Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti, Tossed by Waves

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore
The Golden Mean, June 2017

Aus­tralian artist Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti remem­bers the chaos in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Char­lie Heb­do mas­sacre. From her home near­by she could see gen­darme on the street, heav­i­ly armed with huge guns and bul­let­proof vests.” As the tragedy unfold­ed, what struck her most was that the peo­ple showed such incred­i­ble solidarity.”

The tur­bu­lence of that year – includ­ing the Novem­ber 2015 attacks, the sin­gle dead­liest in French his­to­ry, and the refugee cri­sis – inspired Mesi­ti to cre­ate Tossed by Waves, which opened at the Anna Schwartz Gallery, Mel­bourne, in May. The work – com­pris­ing of a sin­gle chan­nel silent video titled Tossed by Waves’ and five brass sculp­tures – responds to a state of emer­gency, which we seem to be occu­py­ing at the moment, both in Europe and glob­al­ly,” she says.

Mesi­ti, a Syd­ney-sider who lives in Paris, often delves into non-ver­bal and endan­gered lan­guages: past pieces have includ­ed The Silent Choir, a video record­ing of a choir who uses just sign lan­guage, and The Call­ing, an explo­ration of an ancient form of whistling lan­guage, devel­oped to com­mu­ni­cate over moun­tains and gulfs in Greece, Turkey, and the Canary Islands. For Tossed by Waves she has delved into the now dis­used Morse code – a lan­guage devel­oped specif­i­cal­ly to com­mu­ni­cate in crisis.

Cen­tral is the video, show­ing close up, slow­ly pan­ning shots of the mon­u­ment at the cen­tre of Paris’ Place de la République. The square is an impor­tant gath­er­ing point for the pop­u­la­tion. After the Char­lie Heb­do attacks near­ly two mil­lion peo­ple assem­bled in or around the square,” she expounds. It seemed to be the place [to express] dis­sent through protest or a memorsalisation.”

The mon­u­ment itself express­es the fun­da­men­tal val­ues of the French Repub­lic, includ­ing lib­er­ty, equal­i­ty and fra­ter­ni­ty. But Mesi­ti was more inter­est­ed on the graf­fi­ti paint­ed onto the stat­ues and oth­er para­pher­na­lia placed there by the pub­lic. The mon­u­ment start­ed to accu­mu­late these residue of people’s expe­ri­ence in the form of can­dles or flow­ers or bou­quets, graf­fi­ti or protest state­ments,” she says. It was a way to express sol­i­dar­i­ty and to grieve.”

Cru­cial­ly, the mayor’s depart­ment did­n’t clean the mon­u­ment for near­ly two and a half years – they allowed it to accu­mu­late these state­ments, which seemed to be the need for the peo­ple to express their trau­ma, express their expe­ri­ence in this form.”

For me it felt like a real­ly inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion going on, play­ing on the mon­u­ment as a can­vas between the city and the author­i­ties. The graf­fi­ti seems to reflect a dis­il­lu­sion­ment with struc­tures of author­i­ty,” she adds.

While the video shows extreme close up of the carv­ings, focus­ing just on details – spray paint here, an anar­chy sym­bol there – shroud­ing the work in silence was an impor­tant sig­nal for Mesi­ti, reflect­ing a kind of solemn feel­ing, the moments of silence you observe after these dra­mat­ic vio­lent events.” 

Pro­vid­ing a sound­track in the exhi­bi­tion are the sculp­tures. Dots and dash­es of the Morse code sig­nals have been trans­lat­ed into the brass bells and wire works that spell out the phras­es, includ­ing INTQRK (How are you receiv­ing me?) and QRK5 (Loud and clear). Knock­ing togeth­er, the bells pro­duce a dis­so­nant music.

The final sculp­ture is that of a trans­la­tion of the Parisian mot­to, fluc­tu­at nec mer­gi­tur or tossed by the waves but does not sink”. While orig­i­nal­ly used in the 14th cen­tu­ry, the say­ing, which touch­es on the city’s spir­it and strength in the face of adver­si­ty, has had a pop­u­lar res­ur­rec­tion in recent years.

I was real­ly drawn to it because this phrase was tak­en up by the peo­ple of Paris after the Novem­ber 2015 attack, as three art crews made three giant murals around the city,” says Mesi­ti. This became a state­ment of resilience against the trau­ma that had been expe­ri­enced. So it felt like there was a direct rela­tion­ship between Morse code and this mot­to end­bur­ing that turbulence.”

Mesi­ti has also explored the Morse code in Relay League, her exhi­bi­tion in Art­space, Syd­ney. Three sep­a­rate videos inter­pret the final mes­sage sent by the French navy on 31 Jan­u­ary 1997 before decom­mis­sion­ing the Morse code: in the first video, a per­cus­sion­ist inter­prets the code; in the sec­ond that music is inter­pret­ed by two vision impaired dancers; and in the third, a new chore­og­ra­phy, tak­ing cues from the per­cus­sion­ist and inspi­ra­tion from folk dance, is presented. 

Mesi­ti sees the work as reflec­tive of the way the Morse code itself worked, a tele­graph­ic chain of mes­sag­ing sys­tems.” Most poet­ic, though, is the navy mes­sage, which has also pro­vid­ed the title for the show – Call­ing all, this is our final cry before our eter­nal sign.”

It’s a real­ly poet­ic mes­sage to be sent by the navy,” says Mesi­ti, who wants her work to show the pos­si­bil­i­ty of reviv­ing lan­guage through cre­ative acts.

