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Text by Shelley McSpedden with introduction by Geraldine Barlow

Copyright Š 2010 Nicholas Mangan First Edition 2010 Published by The Narrows in association with Sutton Gallery Melbourne, Australia ISBN 978-0-9807907-1-9 Designed by Warren Taylor and Nicholas Mangan Edition of 500

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Introduction Geradline Barlow Nicholas Mangan pays attention; he is curious and seeks knowledge. Mangan listens. He is gentle, but his work is strongly concerned with violence and power. He draws from different systems - cultural, natural, material and temporal - to refigure and revitalise our sense of the world. Mangan gathers us into experiences of close looking and wonder, studying his work we recognise elements from the natural world, spliced into artefacts of contemporary life and recent history. He creates hybrid and grafted forms, new paths for conversation and insight. Grafting is central to Mangan’s art. Whether working with a body or a plant, grafting involves the transplant of living tissue from one situation to another: between sites and potentially between species. In order for a graft to take it must become a part of the living body of its host. With the flow of sap or blood comes growth. Mangan grafts together the unlikely and the impossible: he grafts materials, technologies, narrative and myth; the natural and the cultural; historical artefact and science fiction nightmare. There are traces of violence in this process, fragments of the unholy and the grotesque. As with Frankenstein’s monster, imagined so vividly by Mary Shelley, a body made of many parts is uneasy in its own consciousness — as well as ours. Whilst master of the graft, Mangan has a kind of tool kit of methods and models through which to achieve the recombination of unlikely parts: these include hybridisation, colonisation and transplantation. The Mangan universe offers uncanny ecosystems to explore, realms in which the governing systems are both rampant and collapsed, where the mistletoe may be about to overtake its host. Mangan creates processes of material interbreeding as generators of alarm, humour, meaning and beauty. Like explorers, we pass through these sensations as we negotiate Mangan’s work. Perhaps they also exist as a trace of the process of making. It is clear Mangan’s work finds its form through this process. Whilst Mangan is attracted to materiality, narrative and the research process, he also gives each project ample scope to be generated from within the evolving logic of its own form. In this way Mangan makes art in the manner of a novelist who has a keen ear for the internal voice of the universe he has created. Some things will be discovered in the making that could never be imagined at the outset. Mangan is a material storyteller, working with his selected materials he creates complex poetic forms, conversant with, as well as lifting beyond, conventional narrative structures. He relays a tale from his family history: of a tunnel his uncle excavated beneath his bedroom


floor as a boy, a wondrous thing as Mangan tells it, conceptually an unexpected access point between one reality and another. The hole and the tunnel are transgressive places of rupture, doubt, transformation and discovery. These forms are like the theoretical wormholes proposed in contemporary physics — unexpected game-changing shortcuts in the space time continuum. From his early explorations of the super-pit or open cut mine, to his use of the termite hole, the archaeological dig and gaping wound-like lips of the Banksia cone, Mangan has built his own relation to the hole and tunnel. At the polar opposite of this Freudian spectrum Mangan has evolved a counter iconography of protruding termite towers and stalactites of fecund guano, bristling antennae, sharpened spears and barbed, wiry-haired clubs. The bristle, as a material, also gives passage into a particularly testy masculine mindset.

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In this way, Mangan’s materials communicate an emotional register, as well as links to their locality of origin. They are selected with a view to the history of their export or exploitation, and embedded information, such as their taxonomic history or associated popular mythology. In Mangan’s work narratives of the real are very often more gripping and fantastical than those that might be imagined from scratch. There is always a strong sense of locality: this place, this earth, and these histories, reformed and refreshed for our appraisal; with strong, unexpected and unsettling connections between the local and the global. Sometimes art can work in the realm of the abstract; at other times we need it to help us to consider the particular. Although we might see or experience certain things, it can be difficult to speak about them, difficult also not to speak about them. Mangan enters this realm, in relation to Australia’s history of colonisation, as well as romantic representations of the primitive. Mangan approaches these questions with care, sensitivity and insight; just as he also makes a place for our consideration of matters of the spirit and the ineffable. In his practice over the last decade Mangan has returned to certain themes: the rise and fall of civilisations; innovation, ambition and construction; the systems through which we collect and organise knowledge; the animal qualities of our collective behaviour. Mangan is an artist alert to both history and science, to recent history and deep time. Many intersecting lines of enquiry are raised in Mangan’s works, like a series of exploratory missions his practice helps us to reframe what we know, to discover many things we didn’t know, and above all to allow a space for whispers, listening and our own continuing formation.


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Cultures of Fabrication: Intercultural Commodities Shelley McSpedden There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism. – Walter Benjamin1

1 Walter Benjamin, ‘Thesis on the Philosophy of History’ in Illuminations: Walter Benjamin (1970), Hannah Arendt (ed.), trans. Harry Zorn, Pimlico, London, 1999, p.248 2 Nicholas Bourriaud suggests this heterogeneous and heterochronic approach as a defining feature of what he describes as the ‘Altermodern’. See Nicholas Bourriaud, ‘Altermodern’ in Altermodern: Tate Triennial, ex cat, Tate, London, 2009

Nicholas Mangan’s sculptural practice is immersed in the materiality of the world around him. He utilises ready-made and found objects to address fields as diverse as economics, ecology and culture. Melding the ancient and the modern, mysticism and science fiction, his practice is unified by a central concern with the questions of how and why commodities circulate. The appropriation of tourist kitsch and pseudo ‘primitive’ artefacts in two major installations, The Colony 2005 and The Mutant Message 2006, foregrounds the artist’s interest in the way material culture is used in support of political ideologies. These historically charged objects are exploited to investigate the legacy of colonial settlement in the Pacific region. Informed by an awareness of the often problematic dialogue between local and international values in an increasingly globalised world, Mangan adopts a heterogeneous and heterochronic approach, brazenly merging the old with the new and fusing signifiers from a range of cultural traditions.2 The perplexing and often amusing web of associations and narratives that this triggers stresses the shifting function of cultural artefacts through time. The transformation of appropriated objects into new and unstable amalgamations directs our attention to the political ideologies which underscored their historical employment, whilst simultaneously spot­ lighting the values which under­pin their currency in the present day. ••• Upon entering the large scale installation The Colony, exhibited in 2005 at Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne, one had the distinct sense of stumbling across the mysterious and long deserted ruins of a strange primitive society. A large totemic form, which looked as if it had grown from the wooden floor, reached up to the ceiling as three pointed spears shot territorially outwards from its central column. Armoured in sharp spikes, its looming presence dominated one half of the space. A collection of wooden bowls and platters, filled with an array of small wooden objects, were clustered around the gallery’s support column, as if left in honour of a holy deity. A stout, phallic figure stood to attention on a shelf just above this offering — a bemusing approximation of this Supreme Being perhaps. Shrine-like structures rested against one wall, whilst masks fashioned from faux Polynesian bowls and spoons adorned a number of others. A tree stump, emitting low rumbling sounds and a vicious looking trap, which had been constructed from a complex arrangement of spears and poles, were positioned on the gallery floor.


Legions of termites appeared to have gnawed their way through large sections of these curious wooden structures, imbuing the installation with a palpable sense of decay. The works were crafted from the type of Polynesian souvenir that became enormously popular in 1970s Australia, where a more outward facing worldview was beginning to flourish. Mangan’s refashioning of these now defunct objects - best described as intercultural as they were derived from a dialogue between two cultures3 - into exaggerated totems charged them with a long lost sense of singularity, mystique and desirability. Anthropologist, Igor Kopytoff, suggests that what is significant about the adoption of alien objects is not the fact that they are adopted, but the way they are culturally redefined and put to use. 4 Mangan’s recasting of tourist kitsch exposes the nuances of a particular ‘traffic in culture’5, in which Western fantasies about the ‘other’ are projected onto the contours of surrogate commodities — those of the mass produced souvenirs which are tailored to the tourist’s vision of the non-Westerner’s more authentic way of life. Mangan makes a playful nod to the fiction at the heart of this exchange by adorning the souvenirs with synthetic materials, such as nylon hair and polymer lacquer. The recuperation of discarded and disused commodities can be seen to have a legacy in the Surrealists’ gleeful appropriation of outmoded bourgeois objects. Walter Benjamin claims that the Surrealists were the first to perceive the revolutionary potential of what he describes as, “the wish-symbols of the previous century”.6 Ruminating on Louis Aragon’s evocation of dilapidated Parisian arcades in Le Paysan de Paris (1926), Benjamin argues: it is only as commodities are stripped of their veneer of desirability by the processes of history that they yield up their latent revol­ utionary energy.7 The inevitable decline of commodities works to dissolve the fetishistic mystique that surrounds them and we are able, for the first time, to see them clearly for what they are. The potential threat detritus poses to the pristine surface of consumer culture is contained by its segregation from our daily lives. Benjamin claims that the Surrealists saw the possibility to awaken the world from the “dreamsleep” of capitalism through the reclamation of such outmoded commodities.8

Fig. 14 3 Igor Kopytoff, ‘The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process’ in Arjun Appadurai (ed.), The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, 1986, p.65 4 Ibid, p.67 5 For an in-depth discussion of the ‘traffic in culture’ see George E. Marcus and Fred R. Myers (eds.), The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology, University of California Press, Berkley, Los Angeles, London, 1995 6 Walter Benjamin, ‘Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the Intelligentsia’ (1929) in Reflections, Peter Demetz (ed.), trans. Edmund Jephcott, Schocken Books, New York, 1978, p.181 7 ibid, p.52 8 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, Rolf Tiedemann (ed.), trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin, Harvard/Belknap, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999, p.391, pp.571 – 572 9 Arjun Appadurai, ‘Introduction: Commodities and the Politics of Value’ in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York, 1986 , p.15

