake-san 1 (Ash Paintings), this reality is rendered a thing of the past exactly by virtue of nature, acting as vigorously as a volcano's ashes to bury what is considered to be one of the pinnacles of our civilisation. The same can be said to happen in Stargazer (2015), for instance, where the sensitivity of the camera's digital sensor allows for no more than a blurred image of the moonlight that pierces through the clouds and the trees. These photographs, taken as the artist swung in his hammock, underscore once again a gap between nature and technology where the former invariably surpasses the latter, where the former is comprised of an irrevocable, insuperable transcendentality until a place in the world is found where it can live, with the latter, in a shared system.
What Missika proposes is a reformulation of our relationship with nature, in an equal connection, where we exist not to dominate but rather to cooperate. When we look at works such as Jardin d’Hiver—both the 2012 and the 2013 sculptures—we can discern a suggestion to reorganise the natural elements, to reorganise material and historical references, to take an approach that ought to be an inclusive one, above all. As one observes the earlier sculptures, the allusion to Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx (1909–1994) must be pointed out—someone who devoted himself tirelessly to the possible intersections between the discipline itself, horticulture, and botany, as his projects included not only tropical plants but also native ones, and who proved to be an exception among his generation's architects. See, for instance, Jardin d’Hiver, which led to works such as Ciudad Jardin (Jardin des Tuileries / FIAC, 2015) or Impressions Botaniques(Bugada & Cargnel, 2013), in which the artist sets a play of reversals where the idea "nature at the service of man" no longer applies. Such is the case when he chooses to include endemic plants, to replant seeds of local weeds, or to use structural materials such as bamboo, which is used for building scaffolding in developing countries and which, in these works' case, is supported by intertwined ropes that are made using a thousand-year-old technique. In this sense, it is the natural that rises, through vertical structures, to the highest of skies, where green, alluding to the hyperphysical capabilities of the sempervirens, imposes itself and allows everything under threat of vanishing to prevail. And this green is that which one discovers underneath the dust of the plants that survive in the urban space, between the roads; the dust that Missika sweeps in Cura (2019–), a gesture which the artist, in the video's instructions, suggests for us to repeat and which reveals his desire for man and "happy nature to ever be at one," in rather the fashion of a Caetano song.Ultimately, such is the essential gesture of caring for the essential organic which is reflected in other works of his, such as Unkrautpflege (2018).
His work thus points to a consciousness that nature, above all, is the founder of itself, as it winks at a Marx (1818–1883) maxim which stresses that the human being "can create nothing without nature, without the sensuous external world." It is from this perspective that his work insists on the presence of nature, its elements, and its references, challenging every problematic that is centred upon not only the urban biosphere, uncovering the latter's fragility and ephemeralness and evoking its limits, but also the social condition itself, which can be realised only in the relationship with the natural force which, in turn, remains in permanent actualisation. Plus: when Missika does not explore it via a desirably laudatory gesture, he does so in a profoundly ironic way. Because Jardin d'Hiver can also exist in a synthetic version, wherein every single plant, among fibreglass and epoxy, is artificial. Yet, Jardin d'Hiver (version synthétique) (2015) is but another example of this Missikian dramatic comedy. We could go back to works such as A Dying Generation(2011), made up of updated records of the first palm trees that were planted in LA and had already been photographed by Ed Ruscha (1937) in 1971. Today, having grown enormously, their sunburnt leaves mirror the decline of an Anthropocenic apogee that aspires even to predetermine the places where nature should exercise and extol its splendour, invariably with the purpose of glorifying human greatness. And so, in these b&w pictures' melancholy parody, we are given the confirmation that nature is the sovereign one—it is nature that establishes laws, even when we are led to believe otherwise. The same happens with the Saguaro cacti that pop up in We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us(2014). When Missika photographs the oldest specimens in Arizona and titles them as such, using a quote from Robert Rodriguez's (1968) film Machete (2010), which addresses the deportation of illegal immigrants from Mexico, he ironises the fact that even a cactus, upon the motionless shifting of borders, may no longer belong to the territory where it sprouted. However, in some way, no matter its current location on American soil and not in Mexico, this cactus ignores all borderly impositions. And that, more than an elegy to the fate human force imposes on them, is because Saguaros stay where they stand, beyond territorial designation, with their superhuman lifespan (they can live for more than 150 years), against all mortal political catastrophes, which they so brilliantly ignore as they go on growing far taller than men, serving as sustenance and shelter for those passing by.