What struck me about it’s the first time the Morse code has ever sent a mes­sage about itself,” she says. It’s always being used to send the dis­tress of oth­ers. This is a final adieu about itself in its own lan­guage. This was the moment of a death of a language.”


Lau­ren Brin­cat, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Daniel Crooks, Tar­raWar­ra Bien­ni­al 2021: Slow Mov­ing Waters’

Lau­ren Brin­cat, Louisa Bufarde­ci & Daniel Crooks have each been com­mis­sioned to cre­ate new work […]

Read More

DIS­CUS­SION: Shaun Glad­well & Dr. Sean Lowry

Dr Sean Lowry, Head of Crit­i­cal and The­o­ret­i­cal Stud­ies, Vic­to­ri­an Col­lege of the Arts […]

Read More

Three exhi­bi­tions to see in New York this weekend

Daniel Crooks: the Sub­tle Knife­Un­til 31 Jan­u­ary in Times Square, Man­hat­tan As the residual […]

Read More

More Than 40 Inter­na­tion­al Gal­leries Are Col­lab­o­rat­ing on a New Auc­tion-Style Sales Plat­form Cham­pi­oning Art From the Glob­al South

Dozens of gal­leries have come togeth­er to take part in an inno­v­a­tive sale and […]

Read More

New gallery plat­form South South launch­es to pro­mote art from out­side the dom­i­nant US-Europe axis

We talk a lot, in the US-Euro­­pean focused art world, about increas­ing the promi­nence of […]

Read More

Daniel Crooks: Asia Soci­ety Tri­en­ni­al, New York

The inau­gur­al Asia Soci­ety Tri­en­ni­al opens today 27 Octo­ber, 2020 in New York City, and […]

Read More

John Nixon Test­ed the Vital­i­ty of Geo­met­ric Abstraction

“… Nixon was not only an artist but a cura­tor, musi­cian, gal­lerist, small-press pub­lish­er and […]

Read More

Lau­ren Brin­cat: Wool­lahra Small Sculp­ture Prize

The 20th annu­al Wool­lahra Small Sculp­ture Prize exhi­bi­tion, includ­ing Lau­ren Brin­cat, will be presented […]

Read More

Angel­i­ca Mesi­ti, Busan Bien­nale 2020: Words at an Exhibition

Words at an Exhi­bi­tion – an exhi­bi­tion in ten chap­ters and five poems Busan Biennale […]

Read More

Pre­car­i­ous Move­ments: Chore­og­ra­phy and the Muse­um. Ses­sion 2. Square Peg: Rethink­ing and Recon­fig­ur­ing the Muse­um Collection

Pre­car­i­ous Move­ments: Con­ver­sa­tions is a three-part pro­gram of live talks with artists, cura­tors and conservators […]

Read More

The Joy of the Gestalt: John Nixon 1949 – 2020

Before I met John Nixon I had already seen John Nixon. John was the sub­ject of […]

Read More

New Wages For Stu­dents: A poster after Lot­ta Feminista

The poster over­lays two archival vec­tors, the cov­er design for Car­la Lonzi’s 1975​“Die […]

Read More

JOHN NIXON (1949 – 2020)

WHENLIVED in cul­tur­al­ly and polit­i­cal­ly con­ser­v­a­tive Bris­bane in the late​’70s and early […]

Read More

Ker­rie Poli­ness: recip­i­ent of McClel­land Nation­al Small Sculp­ture Award

Ker­rie Poli­ness is one of four recip­i­ents of the Nation­al Small Sculp­ture Award 202 […]

Read More

Kate Mitchell: The Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Deck

Hyper-linked is an exhi­bi­tion for the dig­i­tal realm, pre­sent­ing new projects by sev­en contemporary […]

Read More

Open­ing hours update

Due to the COVID-19 relat­ed gov­ern­ment restric­tions, the gallery is cur­rent­ly closed to the […]

Read More

When life imi­tates art: a cau­tion­ary tale

When Mikala Dwyer pro­posed her instal­la­tion for the 2020 Ade­laide Bien­ni­al of Aus­tralian Art […]

Read More

New gallery hours

Thurs­day – Fri­day by appoint­ment Sat­ur­day 1 – 5 mail@​annaschwartzgallery.​com […]

Read More

Peter Tyn­dall: bLogos/​HA HA

Now that it seems to be end­ing, what has this peri­od of enforced online […]

Read More

John Nixon: Groups + Pairs 2016 – 2020

John Nixon: Groups + Pairs 20162020 opened only a cou­ple of days prior […]

Read More

She Per­sists: Emi­ly Floyd

She Per­sists is a hard­copy book and an online hub of 34 essays and podcasts […]

Read More

Cre­ative Cos­mos: Mar­co Fusina­to in con­ver­sa­tion with Melis­sa Keys

MK: As an artist and musi­cian, you have rela­tion­ships with audi­ences. What dri­ves you […]

Read More

The Mod­el has cre­at­ed a dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence of The Sea Around Us while the exhi­bi­tion is closed to the public

The Sea Around Us John Akom­frah (GH/GB), Foren­sic Oceanog­ra­phy and Foren­sic Archi­tec­ture (GB), Shaun […]

Read More

David Noo­nan: Stagecraft

In in-depth dis­cus­sion with David Noo­nan while the exhi­bi­tion is in hiber­na­tion. You were […]

Read More