Relegated to the dark corners of kitchen cupboards and the dusty shelves of op-shops across the country, the deluge of discarded Polynesian souvenirs sheds light on the mystic nature of the West’s relationship to objects. These ‘exotic’ artefacts quickly plummeted in the West’s ‘regime of value’ 9 once their mass circulation and homogeneity of form became apparent to the consumer. Unlike other blatantly mass


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produced mementoes, such as the ubiquitous ‘I NY’ t-shirt, the value of these souvenirs was predicated on principles of rarity and authen­ ticity. The ‘otherness’ that they were thought to embody was thoroughly compromised by the capitalist mainstay of mass production.10 Yet, Mangan’s interest in the mysterious workings of Western commodity exchange is not limited to intercultural forms. In Domesticated Myth 2005, shown as part of The Colony installation, he appropriated a 20th century Danish table top as the foundation for a seemingly ‘primitive’ altar. The absorption of designer Scandinavian furniture into this brutish ritual object alludes to the cult status particular commodities attain within contemporary consumer culture, highlighting some of the enigmatic dynamics of Western consumerism more broadly. The tunnel ridden planes of The Colony embody themes of trans­ formation, signalling the conversion of the wooden structures into a home for a sprawling colony of termites. Mangan’s practice is littered with imagery of organic systems annexing and infiltrating the para­ meters of man-made objects. In the Crux of Matter 2003, for example, features the chassis of a motorcycle engulfed by a network of crystalline forms. Whilst in Untitled (Nest) 2003, in which Mangan first utilised the termite motif, an aluminium ladder is overtaken by the seething mass of an insect nest.11 Growing at unperceivable rates, the replication of these natural organisms creates the fantastical illusion that they are actually transforming before our very eyes. These earlier sculptural works stress the binary division of nature from culture in Western society and assert the former’s capacity to disrupt man’s domination over its form and function. Mangan’s incorporation of the veracious activity of termites in The Colony, however, can be seen to speak as much about human enterprise as the transformative power of natural systems — with the expanding nest acting as a shorthand for European colonisation of the Pacific region. Mangan explains: Termites represented an idea of one culture or civilisation eating into another, consuming their host’s resources and then excreting a termite empire, shitting out a new home for itself; as termites do.12 This association is, of course, reinforced by the installation’s title. In this context, the central totemic form appears as a ship’s mast or crucifix, alluding to British and French voyages, such as the three made by Captain James Cook, which explored the Pacific Islands throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries.13 The combination of the maritime and religious iconography reflects the colonial belief that they were setting forth on a mission to bring the twin lights of Christianity and the Enlightenment Project to the rest of the world.14 Anthropologist, Johannes Fabian, stresses the role the conception of ‘time’ played in the way colonial forces envisaged their interactions with the ‘other’. Since the Enlightenment, time had become secularised,


Fig.16 10ibid, p.44 11 Untitled (Nest) 2003 was inspired by a complex intersection of ideas generated during a trip Mangan took to a series of Shinto Temples in Japan in 2003. As resources were scarce when the temples were being constructed, they were built using timber that was riddled with termite tunnel systems. This use of materials struck Mangan as symbolic of a resourceful approach that stood in opposition to the way in which materials are wasted in the West. In the moat surrounding one of the temples were a series of heavily manicured trees, which where accessed by gardeners through the use of ladders. Consequently, the ladder becomes symbolic of man’s control over nature. Nick Mangan, correspondence with the author, March 2009 12 Nick Mangan, correspondence with the author, March 2009 13 Captain James Cook lead three voyages into the South Pacific; 1768-1771 on HM Bark Endeavour, in which he discovered the east coast of Australia; 1772-75 on HMS Resolution; and 1776-79 again on HMS Resolution. It was on this final voyage that he was killed in Hawaii. 14 Evangelistic missionaries began work in the Pacific in 1797; their mission was not simply to convert pagans to Christianity but in broader social and moral terms, to abolish customs that were deemed barbaric. Infanticide, human sacrifice, widow-strangling, cannibalism, polygamy and some sexual practices were all deemed as cultural activities that needed to be erased. See Nicholas Thomas, Entangled Objects: Exchange, Material Culture, and Colonialism in the Pacific, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts & London, 1991, pp.151-162

15 Darwin was the author of a number of influential founding texts on evolutionary theory including On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) and The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871). Much of Darwin’s theoretical work developed during his participation in the second voyage of HMS Beagle to the South Pacific regions, under the command of Captain Robert Fitzroy, 1831-1836 16 Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology makes its object, Columbia University Press, New York, 1998, p.16. Note Fabian’s use of capital ‘T’ in ‘Time’, suggesting he is referring to a large scale period in history. 17 Ernest Gellner, Thought and Change, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1964, p.18 18 Thomas, op. cit., p.176 19 The development of collecting and curiosity cabinets are much larger topics than can be discussed here. For an in depth discussion of these topics see Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor (eds.), The Origins of Museums: The Cabinet of Curiosities in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Europe, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985 20Homi K. Bhabha, ‘The other question: stereotype, discrim­ ination and the discourse of colonialism’ in The Location of Culture (1994), Routledge, London & New York, 2003, p.72

allowing scientists to plot data over supposedly neutral, geological time. Voyages of the Pacific Islands however, contributed to the emergence of theories of social evolutionism, with participants such as English naturalist Charles Darwin, deriving such hypotheses from observations made during these expeditions.15 Fabian argues, “evolutionism rested on a concept of Time that was not only secularized and naturalized but also thoroughly spatialized”.16 Races that were considered less progr­ essed down the evolutionary chain were conceived of as existing in another space-time. The distancing effect of this conception was a crucial mechanism for the epistemological position of the colonial forces, who quickly amassed findings from their expeditions to justify expansion into the region. Voyages to the South Seas were thus con­ ceived as functioning like time-machines, transporting their crew back into Europe’s origins.17 The journey was not uni-directional however, for the West would introduce, or more accurately impose, the ‘advanced’ logic of its civilisation on ‘primitive’ societies. Mangan’s focus on representations of the Pacific through ‘primitive’ artefacts in The Colony draws attention to the use of such objects in support of the shifting purposes of the colonial forces. Anthropologist, Nicholas Thomas, notes: the crucial role of material culture and of the optical illusion that it constantly offers us: we take the “concrete and palpable” presence of a thing to attest to the reality of that which we have made it signify.18 Initially cultural artefacts from the Pacific Islands circulated in Europe as highly valued ‘curiosities’ or ‘curios’ of exotic places, acting as trophies of travel to foreign lands.19 These objects functioned as screens onto which the fantasies and urges repressed in the civilised European citizen could be projected. They embody what postcolonial scholar, Homi K. Bhabha describes as: those terrifying stereotypes of savagery, cannibalism, lust and anarchy which are the signal points of identification and alienation, scenes of fear and desire, in the colonial text.20

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Mangan’s amplification of the threatening aesthetic quality of the objects in The Colony can be read as a mirror of this twin process of projection and disavowal. Mangan’s convergence of the signifiers of the West, the ship and crucifix, with those of indigenous Pacific Islanders, the pseudo primitive artefacts, dissolves the established distance of time, placing the cultures firmly in the same arena. This works to highlight the irony of Europe’s blindness to their own idols of Christianity, science and technology; along with their denial of the violent and often destructive nature of their own regimes. Mangan’s hybrid forms signal the dismantlement of the stable binary relationship of the West to the ‘other’, as the ‘other’ began to increasingly speak back to the coloniser throughout the 20th century. ••• Refining strategies trialled in The Colony, Mangan’s 2006 installation, The Mutant Message, collapses signifiers of the British Empire into those of Indigenous Australians to probe the country’s colonial history. In the work a dense cluster of brutish objects was stacked and piled together against a single wall of an otherwise empty gallery space.21 The assemblage resembled a cartographical expedition, a motif suggested by the presence of a roadblock, tripod and lanterns. Interspersed with these objects were spears, yabby traps, a ceremonial pole and numerous other artefacts. The milieu of the work was unmistakably Australian, with many of the objects having been crafted from Banksia pods and the pervasive sound of swarming flies — highly suggestive of the Aust­ ralian outback — emanating from within the installation itself. Like The Colony, the objects in this work were embellished with a repelling aesthetic quality, as their surfaces prickled with echidna like spikes and unsightly tuffs of hair protruded from their peripheries. The prominence of the Banksia in the work, a native Australian Proteaceae named after the English botanist Joseph Banks, can be seen to exemplify the powerful strategies of possession the colonial activities of naming, documenting and categorizing enacted.22 Mangan states: This strange example of native flora has a beast-like appearance, which, through manipulation I have attempted to amplify and exag­ gerate in an attempt to echo Australia’s colonial history.23 Ironically aping the worldview of British settlers, the native wildflower is used as a surrogate for Indigenous Australians in The Mutant Message. This unsettling conflation of Aborigines with native flora confronts the viewer with the inherently racist heritage of a country which did not recognize its indigenous population as citizens until 1967.24 This emblematic use of the Banksia has a particularly charged resonance for


Fig. 19 (previous page) 21 The Mutant Message was first exhibited at Sutton Gallery, Melbourne in 2006. 22 Joseph Banks played a central role in the British settlement of Australia, having been the official botanist on Captain James Cook’s first voyage of the Pacific (1768–1771), when the east coast of Australia was first discovered. He became a vocal advocate for the establishment of a colony in New South Wales. Banks is the botanist credited with introducing native Australian plants to the world, such as eucalyptus, the mimosa and the Banksia. Today there remains many areas across the world named in honour of his activities during the colonial settlement of the Pacific region, such as Banks Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand, Banks Island in modern day Vanuatu and Banks Island in the Northwest Territories, Canada. 23 Nick Mangan quoted in ‘Seriously Unnerved’ by Ashley Crawford, Australian Art Collector, Issue 38, Oct-Dec 2006, p.151 24 Technically, Indigenous Australians were able to vote in some parts of Australia from the late 19th century. When Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia framed their constitutions in the 1850s they gave voting rights to all male British subjects over 21, which included Indigenous men. And in 1895 when South Australia gave women the right to vote and sit in Parliament, Indigenous women shared the right. Only Queensland and Western Australia barred Indigenous Australians from voting. The first Commonwealth Parliament, established in 1901, refused Aborigines the vote however. It was only after the 1967 referendum that all the States and the Commonwealth Parliament unanimously adopted policies that granted Indigenous Australians the right to vote. See Australian Electoral Commission, indigenous_vote/aborigine.htm

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viewers familiar with Cecilia May Gibbs’ iconic Australian children’s book, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918), as its villain is the distinctly black Banksia Man, whilst its heroes are the conspicuously white and sweet gum nut babies, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.