So there seems to be no doubt that Missika is aware that it is nature who makes everything work, and that it is through her that all is activated and defined. And that is thus to say that man irrevocably lives from nature; he cannot deny that, at the extreme, "nature is his body—and he must maintain a continuing dialogue with it if he is not to die," quoting K. Marx once more. This fact pulsates shimmeringly throughout his body of work, which is consistently provocative in its proposal for a paradigm change while pointing out that it had been Natur that had naturalised the social being, much before it was ever humanised by the latter. Furthermore, if it is indeed true that nature is what defines us as beings and allows us to exist as social beings, then a certainty also prevails that nature is the ultimate institution, the one that will remain, observing, determining, and balancing our passage. Hers is another time, far from being understood as a cultural fact, much beyond ours, for we will never be able to watch the movement of stones, for too ponderous it is for our fleeting existence. To it attests the video Sailing Stones (2011), where Missika records the tracks that trace the movement, unperceivable and enigmatic to our temporality, which some stones inscribe across the Racetrack Playa dry lake, located in the Death Valley National Park (California). This impossibility ironises and contradicts the human will to control time, as it opposes the Anthropocentric productivism that, as Bourriaud states, has from the outset dug an abyss with the natural rhythms, determining schedules and paces and mythicising acceleration.
I remember the first Missika exhibition I went to: Demain Stabilisation (2017), at Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisbon, which included Better Safe than Sorry (2017), an installation that was made up of about thirty concrete-canvas bags. Almost all of them held soil; one, however, contained a variety of open-pollinated seeds—seeds, therefore, unfettered by the industries that usually sell them, by the privatisation "that renders our time a cousin of the Neolithic period." At first glance, these bags, placed upon shelves or on the floor, seemed to have just been left there; yet, one quickly understood they were self-sufficient, able to live and answer for themselves, protected from any external adversities, and, as such, from certain human laws, as they took on the places they occupied in a growing position that relieved them of categorisation and opened them up to a potential future. For not only were the visitors allowed to collect some of those unpatented seeds and plant them wherever they wanted, the open bags, the fertile soil, and the unsprouted seeds also confirmed the idea that everything is always in the process of being; everything is ever-developing. As such, this work, like the ones that have been mentioned here and even the ones that have not, sustains the idea of movement, of transition, that constituent, fundamental flux of existence, as it also sums up one of the artist's essential ideas: forms, whether inorganic, vegetal, or human, exist in a cycle of eternal impermanence, in a constant state of transformation, or rather in permanent metamorphosis—the "key to all of Nature's signs," as Goethe (1749–1832) would say. From Better Safe than Sorry (2017) remain a handful of open-pollinated seeds and the sound of the hoe that meets the stones in the soil, which Thoreau so brilliantly describes. The poetics within Missika's works is one that makes this music resonate not only through the woods but also across the city's spaces, which welcome the magnetism of the land and, at last, open up to the latter's power and virtue, where even the unpredictability of weeds finds its place—whether it be among paving stones, like in Pioneer's Treat (2020), or in Ilha de Ervas (2020), a two-square-metre islet inside Estufa Fria that the artist fertilised with his own homemade compost. There, only spontaneous vegetation can grow; and Missika, with his every gesture, shows that art shall oppose the "tentacular monster" that is the Anthropocene, towards "a potential future" free from the accelerated temporal dimension of human space.
AnaMary Bilbao is a Portuguese-Spanish artist. She has now delivered her PhD thesis in Artistic Studies – Art and Mediations (FCSH – Universidade Nova de Lisboa and School of Arts-Birkbeck College, University of London) (with the support of FCT). She is artist-in-residence at ISCP (New York, 2022) with a grant from the Luso-American Development Foundation. She was nominated for the FLAD Design Award (1st Ed., 2021) and for the EDP Foundation New Artists Award (13th Ed., 2019). He exhibited his work at Paris Photo / Curiosa (Paris), at MAAT: Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (Lisbon), at Opening/Arco Madrid (Madrid), at Novo Negócios/ZDB (Lisbon), at Fundação Leal Rios ( Lisbon), PLMJ Foundation (Lisbon), Toronto Convention Center (Toronto), MACE: Museum of Contemporary Art (Elvas), Galeria Boavista/EGEAC (Lisbon) and Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art (Lisbon), among others.
