There is a rhythm to the darkness. The whir and drone of a photocopier is amplified to assume an industrial, almost musical cadence. It fills the air.
Analogies emerge. Against the blackened far wall of the gallery space, a large video projection shows a light tracing cragged surfaces, back and forth, like a copier’s metrical scan. Our perspective is from beneath the copier’s glass plate, as if we're staring up at the surfaces placed upon it. We are the eyes of the device.
Other cues materialise. A much smaller screen, positioned at floor level on the opposite wall, plays a slideshow of raw photocopied images. Vantages of a decaying modernist façade, an ancient ruin and a catalogue image of a photocopier flash by to the undulations of the audio. There are fragments too, dismantled and magnified sections of the demolished buildings, tiles, render and the like. Though at a glance, the subjects couldn’t be further removed, this is no doubt a comparative study.
It is in the far corner of the space, beneath the austere glow of a single fluorescent tube, that the final piece in the puzzle rests. It is mute and great, like a model-scaled ruin. With proximity, this decaying structure – concrete shards and dust littering its perimeter – reveals itself not as a piece of architecture, but as the said photocopier; the Canon NP6030, lost to the winds of time.
The span of signifiers, objects and images that populate Nicholas Mangan’s new show at the Centre for Contemporary Photography seem disparate at first. But the three central motifs that anchor Some Kinds of Duration – the now obsolete NP3060, the Palace of the Governer, Uxmal (a 900AD Mayan ruin in the Mexican state of Yucatan) and the Walter Burley Griffin-designed Pyrmont Incinerator in Sydney (parts of which are held in Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum after it was demolished in 1992 ) – aren’t without a compass.
Like much of Mangan’s previous work – including his brilliant study of the decline of once wealthy phosphate island nation of Nauru, Notes from a Cretaceous World (2010) – Some Kinds of Duration centres itself on a conceptual and formal thread of decay and gradual disrepair. Once admired and revered, these structures have been lost to obsolescence and the turning of culture and technology’s clock.
Like the Uxmal and Pyrmont structures, the Canon NP6030 – once the paragon of analogue photocopying technology when released in 1993 – was eventually and unceremoniously cast aside, rendered obsolete by the ‘digital revolution’. Mangan elevates the copier to that of the monument and its associated cultural currency, only to cast it as a ruin. Like the architectures before it, it is a fallen idol.
But there’s more, one might suggest, to Mangan’s casting of the NP3060 than that of its former glories. Indeed, Mangan’s treatment of the device seems to have formal underpinnings. Like the copier’s very function – that of replication – Mangan’s slide show to illuminates each of the objects’ similarities in a design sense. Though separated by eons, continents and functions, when examined in the same context, they each echo of one another’s contours.
Even the nations, structures and objects that have been cast aside possess a resonance. While there is still memory and record, there is a residue and legacy and influence. It flows through everyone and everything.
Some Kinds of Duration shows at CCP until April 1.