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Fig. 23 25 19th century ethnographic portraits have been criticised for perpetuating fixed identities based on categories of race for the benefit of colonial power and white identity. Postcolonial re-evaluations of such portraits refuted their status as neutral scientific observations and instead cited them as examples of institutionalised racism, which placed people in predetermined poses and dispossessed them of their name, family and country. Historians, such as Catherine de Lorenzo, have argued that through a classificatory gaze the photograph defines and controls, apparently stripping agency from the photographed. More recently the idea these photographs render Indigenous people as passive victims has been challenged on various fronts. Historian Jane Lydon has investigated the ways in which Aboriginal agency was and continues to be expressed in such photographs. See Catherine De Lorenzo, Ethnophotography: photographic images of Aboriginal Australians, Thesis (Ph.D.), University of Sydney, Sydney, 1995; Jane Lydon, Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians, Duke University Press, Durham and London, 2005. 26Homi K. Bhabha (1986), 'The Other Question: difference, discrimination and the discourse of colonialism’ in Francis Barker (ed.), Literature, Politics and Theory, Methuen, London, 1986, p.156. This model (cont. p.28)

The surveyor’s tripod in The Mutant Message doubles as a photographic tripod, recalling 19th century ethnographic photographs, which were used to study and fix Indigenous peoples in a stagnant position within history.25 Bhabha argues that through such practices, the colonising force established a form of governmentality that worked to appropriate, direct and dominate the activities of the subject nation, “which is at once an ‘other’ and yet entirely knowable and visible.”26 In this model, the colonising nation establishes itself as the dominant culture through a process of observing and categorising the indigenous population as inferior. The dominance of the surveyor’s equipment in The Mutant Message alludes to the central role issues of land ownership have played in relationships between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians since colonial settlement — a dynamic repeated between colonial settlers and indigenous populations across the globe. Johannes Fabian argues that ethnologists and anthropologists, “contributed above all to the intellectual justification of the colonial enterprise.”27 Although regional tribal groups were (and continue to be) recognised, within Indigenous Australian communities, as the custodians of particular territories, they traditionally lived nomadic lifestyles, moving between different areas within specific regions as seasons dictated. An emphasis on the supposed failure of Aborigines to carve permanent social or economic accomplishment out of the landscape was used prominently in the discourse of dispossession.28 The contrast of the tripod and barricade, which can be seen to represent the European convention of marking off and occupying territory, with the spears, which can be read to signify the nomadic existence of the Indigenous population, is particularly striking in this context. Using the European criteria of permanent settlement as its benchmark, the British swiftly declared Australia Terra Nullius. The colonial justification for such a declaration was the belief that Aborigines were a dying race, which in truth acted as a cover for attempted genocide.29 Transposing the logic of physics to politics, Fabian argues it is impossible for two bodies to occupy the same space at the same time. Consequently, when the Western body politic came to inhabit the space of an autochthonous body, one of the most expedient ways of dealing with this violation of the rule was to literally erase its predecessor. 30 Mangan appears to execute a different kind of model in The Mutant Message however, by merging the two bodies, the colonial and indigenous, into one. He crafts the tools of European knowledge, the tripod and roadblock, from Banksia pods and then intersperses them


was first identified by French cultural theorist Michel Foucault. See Michel Foucault, ‘The Eye of Power’ in Colin Gordon (ed.), Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writing, 1972-1977, Pantheon, New York, 1980, pp.146-165 27 Fabian, op.cit., p.17 28 Thomas, op.cit., pp.146-7 29A report by Professor Colin Tatz, Genocide in Australia (1999), outlines the systematic attack on Australia’s Indigenous population by British settlers. In addition to the deaths the importation of European viruses caused, the report details the abduction of children for use in forced labour, the rape and torture of Indigenous Australian women and the mass murder of Indigenous Australian tribal groups. Although no official figures exist, estimates of the Indigenous Australian population in 1788 range between 250,000 and 750,000. By 1911 the number was 31,000. Aborigines have only been included in the National Census since 1971. In 1996 the National Census recorded that 352,970 or 1.97 % of the population were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. See Colin Tatz, Genocide in Australia, The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, 1999 30 Fabian, op.cit., pp.29-30

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with Aboriginal cultural artefacts. The repellent aesthetic character of the work, generated through the hostile spikes and oozing wax formations, suggests that this is not an easy or straight forward amalgamation. This abject quality evokes comparisons with nightmare visions of monstrous metamorphosis, such as those of the human/ insect hybrid depicted in David Cronenberg’s iconic science fiction film, The Fly (1986). 31 The defensive character of the merger taking place in The Mutant Message can be read as a reflection of the colonial fear of racial impurity. This fear continued to haunt white Australia well into the 20th century, as made evident by the federal government’s ‘White Australia’ and assimilation policies, which were enforced until the late 1960s. 32 Set against a contemporary context, The Mutant Message can equally be read as a depiction of a nation attempting to come to terms with its divided and violent colonial heritage. In this light, the grotesque elements of the work suggest the trauma of this history — in particular, the festering beeswax formations hint at the breaking through of things that have been repressed. The hostile rendering of the forms also suggest that the integration of Western and Indigenous cultures within contemporary Australia is resolutely unresolved. The inspiration for The Mutant Message was sparked after Mangan saw Banksia pods selling for highly inflated prices at a Melbourne based souvenir store. He explains that the Banksia acted as a catalyst for an investigation of “the confused notion of Australia, and the mythical status of objects that exist within that sphere.”33 The construction and promotion of a contemporary Australian identity as depicted through cultural signifiers such as tourist art and souvenirs is a key concern of the work. Australia has long had a preoccupation with the formation of a cohesive national identity, a concern bolstered by an anxiety rooted in the twin historical facts of the country’s short history as a settlernation and the brutal dispossession of its indigenous population. Drawing on the metaphorical link established between native flora and Indigenous Australians, the Banksia’s use as a valued cultural icon can be seen to allude to the growing reliance of the country’s tourism economy on Aboriginal cultural forms. 34 Aboriginality in all its manifestations, from remote communities to urban centres, provides Australia with a unique and distinguishing marker and has been increasingly incor­ porated into the way it is represented to both itself and the rest of the world. The intensified interest in Indigenous Australian culture is manifest in everything from cheap tourist kitsch to Qantas airplanes decorated with iconic Aboriginal artworks. Rex Butler observes that the traffic in Aboriginal cultural forms, such as Western Desert acrylic paintings, evolved in response to a Western market and exists primarily because of a Western audience’s desire for it. 35 Consequently, a residual form of colonialism becomes apparent, as the cultural production of


Fig. 25 31 The Fly was directed by David Cronenberg. It was a remake of the 1958 film of the same name but had a very different plot. Both film versions were loosely based on a short story by George Langelaan, which originally appeared in a 1957 Playboy magazine. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, the central theme of the Cronenberg version was metamorphosis; a brilliant scientist accidently splices his DNA with that of a fly, thus turn­ ing himself into a new mutant hybrid form. 32 The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child­ ren from their families was official federal government policy from 1909 to 1969. The removal policy was managed by the Aborigines Protection Board (APB). The APB was a government board estab­ lished in 1909 with the power to remove children without parental consent and without a court order. Under the White Australia and assimilation policies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were ‘not of full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society with the aim that eventually there would be no more Indigenous people left. At the time Indigenous people were seen as an inferior race. The generations of children who were taken from their families became known as the ‘Stolen Generations’. The practice of removing children continued up until the late 1960s, meaning today there are Indigenous Australians as young as their 30s and 40s who are members of the ‘Stolen Generations’. See ReconciliACTION Network, education-kit/stolen-generations 33 Nick Mangan quoted by Crawford, op. cit., p. 151 34 Fred R. Myers, Painting Culture: The Making of an Aboriginal High Art, Duke University Press, Durham, 2002, p.6 35 Rex Butler, ‘“Bright Shadows”: Art, Aboriginality and Aura’, South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 101, no. 3 Summer 2002, p.501