Translation PT-EN: Diogo Montenegro.
Images: Adrien Missika. Ontake-san 1 (Ash Paintings), 2014; Yautepec 1 (Stargazer), 2015; Jardin D’hiver, 2013; Ciudad Jardin, 2015
; Impressiones Botanies, 2013, Installation view (Bugada & Cargnel); Cura, 2019 – ongoing
Action, first performed by the artist in Mexico city, Mexico, 2019 ; Unkrautpflege, 2018 – ongoing , Action, first performed by the artist on Karl-Marx- Allee, Berlin, August 2018 .
A Dying Generation, 2011; We Didn't Cross the Border, the Border Crossed Us, 2014.
Sailling Stones, 2011.
Demain, Stabilisation, 2017. Installations Views at Galeria Francisco Fino, Lisboa.
 Cf. Thoreau, Henry David (2004), Walden or, Life in the Woods, The Internet Bookmobile, pp. 123–124.
 Cf. Cf. Sebald, W. G. (2003), After Nature (trans. Michael Hamburger), New York: The Modern Library, p. 65.
 Cf. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF).
 For German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk (1947), such a balance can be achieved in a state of "homeotechnology," a word that sums up his anthropotechnological proposal and which addresses the aforementioned problematics, obviously related to the Anthropocene topic. This expression was mentioned during the public debate between himself and French philosopher Bernard Stiegler (1952–2020) which took place in Nijmegen (The Netherlands) in 2016. This word was recently reintroduced by Nicolas Bourriaud in Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene. Bourriaud states that "the rise of homeotechnology, however, ought to entail a new holism, an inclusive approach to the world, a thought that is immersed in this natural environment we have learnt to understand as an 'environment.'" Cf. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF), p. 6.
 Caetano Veloso, Tigresa (1977).
 «Der Arbeiter kann nichts schaffen ohne die Natur, ohne die sinnliche Außenwelt». Cf. Marx, K. (1968), "Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844", in Marx Engels Werke, 40, Berlin: Dietz Verlag Berlin, p. 512.
 Ed Ruscha presented this photographic series in A Few Palm Trees (1971), a book where we can see the artist's b&w pictures of the respective palm trees.
 The saguaro is a rare species that can be found in few areas in the United States—especially near the US-Mexican border. Adrien Missika photographed the oldest specimens in Arizona, near the border that, in 1854, after the end of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), was shifted following the Gadsden Purchase, when the United States acquired thousands of square kilometers of land which, up until then, had belonged to the Mexicans. The purpose was to build a railroad that would connect Arizona to California.
 Cf. Marx, K. (1968), «Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844», in Marx Engels Werke, 40, Berlin: Dietz Verlag Berlin, p. 516.
 Cf. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF), p. 19.
 Cf. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF), p. 4.
 Cf. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, Kuhn, Dorothea (ed.) (1964), Leopoldina-Ausgabe. Goethe. Die Schriften zur Naturwissenschaft (LA I 10). Aufsätze, Fragmente, Studien zur Morphologie, VII, Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachf, p. 128.
 «L"L'histoire de l'art est l'histoire d'une sémiose, c'est-à-dire, pour reprendre Eduardo Kohn, 'le nom de ce processus vivant de signe, par lequel une pensée en fait émerger por une autre, et ainsi de suite, vers un futur potentiel.'" Cf. Kohn, Eduardo, apud Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions - Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF), p. 142. Bourriaud uses the phrase "tentacular monster," stressing that, in K. Marx's version, the monster would correspond to the term "automaton." Cf. Bourriaud, Nicolas (2021), Inclusions — Esthetique Du Capitalocene, Paris: Presses universitaires de France (PUF), p. 14.