Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Kinds of Duration by Nicholas Mangan

By Anneliese Millk
Gallery 3, Centre for Contemporary Photography, 404 George St, Fitzroy, Melbourne
Until 01.04.2012

What do an outdated photocopier, a demolished incinerator and an ancient Mayan Palace have in common? The answer apparently lies in duration, design and decay. Nicholas Mangan’s mixed media installation Some Kinds of Duration explores the symbiosis between these seemingly disparate components, seeking to reveal multiple histories simultaneously and a surprising continuity between forms.

Some Kinds of Duration is the outcome of Mangan’s archival investigation into the history of the Pyrmont incinerator. Designed by architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney in 1935, the incinerator destroyed the waste of Sydney's population until 1971. Despite being a utilitarian, urban building, the incinerator’s design embraced delineated art deco and bold Mayan reliefs. The impressive structure was finally demolished in 1992, although remnants of its surface decoration have been preserved in the Powerhouse Museum.

To the left of the darkened gallery space, a sequence of closely cropped images is projected onto a wall. Photocopied and re-photocopied to grainy and mottled abstraction, images of the Canon NP6030 are interspersed with photographs of the Pyrmont incinerator and the Mayan Palace of the Governor of Uxmal in Yucatan, Mexico.

On the adjacent wall is a larger digital projection of a beam of light that moves back and forth across the surviving fluted tiles of the incinerator, serving to reconstruct a sense of space, as well as mimic the precise motions of a scanner.

Like an ancient monument, a life-size replica Canon NP6030 sits under a single fluorescent light. The sculpture is uncanny – solid, exact and quotidian, yet entirely made out of reinforced concrete. Unlike the popular Canon model launched in 1993, this photocopier features a burnt out void. Covered in cracks and fissures, the photocopier appears to be crumbling before our eyes, with piles of dust gathered at its base. Mangan’s sculpture is at once indispensable office equipment, incinerator and ancient ruin.

Some Kinds of Duration is beautifully bleak and spare, merging seamlessly with the concrete floor of the gallery. An audio track of a photocopier whirring and cracking in action fills the otherwise silent installation, creating an eerie, apocalyptic atmosphere.

Although the viewer might be somewhat confounded by the number of facets at play in Mangan’s theory, his art succeeds in evoking a paradoxically fragile permanence in the continuity of forms.

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