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Indigenous Australians is desired, contextualised and managed by Western institutions. 36 Mangan pilfered the title for his installation from Marlo Morgan’s hugely popular novel, Mutant Message Down Under (1991). 37 In it Morgan provides a highly romantised account of an American woman’s four month walkabout with an Indigenous Australian tribal group, referred to as the ‘the wild people’, in which she undergoes a spiritual awakening and learns to live in harmony with nature. This referent flags Mangan’s satirical appropriation of the essentialist ideas which underpin much of the recent interest in Aboriginal cultural materials. Shortly before commencing work on The Mutant Message, Mangan participated in an artists’ camp in Western Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. During this expedition he produced an ephemeral, site specific work, Dreaming Catcher 2006, as a response to his observations of the rampant production of cultural artefacts by the local indigenous population of Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) for the tourist market. 38 The crude trap-like structure was cobbled together from found objects, including a plastic bottle and wax, and was hoisted up into a tree close to the camp. Playing on the traditional Native American dreamcatcher in both name and form, this object appeared to have been designed with the aim of literally capturing the Dreaming - a term used variously by Indigenous Australian tribal groups to describe central elements of their spiritual belief systems - including Creation stories and tribal laws. Mangan performs a witty double step here as he parallels the mysticism of traditional Native American cosmology with Western attempts to obtain the essence of Indigenous Australian culture through the acquisition of its cultural artefacts. The growing appetite for signifiers of Aboriginality is fed, to a large degree, by a desire for authenticity in a world of media-induced surface ephemerality. As Ken Gelder and Jane M. Jacobs have observed, “It is precisely because Aboriginal sacredness appears so out-of-step with modernity that it is able to be identified as the very thing modernity needs.”39 Yet, this pronounced desire for Aboriginality is underscored by a distinct form of primitivism, which in idealising the culture again denies its coevalness with the West. 40 Bob Lingard and Fazal Rizvi note: This essentialism is based on a view of culture that is static and homogeneous — objectified and reified into the same deterministic categories that were the central defining feature of nineteenth century scientific racism. 41 A major concern with this celebration of an idealised and fixed concept of Aboriginal culture is that, generated by the tourist economy, it acts at a token level, and actually works to conceal the systemic social and political problems facing contemporary Indigenous communities. Whilst Aboriginality has become completely absorbed into Australia’s


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36 Bob Lingard and Fazal Rizvi, ‘Remembering, Dismembering: ’Aboriginality’ and the Art of Gordon Bennett’, Third Text no26, Spring 1994, p.85 37 Mutant Message Down Under was a New York Times bestseller for 31 weeks and was published in 24 countries. 38 The artists’ camp in Arnhem Land was organised by 24HR Art, based in Darwin, and involved six diverse urban artists working alongside six principal Indigenous Australian artists from Western Arnhem Land. Artists included Guan Wei, Kate Rhode, Linde Ivimey and Peter Walsh, as well as Gunbalanya (Oenpelli) artists Gabriel Maralngurra, Graham Badari and Bruce Nabegeyo, who work largely from traditional rock paintings of the escarpment territory. 39Ken Gelder & Jane M. Jacobs, ‘Introduction’ in Uncanny Australia: Sacredness and Identity in a Postcolonial Nation, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, Victoria, 1998, p.1 Coevalness is a description used by Johannes Fabian to mean originating or existing during the same period. See Fabian, op. cit, p.39 41 Lingard & Rizvi, op.cit., p.82

42 See Social Justice Report 2009, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission. A digital copy of the report can be found at: http://www. justice/sj_report/sjreport09

national iconography, the Indigenous population remains largely marginalised and impoverished. Although there have been spasmodic efforts to address the injustices inflicted on Indigenous Australians as a result of colonial occupation, for example the establishment of the Native Title Act in 1993, the Indigenous population remains significantly disadvantaged when compared to their non-indigenous counterparts. Severely lower life expectancy, higher infant and child mortality, as well as significant literacy and numeracy gaps between Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians are continuing problems. 42 The ugly nature of such an inheritance resonates in the festering appearances of many of the forms in The Mutant Message. Shortly after completing The Mutant Message Mangan produced Untitled 2007, a related bronze sculpture of a Banksia pod seeping beeswax. Unmistakably phallic in its appearance, its deformed and abject facade seemed to mock the concept of a monument, perhaps pointing to a disconnect between Australia’s embrace of the signifiers of Aboriginality and its simultaneous neglect of the Indigenous population. The $2 coins, which were inserted into the lips of Banksia pods throughout the work, emphasised the economic motivations to perpetuate the myth of an idyllic Indigenous Australian culture. The integrated currency also reinforced themes of cultural convergence in the work - the Queen, the figurehead of British settlement, is pictured on one side of the coin, whilst an image of Indigenous Elder, Gwoya Jungarai, appears on the other. Mangan anchors The Mutant Message in first hand observations of contemporary Australia grappling to unite the conflicting myths and perspectives on which its sense of identity has been constructed. The hybrid form offers a confronting image of the division and violence which has plagued the relationship between Indigenous and nonindigenous peoples since settlement. As such, it provides a more accurate symbol of Australia’s contemporary national identity than a benign Banksia pod or banal appropriations of traditional Aboriginal iconography. The Mutant Message is not an inherently bleak emblem however, for the struggle contained within the work suggests that metamorphosis is possible, if the combining elements are prepared to acknowledge and make room for one another.


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Sites of Engagement: The Commodification of Place

Above all, he must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the “matter itself ” is no more than the strata which yield their long-sought secrets only to the most meticulous investigation. That is to say, they yield those images that, severed from all earlier associations, reside as treasures in the sober rooms of our later insights — like torsos in a collector’s gallery. – Walter Benjamin1

1 Walter Benjamin, ‘Excavation and Memory’ in Selected Writings, Volume 2, Part 2, 1931–1934, Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith (eds.), trans. Rodney Livingstone, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1999, p.576 2 Robert Smithson states, “The Non-Site (an indoor earthwork) is a three dimensional logical picture that is abstract, yet it represents an actual site in N.J. (The Pine Barrens Plains). It is by this dimensional metaphor that one site can represent another site which does not resemble it - this is The Non-Site.” See Robert Smithson, ‘A Provisional Theory of Non-Sites’ (1968) in Robert Smithson: The Collected Writings, Jack Flam (ed.), University of California Press, Berkeley, California, 2nd Edition 1996, p.364 3 Miwon Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art and Locational Identity, MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002, p.29

In 2007 Nicholas Mangan returned from a residency at the Australia Council’s Green Street Studio with a shipping crate full of art works fashioned together from detritus sourced from the streets and flea markets of New York City. The crudely constructed assemblages, known as the Comparative Material series, were charged with a postapocalyptic tenor and served as an ominous portrayal of a city in the throes of late capitalism. Not only did this series mark a radical departure from the highly crafted sculptural practice Mangan had established his career on, but it also signalled his burgeoning focus on place, a concern that has come to dominate his most recent work. Drawing on an artistic tradition initiated in the late 1960s by artists such as Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer and Walter de Maria, the anchorage of site is used by Mangan to generate a direct dialogue with the world outside the gallery space. Further indebted to these artistic predecessors, Mangan repeatedly co-opts geological motifs to explore the displaced strata of the social, political and environmental histories of selected sites. In A1 Southwest Stone, constructed in Sante Fe in 2008, he achieved this through the trope of an archaeological dig. In the more recent Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world Mangan utilises coral rock seized from the Pacific island to this end. Although this work is presented within a gallery context it conforms to Robert Smithson’s description of a “Non-Site”, as its components create an abstracted material map of Nauru.2 This approach places a particular emphasis on the temporal, highlighting the transformation of both material and social structures through time. Of course, the parameters of site-oriented practice have changed drastically since the earth art movement of the 1960s. Art historian, Miwon Kwon, claims a defining feature of the contemporary incarnation is a shift in focus from the specific site to the artist’s nomadic passage to and through locales. She argues: the site is now structured (inter) textually rather than spatially, and its model is not a map but an itinerary, a fragmentary sequence of events and actions through spaces, that is, a nomadic narrative whose path is articulated by the passage of the artist. 3


Mangan’s recent works adhere to this model of the itinerant artist, for whether engaging with New York, Santa Fe or Nauru, the artist’s own personal journey to and encounter with place are central elements in each work. His nomadic adventures call attention to the present day possibility of fluid global citizenship. Ever the trickster - Mangan layers his responses to place with thorny contradictions which encapsulate many of the conflicting impulses of the modern condition. ••• In 2008 Mangan was invited to participate in the seventh edition of SITE’s International Biennial, curated by Lance Fung. Adopting a model that has become increasingly popular in international biennales and major art events across the globe since the early 1990s, participating artists were invited to create site-specific works in Santa Fe, New Mex­ico. 4 Mangan’s response was to ‘fake’ an archaeological dig on the grounds of a dilapidated garage that had once housed a stonemasons and car repair. The existing signage on the building’s exterior, A1 Southwest Stone, was assumed as the title of the work. Mangan went to great lengths to make the site resemble a genuine archaeological dig — excavation pits, complete with picks, brushes and buckets, were constructed inside the garage and in a fenced off section of land surrounding it. What looked to be the ruins of Pueblo structures, constructed by the indigenous population, which proliferated the region prior to Spanish and Anglo-Saxon colonisation, jutted out from the dirt burrows, as if recently unearthed. A raised wooden viewing platform was constructed inside the shed, allowing visitors a premium view of the excavation site. At the end of this platform a make-shift dis­ p­lay case was assembled, containing fragments of objects, presumably found on site. A noticeboard erected against the back wall of the shed was cluttered with photographs and documents that one assumed related to the excavation. These included the logo of the Archaeological Institute of New Mexico, a clipping from a local paper reporting on the discovery of pre-Columbian Pueblo ruins at the site, and a public notice calling for people who had purchased stone from the site to get in contact with the Archaeological Institute of New Mexico. The accumulation of these components worked to support the fictionalised narrative that precious Pueblo ruins had been sold off as commercial material by the stonemason who had once occupied the site. As commissioning curator Alexie Glass-Kantor observes, Mangan’s initial reconnaissance visit to Santa Fe, “triggered a desire to literally unearth the present and past”.5 In doing so, he literalised an approach to materiality established in earlier sculptures in which he worked to draw out latent social and political content within particular objects. This strategy taps into a long established correlation between archaeological excavations and psychoanalysis. According to the founder of Psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud, the unconscious psyche possesses ruins and traces of


