Curator's radar: Nicholas Mangan - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Curator's radar feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

Nicholas Mangan’s work has never been of the straightforward variety. He mixes materials like some kind of psychotic alchemist and the results shapeshift from the ancient to the present to the futuristic in equal measure.

The central item of his latest offering, Some Kinds of Duration, could well be a relic salvaged from a spacecraft, a decayed item of arcane technology being studied beneath a burning fluorescent lamp. It is, he says, “a project about reproduction and destruction. Mayan ruins, waste incinerators, analog photocopiers and carbon. It’s a project about duration.”

The project showed at Sydney’s Artspace in 2011 in Talking Pictures curated by Melanie Oliver and will move to Melbourne’s Centre for Contemporary Photography in 2012. It was inspired in part by one of the last buildings in Australia designed by renowned architect Walter Burley Griffin, a massive incinerator in the Sydney suburb of Pyrmont.

“I guess I liked the notion of the sacrifice by early capitalism’s detritus and that consumption itself is a form of sacrifice,” says Mangan. It was as if the Pyrmont incinerator had been built as a monument to this concept. “I wondered if Griffin, in his research trips to Mexico, had thought about sacrifice in these terms as [it is known that] he had been inspired by Mayan temples.”

Duration is an extraordinarily complex conceptual opus, combining notions of archeological renderings, mechanical reproduction, spirituality and even pornography.

“Heat, light, sound and magnetism could be said to be at the core of an analog photocopier’s function,” he says. “I extrapolate on this connection as a way of folding the incinerator and the photocopier’s function into one another. Then I added to this the anthroposophical connection between science and spirituality.” The sculptural component of the show is abetted with video work, the overall effect designed to create the look and feel of being actually within the interior of a photocopier.

Conservation staff from the Powerhouse Museum, present at the demolition of Griffin’s incinerator in 1992, had been able to pry some of the ornamental tiles from the building’s façade. “These tiles were to be the only physical remains of the building. They would become my physical connection to the building,” Mangan says.

Mangan discovered these tiles in his research, along with photocopies of architectural heritage consultant plans and formal letters discussing plans to save decorative elements like the tiles prior to the incinerator’s destruction. “A story emerged concerning of the demolition of the Pyrmont incinerator through the photocopied archive material, the tiles and through the function of a photocopier itself, drawing a connection through carbon and cycles of decay – the incinerator reducing matter to carbon and a photocopier using carbon to reproduce.”

Ashley Crawford

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