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Fig. 32 4 Under Fung’s directive artists were not allowed to exhibit already existing works and works were to be destroyed at the completion of the exhibition. This framework encouraged the creation of works that both responded directly to the local situation and had pronounced ephemeral characteristics. Kwon cites Mary Jane Jacob’s 1993 exhibition Culture in Action: New Public Art in Chicago as one of the first examples of a major public arts program in which artist’s were called to respond directly to the cultural, political and social, as well as physical, dimensions of a specific site. See Kwon, op. cit, p.97 5 Alexie Glass-Kantor is the current Director of Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces and the curator who nominated Mangan for inclusion in the Biennial. See Alexie Glass, ‘The deep hole and the great escape: Nick Mangan at SITE Sante Fe’, Art & Australia, Vol.46 No 1, Spring 2008, p.41

the past, which make up the structure of the mind. The correlation between mind and site is then obvious, for both retain traces of their strata of development, which continue to inform their current conscious identity.6 Mangan’s use of the archaeological trope in A1 Southwest Stone can thus be read as a strategy for exploring the unconscious dimensions of Santa Fe’s history. Fig. 33

6 See Sigmund Freud, Civilization and its discontents (1930), trans. David McLintock, Introduction by Leo Bersani, Penguin, London, 2002, pp.3-11 7 Marte Weigle, “Desert to Disney World: The Santa Fe Railway and the Fred Harvey Company Display the Indian Southwest” in Journal of Anthropological Research, Vol. 45, No.1, University of New Mexico Centennial 1889 -1989, Spring, 1989, p.115 8 ibid, p.133 9 Highlighting the appeal of Pueblo ruins, a Fred Harvey promotional brochure for Las Vegas Hot Springs, from 1883 reads, “one of the most interesting features of the collection already made from the adjacent ruins, is a portion of a stone carved beam from the old Pecos church – half way towards Santa Fe on the railway – once the pride of the Pueblo nation, but now a shapeless ruin.”, ibid, p.120 10Christopher Woodward, In Ruins, Vintage, London, 2002, p. 36 11 Edmund Burke suggests scenes of the sublime are a very different experience from those with sites of beauty, such as a meandering river, which evoke thought of ‘self perpetuation’. See Edmund Burke, Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1756), Dover Publications, Mineola, New York, 2008 12 Weigle, op. cit., p.117 The ‘Grand Tour’ describes a European phenomenon of seventeenth and eighteenth century, when primarily British tourists went aboard for cultural, educational and political reasons; their “tour was deemed a very necessary part of the training of future political and administrative leaders, as well as patrons of the arts”. See Nelson H.H. Graburn, ‘Tourism: The Sacred Journey’ in Hosts and Guests: Anthropology of Tourism, Valene L. Smith (ed.), University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1977, pp. 24-26.

The centrality of the Pueblo ruin in A1 Southwest Stone mirrors its pivotal role in the development of Santa Fe’s unique regional identity. A distinguishing local aesthetic has been manufactured through the preservation of historic buildings and a modern zoning code, passed in 1958, which mandates the city’s new and rebuilt buildings must exhibit a Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style, with flat roofs and other features suggestive of the area’s traditional structures. The promotion of this architectural marker of regional distinction is not merely a contem­porary phenomenon however; the fabrication of cultural ‘authenticity’ has been a long term endeavour in Sante Fe. Between 1882 and World War II, Santa Fe Railway and the closely associated Fred Harvey Company created and successfully marketed a regional identity for ‘The Great Southwest’ of northern New Mexico and Arizona. Frederick Harvey, the legendary ‘Civiliser of the West’, was the engineer of a thriving tourist industry, which was built around the appropriation, display and marketing of the cultures of Native America, and to a lesser extent, the Spanish colonial and Anglo Southwest.7 As Anthropologist, Marte Weigle, observes: Sante Fe/Harvey corporation image-makers transformed it into a mythological holy land of grand natural wonders, inspirational primitive arts, and domesticated, artistic “natives”8 The development of a romantic regional architectural style was a central channel through which this ‘Indian rhetoric’ was fostered. The Santa Fe railway route, which had been expanding westward towards California since the 1870s, was dotted with dining establishments, hotels and shops rendered in pseudo Native American guises, based on the heavy appro­ priation of Native American iconography and architecture. Pueblo ruins, such as those at Puye and Frijoles, were also major attractions on the Harvey Company ‘Indian Detours’.9 The ruin, a long established romantic trope, is a very specific type of tourist destination. On one level the movement of time is thought to be suspended in a ruin, so that through it one peers back into history.10 However, the ruin also encapsulates the force of natural entropy over human endeavours. As such, it possesses what Edmund Burke describes as a ‘sublime’ appeal, generated through its inherent referencing of the inevitable decline of any civilisation. 11 Weigle notes that the Southwestern encounter was rendered symb­ olically equivalent to the European ‘Grand Tour’.12 The development of the Southwest tourist trail arose due to the burgeoning interest in signifiers of a uniquely American culture. American writer Frank Waters


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13 Frank Water, Masked Gods: Navaho and Pueblo Ceremonialism, Swallow Press, Chicago, 1950, p.109 14 Mangan coerced local media, who were aware that the archaeological dig was a fake, into publishing an article reporting on the discovery of the suspected Pueblo ruins and the public notice to add a sense of authenticity to the work. The public notice appeared in the The Santa Fe New Mexican paper on the 13th of June, 2008. The article, ‘What Lies Beneath’, appeared in the same publication on the 8th of June, 2008. 15 Mimbreňo Indians are inhabitants of the Mimbres Valley in present-day south western New Mexico. See Arnold Berke, Mary Colter: Architect of the Southwest, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2002, p. 231 16 Mark Godfrey claims that many artists working in America or with American culture today address a situation where historical representation, when prevalent in the wider community, is often extremely romantic, sentimental or spectacular. See Mark Godfrey, ‘The Artist as Historian’, October 120, Spring 2007, p.144 17 Nick Mangan, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, artist statement, Level 2 Project Space, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, June 2009 18 Dieter Roelstraete, ‘The Way of the Shovel: On the Archaeological Imaginary in Art’, e-flux, Journal #4, Issue 03, 2009

observes, “Perhaps more than any single organization, the Fred Harvey system introduced America to Americans.”13 Yet this ‘America’ was a work of fiction, created through the romanticisation and exploitation of Native American culture. With striking parallels to the contemporary appropriation of Indigenous Australian cultural forms discussed previously, this embrace of ‘Indian’ culture was motivated by the tourist economy rather than an acknowledgement of continuing ownership and sovereignty, and worked to fix the culture in a position viewed as allochronic to modern Western society. Mangan playfully toyed with the viewers’ expectations in A1 Southwest Stone, so that they were never quite sure if what they were encountering was fact or fiction. A network of supporting documentation furnished the excavation dig, including a number of articles from a local newspaper and an excavation permit displayed on the site’s fence. Issued from institutions of authority, these documents appeared to legitimise the fictitious archaeological discovery.14 Additionally, Mangan cheekily staged replica Native American pottery as genuine 13th century Mimbreňo Indian artefacts, displaying them in glass virtrines on the site.15 This gesture was a knowing ode to the copy and the fake, as the fragments of china displayed had originally been designed in the early 20th century for use on the Santa Fe Railway’s Cochiti dining car. The interweaving of untruths throughout A1 Southwest Stone can be seen to mirror the fictitiousness of the romanticized and spectacularised vision of history upon which Santa Fe’s regional identity is based.16 Mangan’s aim was not simply to provide a revisionist narrative of events but to interrogate the role of narrative in historical representation. Mangan explains: For this project I played on the notion that information found in an archaeological dig reveals clues about the past, while retaining enough holes to produce a narrative that can sometimes move beyond plausible speculation into realms of fiction. I was interested in the notion that often histories as we know them, have been woven through these holes.17 The ruin encourages the construction of a cohesive narrative of past civilisations formed through an elaboration on fragments of material remains. This in itself is not necessarily a negative endeavour; in fact Mangan co-opts this structure as a way of engaging his audience. As the contemporary curator and art critic, Dieter Roelstraete, observes: The archaeological imaginary in art produces not so much an optics as it does a haptics—it invites us, forces us to intently scratch the surface (of the earth, of time, of the world) rather than merely marvel at it in dandified detachment.18


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By presenting fragments of information, such as the snippets of newspaper articles, remains of artefacts and the excavation site itself, Mangan forces the viewer to be an active participant in the making of the work. This strategy draws the viewer’s attention to their own role in the reconfiguration of a fragmented history. The recognition of the role interpretation plays in the “logic of truth-production” makes visible the concealed power of the narrator and thus works to destabilise the authority of fluent historical accounts.19 Historical research and representation has emerged as a central tenant in contemporary art. Art historian and critic, Mark Godfrey, stresses the political nature of the act of remembering in what he calls a “posthistory” era, when the past has either been completely forgotten or flattened and spectacularised. He observes these concerns have been manifested in a myriad of forms, including historical accounts, the archive, the document, the act of excavating and unearthing, the memorial, the art of reconstruction and re-enactment and the testimony.20 Mangan’s concern with the past is characteristic of what Roelstraete describes as a “historiographic turn”, a term which encapsulates both the artist’s desire to make displaced historical information physically present, whilst explicitly pointing to the artist’s interest in exploring the way histories are ‘written’.21

19 See Michel Foucault, ‘The Eye of Power’ in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writing, 1972-1977, Colin Gordon (ed.), Pantheon, New York, 1980, pp.146-165 20 Mark Godfrey notes that this is in stark contrast to the relative absence of historical representation in Abstraction, Pop, Conceptual art and Appropriation. He argues that although various artists of the 1960s and 70s scrutinised the pomposity and irrelevance of monuments, e.g. Robert Morris’s War Memorial (1970), few artist attempted to create new ways of confronting historical events or addressing the various ways the past was represented in the wider community. See Godfrey, op. cit., pp.140-1 21 Roelstraete, op. cit 22 Hal Foster, ‘Artist as Ethnographer?’ in The Traffic in Culture: Refiguring Art and Anthropology, George E. Marcus and Fred R. Myers (eds.), University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 1995, p. 306

A number of cultural theorists, including Hal Foster and Grant Kester, have aired concerns about the “pseudo-ethnographic” role of the itinerant artist invited to produce site-oriented works in foreign communities. Foster argues such works are commonly commissioned by institutions with specific agendas and that despite the best intentions of the visiting artist they are often forced to impose their vision onto the local context rather than adequately engage or respond to it. Foster asserts: Almost naturally the focus wanders from collaborative investigation to “ethnographic self-fashioning”, in which the artist is not decen­ tred so much as the other is fashioned in artistic guise.22 With a contemporary art market preoccupied with international exch­ ange and ramped up ‘art events’ such concerns seem highly pertinent. Mangan’s open ended response to the context of Santa Fe appears equipped to weather such critiques however. Through the trope of the archaeological dig, Mangan’s discoveries are presented as fragments and their reading is consequently rendered unstable and open to interpretation. His approach suggests an ongoing investigation rather than a definitive revision of history and thus appears to avoid the ‘selffashioning’ that Foster is so opposed to. The disruption to concepts of place-based authenticity within A1 Southwest Stone can also be seen as a subtle rebuff to the inherent logic of the type of site-oriented curatorial model employed at SITE. More cynical commentators have


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23 Kwon, op. cit., p.54 24 Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world was originally exhibited as part of the 2010 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Before & After Science, curated by Charlotte Day and Sarah Tutton, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, 27 February – 2 May 2010. Mangan presented only one coral coffee table and the main video projecting in that incarnation of the work. 25 Bernard Dowiyogo proposed this during an interview with an American journalist. See, http:// Episode.aspx?episode=253. Dowiyodo’s comments were ambiguous; it is not clear if he seriously intended to produce these coffee tables or was being flippant. Either way, the proposal had no chance of being realised due to the president’s sudden death in 2003. 26This initial mining arrangement commenced after negotiations between the German and British Governments, Jalnit- Gesllschaft and the Pacific Island Phosphate Company. Despite the fact that the central plateau Topside was owned by individual Nauruans, the Pacific Phosphate Company took control of the sale and lease of phosphate rich areas, paying locals a small fee of two percent of revenue. 27 During WWII 12,000 Naurians (2/3 of indigenous population) were deported to Truk Island by the occupying Japanese forces; a third of those deported died of starvation during the war. Nauru was liberated by the Allies at the end of the war in 1945. 28This wealth came from ongoing royalties from phosphate mining and a $107 million (AUD) settlement with the Australian government in 1993, as compensation for lost revenue and environmental damage during their trusteeship of the island. See Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Nauru briefing document, May 2009, http:// nauru_brief.html 29 See Carl N. McDanial and John M. Gowdy, Paradise for Sale: A Parable of Nature, University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles, London, 2000

observed the underlying fiscal rationale for such events, which work to promote the distinct locational identity of particular cities within the flattening planes of the contemporary globalised world.23 Through his exposé of the fallacious promotion of Santa Fe’s regional identity by the Fred Harvey company, Mangan warns us to be sceptical of present day claims to site-based authenticity. ••• Combining sculpture, documentary style video footage, and more stylized filmic elements, Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world 2010, considers the complex socio-political history of the small Pacific island of Nauru. 24 A curious proposal put forward by Bernard Dowiyogo, the late Nauruan president, which suggested the revival of the country’s economy through the production of coffee tables crafted from Nauruan coral rock, was the initial inspiration for Mangan on this project.25 Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world realises Dowiyogo’s vision, presenting a series of three squat coffee tables carved from coral pinnacles taken from the island. Each table can be read as a proxy for Nauru: the organic contours of their tops suggesting the contained parameters of the island, and their porous surfaces recalling its deforested and desolate topography. The coral is a poetic surrogate for the island as it has played a central role in the changing fortunes of its inhabitants over the last century. Newly annexed by Germany, in 1899 the Pacific Islands Company identified a large quantity of highest-grade phosphate ore encased in the island’s coral rock, a highly valued mineral used as fertiliser for nutrient poor pastoral lands in both Australia and New Zealand. Sanctioned mining of Nauru by the Pacific Phosphate Company (a British-German consortium) commenced in 1907, with little to no remunerations going to the indigenous landowners.26 After Germany’s defeat in World War I, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom were made joint trustees of the island, entitling them to mine the phosphate at production costs. Apart from a brief interlude when Japan occupied the island during World War II, these countries continued to control the phosphate resources until Nauru was granted independence in 1968.27 The newly independent Nauruan government continued to operate the lucrative phosphate industry. Over the next three decades Nauru resembled somewhat of a ‘Fantasy Island’. Operating as what has been described as a ‘capitalist socialist state’, the citizens of Nauru received substantial annual payments from the government, which were funded by phosphate mining.28 By 2000 however, following a prolonged period of governmental fiscal mismanagement and the near exhaustion of its phosphate resources, the country was in financial meltdown, depending heavily on international aid to feed its people.29 A large scale projection composed from video footage, taken by the artist during research visits to Nauru, creates a temporal landscape


in which the coral coffee tables and viewer become immersed. Silent but for the soft rumblings of environmental noise, Mangan juxtaposes eerily desolate scenes from the island, each shot charged with pointed references to the legacy of the phosphate mining in Nauru. The dilapidated metal frame of counter-leavers against an ominous grey coastline - relics of the almost redundant mining industry; the barren landscapes populated by the surreal forms of mined out pinnacles evidence of the environmental damage caused. As with the phosphate mined from the coral, however, it is often what is absent from the imagery which comes into focus in the work. Whilst presenting scenes from the island, the footage also testifies to the artist’s physical presence there. From the initial vision shot from a plane window flying in through the clouds over Nauru, to the contemplative recordings from various parts of the island, the artist’s own encounter with the site is constantly present in the work. Similarly, the coffee tables can be seen as markers of a long process of exploration, research and creation. In this sense the work can be thought performative — as the objects mark the completion of a long term expedition undertaken by the artist. The themes of distance, transit and cultural exchange that underlie Mangan’s personal exploration of Nauru parallel broader concerns about the dynamics of the contemporary global political economy explored in the work. Through the build up of emblematic imagery — soaring birds, a tar marked runway, shipping containers, and a bizarre cluster of satellite dishes spotted between palm trees - Mangan alludes to the island’s interconnectedness with the outside world.30 Our attention is directed to Nauru not just as a unique geographic locale but as a site anchoring a network of political, social and economic relationships. It is in the quasi-documentary video presented on a small screen as you enter the space however, where these themes are made explicit. Revelling in the conventions of popular doco-stylings, with its heavily edited file footage and excessively evocative narration, the video provides a snapshot of the changing fortunes of Nauru through the case study of Nauru House. Towering at 52 stories, the tallest high rise in Melbourne’s CBD when constructed in 1972, it stood as an ostentatious symbol of the small nation’s affluence. Three large coral pinnacles were proudly displayed outside Nauru House, monuments to the nation’s rich natural resources. The development can also be seen as a marker of the acceleration of the accoutrements of Westernism during Nauru’s brief period of prosperity. This works to contextualize many of the other images presented in the accompanying large scale projection, such as the coral encrusted tarmac and disused automobiles, signifiers of the wholesale embrace of Westernism at this time. 31 As art historian, writer and curator, Okwui Enwezor, observes, “The postcolonial today is a world of proximities. It is a world of nearness, not an elsewhere.”32 Yet, this nearness has not neutralised the influence of the West over other nations. Enwezor notes that globalism is underpinned by a view of non-Western societies in


30The satellites are part of an America spy station, Operation Weasel, set up on Nauru in 2003. 31 Westernism is a term used by Okwui Enwezor to describe North American and European ways of being. See Okwui Enwezor, ‘The Black Box’, in Documenta 11_Platform 5, ex cat, documenta und Museum Fridericianum Veranstaltungs-GmbH, Kassel, Hatje Cantz Publishers, Verlag, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, p.44 32 ibid, p.44

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evolutionary stages of movement towards integration into Westernism. He argues: Westernism’s insistence on the total adoption and observation of its norms and concepts comes to constitute the only viable idea of social, political and cultural legitimacy from which all modern subjectivities are seen to emerge. 33 Yet, as the now vacant runway, the twisted and rusting carcasses of once prestigious cars, and the undignified removal of the coral monuments all attest, this model has been an absolute failure for Nauru, causing the nation massive economic and environmental devastation and associated health crises. 34 Footage of a distressed bird, violently flapping in an attempt to escape the wooden struts it is shackled to, in the main video projection in Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world, suggests mobility and migration are not luxuries accessible to all in the global present. The once freely migrating bird is now trapped. In an earlier work on Nauru, Between a Rock and a Hard Place 2009, Mangan incorporated an image of a metal fence obscuring the view of a picturesque Nauruan beach in a clear reference to the establishment of an asylum seeker processing centre


33 ibid, p.46 34 Nauru’s population has developed major health problems since contact with the West. It now suffers the highest rate of diabetes in the world, along with a high level of obesity, the average life span of Nauruan males is now just over 50 years of age. 30% of those over 25 suffer from diabetes, 50% of those over 40 years. See Morag Ramsay, “Island Raiders”, Four Corners Report (Reporter: Chris Masters, Producer: Morag Ramsay), Australian Broadcast Corporation, broadcast 27th September, 2004

35 Between a Rock and A Hard Place, an installation based on Mangan’s initial exploration of Nauru, was commissioned by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and exhibited at its Level 2 Project Space in 2009. 36‘�������������������������������� The Pacific Solution’ was established shortly after the highly publicized ‘Tampa incident’, which greatly embarrassed the Australian Government. In 2001 Australia refused the Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, permission to enter Australia with cargo of 433 rescued asylum seekers. New legislation, which facilitated the implementation of the ‘Pacific Solution’, was passed in Australian Parliament in September 2001. See Michael Gordon, Freeing Ali: The Human Face of the Pacific Solution, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2005, pp. 17-30 37 In return for facilitating the processing centre, Naurua received $20 million (AUD) in aid, in addition to the costs of running the centre. The offshore camps in Nauru and Manus Island have held approximately 1,547 people since their inception. It is estimated that ‘the Pacific Solution’ cost close to a billion dollars during operation, 2001 – 2007. The processing centres were shut by the Rudd Government after its election in 2007. See Australian Government’s Department of Immigration and Citizenship Fact Sheet no.76, Offshore Processing Arrangements, http://www.immi. 38Homi K. Bhabha, ‘Double Visions’, Artforum, Jan 1992, p.88

on the island in 2001. 35 The image of the confined bird in Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world evokes similar associations. Established as part of the Australian Government’s ‘Pacific Solution’ by Australia’s then Immigration Minister, Philip Ruddock, the scheme utilised Nauru, along with neighboring Pacific Islands, to ‘process’ asylum seekers off shore. The aim was to deny asylum seekers access to Australia’s legal system and conceal them from the scrutiny of the international media.36 Mangan’s reference to the ‘Pacific Solution’ highlights some of the major social inequalities that operate in the current world order. Nauru’s compliance with the ‘Pacific Solution’ was predicated on its desperate financial situation.37 This scenario exemplifies how wealthy nations coerce poorer countries into arrangements that would be contentious, if not illegal, on their own soil. This reference also emphasizes the inequalities experienced by citizens from different nations in today’s supposedly global society. Homi K. Bhabha observes: The globe shrinks for those who own it; for the displaced or the dispossessed, the migrant or refugee, no distance is more awesome than the few feet across borders or frontiers.38 Ironically, the opening up of global markets has coincided with a pronounced policing of national borders, with citizens of poorer nations, such as the predominately Afghani asylum seekers that were detained on Nauru, the most restricted in their movements. Mangan’s site-oriented investigation and protracted mission to source genuine Nauruan coral from which to craft Dowiyogo’s coffee tables highlight another emerging ramification of an increasingly homogenous and nomadic global community — a deep desire for authenticity and uniqueness fixed to place. This quest for authenticity was heightened by the artist’s desire to construct the tables from the specific pieces of coral pinnacle that had once stood outside Nauru House as symbols of the nation’s prosperity. Mangan’s seizure of these pinnacles mirrors the actions of cargo officer Henry Denson, who in 1896 brought a sample of the rock back to the Pacific Islands Company’s Sydney office, from which the high grade phosphate ore was discovered. Mangan’s conscious restaging of this exploitative appropriation in a contemporary context highlights the shift in Nauru’s value as a source of mineral rich phos­ phate, to a potential site of authenticity. Carved from the three pinn­ acles that once graced the grounds of Nauru House, the tables are highly fetishistic, offering the promise of the material incarnation of the unique character and history of Nauru. Mangan is quick to undercut this promise of authenticity through the overtly mediated depiction of Nauru in the main video projection. Juxtaposing images of a Nauruan postcard celebrating the lunar landing in 1968 and the moon itself, with stylised images of the desolate, mined-out interior of Nauru, the film presents a surreal vision of the island which destabilises our reception of the work as truthful documentation. Mangan’s focus on geological


transformations in Nauru: notes from a cretaceous world also works to undermine this promise of a site-based permanency. His utilisation of the Nauruan rock, a material that embodies the evolution of decomposed marine life to phosphate rich coral, to barren mineral, suggests that nothing remains fixed under the pressure of time. His conversion of the coral pinnacles — which at various times have stood as monuments to the prosperity of a nation, as well as to its financial and social collapse - into coffee tables must then be read as a gesture of hope, signalling the potential for positive transformation. ••• Mangan’s engagement with a diverse range of commodity forms confronts many of the challenges currently faced by the global community, including the destructive nature of excessive consumption, the social and political legacy of colonial settlement, contemporary manifestations of primitivism, as well as the imbalanced political and economic dynamics of the current world order. By unearthing complex layers of material and social histories, Mangan draws attention to their evolving nature. His foregrounding of the constantly shifting nature of things is ultimately hopeful, as it signals that societal transformation is not only possible but inevitable.

Fig. 56

39Prominent object-based practitioners currently working in this manner include Coral Bove, Tom Burr, Mark Dion, Sam Durant, Renée Green, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ian Kiaer, Simon Starling and Fred Wilson.

Mangan does not attempt to offer a fully articulated or coherent roadmap for the future, rather he works to provoke pertinent questions about the cultures he examines. His own practice embodies many of the complications and contradictions observed in his investigations. For instance, his appropriation of coral rock from Nauru is charged with exploitative undertones, whilst his engagement with the politics of race in Australia is problematised by his own identity as a non-indigenous Australian artist. Rather than undermine his project, these tensions are deliberately incorporated into the work as a way of acknowledging the complexities of any political intervention in contemporary life and provoking nuanced debate. Mangan’s practice sits amidst a growing number of his peers who adopt a historiographic approach to material culture. 39 He can thus be seen as part of a generation of artists not only working to reclaim and make visible repressed histories in an age of the perpetual now, but also attempting to scrutinize the act of history production itself.


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Nauru: Notes From a Cretaceous World



HD Video, 2009

It was believed this empire had been afforded by the mining of ancient bird excretion that had built up over a millennium. A 20th century alchemy by which excrement could be turned into gold. A gigantic geometric tower evolved as a culmination of trading their island’s mined interior.


Unaccustomed to vast horizontal plains on their newly adopted home in Melbourne, Australia, they stockpiled the land they had acquired in trade, vertically.


Three large phosphate pinnacle rocks were hauled across the deeps of the pacific from their native island of Nauru.  The pinnacles were to adorn the Nauru house entry court as a symbol of prosperity. Having discoloured and blackened due to oxidization their exposure to a foreign climate was evident. It was assumed they were old almost ancient as they bared marine fossils and coral crustaceans.


In the year 2003, after almost four decades, the ancient pinnacles were chained up and torn from their tiled pedestals banished. This empire was collapsing – the Nauruan flagship was sinking. [The once prosperous island nation was now fleeced, depleted and drained. Instability within the Nauruan gov­ernment, aided by carpetbaggers and beachcombers, had left the empire high and dry].



Long ago a rock was taken from the island. It was perhaps this displacement that set the course for a curse that would plague the island for decades to come. [The rock in question originally believed to be petrified wood, was by chance, revealed to possess a magic dust. It was said that this dust could make a desert bloom like a rose. Buried under the once tropical palm treed forest of Nauru lay a treasure. It was the soil itself].


In the beginning, deep below tectonic plates collided and were forced up by a volcanic belt. These volatile shifts and convulsions gave rise to small atolls. It was a cretaceous world: a millennium of rising and declining sea levels that built up compressed matter onto the atoll. A calciferous crust that comprised decomposed sea life. On this crust in the middle of nowhere the deeps descend into a seemingly endless chasm beyond the brutal reefs. These reefs lie along the shoreline shielding the interior.


Here the counterleavers once spewed the islands innards out onto floating freighters hauling their islands interior away across the ocean deeps. The last of the magic dust will soon have be all exhumed, cooked up, refined. The Nauruans had sacrificed the land that had afforded them a subsistence. The equilibrium was broken. Rusted out shells and relics from the glory days have been sandblasted by abrasive winds, decay under the harsh equatorial sun. These piled up carcasses enter a slower cycle compressed by time. They are waiting to enter geology.


The tarmac is surfaced with crushed prehistoric corals that gleam under the blazing skies. It is itself a monument, a portal between two dimensions that delineate the zone between the isolated tropical island and the highspeed modern world. The tarmac bares the marks of friction caused by shifting those grounds. In recent years it was believed that the portal would be blocked –forever, sealed off from the outside world, leaving the Nauruan’s imprisoned. Terminally beached – exiled on their hollowed atoll.


In 2003 on his deathbed the then President of Nauru, Bernhard Dowiyogo, signed a contract. This contract would terminate Nauru’s offshore backing operations in return for millions of U.S dollars in aid. A return to paradise. The catch; to allow the Americans to set up a spy station on Nauru. Operation Weasel – a U.S listening post – An ear to the ocean. Dowiyogo died of heart failure soon after signing the contract. The U.S never lived up to its promise; they denied the existence of any such deal.


Here they have almost finished the work the Western empire began; the transformation of a tropical island into a barren Lunar like landscape.


The vegetation has been stripped bare; millions of colossal ulcerations are exposed from where the soil has been exhumed. President Dowiyogo, tongue pressed hard against his cheek, had talked of other plans to save his island. Plans to slice up the remaining coral pinnacles into thick slabs to be polished and sold of as ancient coffee tables. To cut through the coral pinnacles would reveal a deep time capsule, a petrified milky churn – brittle and porous. An extinction  account that begins long before human intervention.


Fig. 1. Nicholas Mangan, Untitled, 2009. Photography Andrew Curtis. Fig. 2. Man under pumice. Photography L G Folsom. Fig. 3. Dendrochronology. Fig. 4. De Beers diamond mine, South Africa. Photographer unknown. Fig. 5. Bunker diagram. Illustrator unknown. Fig. 6. J.F. Kirkaldy, Geological Time (cover), Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, 1971. Fig. 7. German WW1 sniper outfit and observation/sniping post. Photographer unknown. Fig. 8. Boulder on road. Jan. 10, 2005, Malibu, California. Photography Damian Dovarganes. Fig. 9. Nicholas Mangan, Elemental Exposure, 2003. Photography Andrew Curtis. Fig. 10. Termites. Source: (accessed: 3/1/2010). Fig. 11. Termite damage – Kiyomizu Temple Kyoto Japan 2004. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 12. Nicholas Mangan, Untitled (nest), 2004 (installation view). Photography John Brash. Fig. 13. Nicholas Mangan, The Colony, 2005. Photography Andrew Curtis.

Fig. 28. Nicholas Mangan, Raft (Comparative Material), 2007. Photography Andrew Curtis.

Fig. 50. A piece of the original rock that was taken from the island of Nauru that led to the discovery of phosphate.

Fig. 29. Manhattan flea markets, 2007. Photography Nicholas Mangan.

The Massey Collection : a description of items associated with the life and work of the Right Honourable William Ferguson Massey pres­ ent­ed to Massey University by his family / compiled by R. D. Batt ; photography by R. J. Feltham ; foreword by A. Stewart.

Fig. 30. Manhattan flea markets, 2007. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 31. “Back Through The Centuries”, The Indian Detour, Bulletin No.1 February 1927. Designer unknown. Fig. 32. Examples of Anasazi dry stone masonry. Fig. 33. Casino development, Indian reservation, New Mexico 2008. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 34. Nicholas Mangan, A1 Southwest Stone (installation view), 2008. Photography Herbert Lotz. Fig. 35. Nicholas Mangan, Core sample, 2008. Photography Bill Stengel. Core Sample was produced in association with the A1 Southwest Stone project. It was comprised of an extracted concrete core sample from the floor of SITE’s gallery space. The resulting hole remained visible for the duration of the biennial. Fig. 36. The Archeology Institute of New Mexico Quarterly Newsletter, Issue 3, vol 9, 1993. Used with permission from Robert Hiezer.

Fig. 51. Illustration of the original rock taken from Nauru that was used as a door stop. Illustration by Abigal Roerer in Carl N. McDaniel and John M. Gowdy’s Paradise for Sale: A Parable of Nature by, University of California Press, 2000. Fig. 52. Nauru bulldozer. Photography Bernard Cloutier. Fig. 53. Nauruan hostesses boarding Air Nauru Boeing 737. Photography used with permission of former Air Nauru pilot Captain John Laming 1982. Fig. 54. Sending a Message to the Rest of the World. Originally displayed in The Age Newspaper Nov. 5 2005. Cartoon by Ron Tandberg. Used with permission of Ron Tandberg. Fig. 55. Topside Nauru, 2009. Photography Nicholas Mangan Fig. 56. The piece of rock that led to the discovery of phosphates on Nauru and Ocean Island. From Albert F Ellis’s Ocean Island and Nauru: Their Story, Angus and Robertson,1936. Photographer unknown.

Fig. 15. Nicholas Mangan, Mask A, 2005. Photography Andrew Curtis.

Fig. 37. Indian-detours: Roundabout Old Santa Fe, New Mexico [Chicago]: Rand McNally 1940 (reprint), 24 pages. http:// spc/pams_old1/jpgs/detsanfe2.jpg

Fig. 16. From the Cannibal Tours, 1988 Photography Dennis O’Rourke

Fig. 38. Postcard from Disney Hotel Santa Fe, Paris © Disney

Fig. 57. Removal of coral pinnacle from Nauru House entry court. 80 Collins street Melbourne, Australia. Photography P. Glenane. Used with permis­ sion of the Herald and Weekly Times.

Fig. 17. Banskia Grandis perfume holders, craft market, Sydney, Australia. Photography Nicholas Mangan.

Fig. 39. Hopi House built by Mary Colter for the Fred Harvey Indian detours. Photographer unknown.

Fig. 58. “Broke Nauru Looses Landmark building”, The Herald Sun 2004. Used with permission of The Herald and Weekly Times.

Fig. 18. Wax coated mouth hole didgeridoo, souvenir shop. Swanston Street Melbourne Australia. Photography Nicholas Mangan.

Fig. 40. Affidavit of publication of public notice, The Santa Fe New Mexican, June 2008.

Fig. 59. Slicing up coral pinnacle, Huntingdale, Melbourne Australia 2009. Photography Nicholas Mangan.

Fig. 14. Fijian wooden fork and spoon souvenirs. Photographer unknown.

Fig. 19. Nicholas Mangan, The Mutant Message, 2006. Photography Andrew Curtis. Fig. 20. Nicholas Mangan, The Mutant Message, 2006 (detail). Photography Andrew Curtis. Fig. 21. Nicholas Mangan, The Mutant Message, 2006 (detail). Photography Andrew Curtis.

Fig. 41. The Archeology Institute of New Mexico badge, circa 1993. From the archives of Robert Heizer. Fig. 42. “What lies Beneath”, The Santa Fe The New Mexican. Sunday June 8 1992. From the archives of Robert Heizer. Fig. 43. Slides from the excavation at A1 Southwest Stone. From the archives of Robert Heizer.

Fig. 22. Early surveying equipment. Photographer unknown.

Fig. 44. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (detail). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 23. “The Banksia Man”. Illustrator, May Gibbs. 2010 © The Northcott Society and The Spastic Centre of New South Wales.

Fig. 45. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (interior view). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 24. Jane Seymour, “Aboriginals Want Best-Seller Ban”, The West Australian, April 1st, 1995. Photography Joe Wheeler. Permission/Courtesy The West Australian.

Fig. 46. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (interior view). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 25. Qantas Logo. Designed by Tony Lunn, Lunn Design Group 1984 © Qantas. Fig. 26. Nicholas Mangan, Dreaming Catcher (the spirit of Australia), 2006. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 27. Nicholas Mangan, Untitled (The Mutant Message), 2006. Photography Andrew Curtis.

Fig. 47. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (detail). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 60. In chains, coral pinnacles Nauru house entry court. 80 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia. Photography P. Glenane. Used with permis­ sion of The Herald and Weekly Times. Fig. 61. Bank of Nauru fifth anniversary stamp sheet. Designer unknown. Fig. 62. Empty, 2005. 80 Collins Street, Melbourne, Australia. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 63. Weighing coral limestone rock Nauru airport 2009. Photography Nicholas Mangan. Fig. 64. Nicholas Mangan, Between a rock and a hard place, 2009 (installation view). Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photography Carley Wright. Fig. 65. Nicholas Mangan, Between a rock and a hard place, 2009 (installation view). Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photography Carley Wright.

Fig. 48. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (exterior view). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 66. Nicholas Mangan, Between a rock and a hard place, 2009 (detail). Art Gallery of New South Wales. Photography Carley Wright.

Fig. 49. Nicholas Mangan, A1 SouthWest Stone, 2008 (exterior view). Photography Herbert Lotz.

Fig. 67. Nicholas Mangan, Dowiyogo’s ancient coral coffee table, 2009. Photography Nicholas Mangan.


Published by The Narrows in association with Sutton Gallery Designed by Warren Taylor and Nicholas Mangan Printed by Vega Press, Melbourne Typeset in Newzald The Narrows and Sutton Gallery gratefully acknowledge Peter Braithwaite, Michael Buxton and Eleonora Triguboff for their financial support of this publication. Nicholas Mangan would like to thank Ying-Lan Dann, Felicity Mangan, Rhonda Mangan, Rodney Mangan, Shelley McSpedden, Geraldine Barlow, Masato Takasaka, Nick Selenitch, Anton Marin, Eugene Nemesi, Helen Johnson, Saskia Schut, Bianca Hester, Joshua Petherick, Christopher LG Hill, Matt Hinkley, Liza Vasiliou, Simon Taylor, Matthew Brown, Phoebe Dougall, Julie Davis and Alex Rizkalla, Jo Scicluna, Lisa Radford, Olivia Barrett, Johan Oevergaard, Justine Makdessi, Andrew Curtis, Ken and Lisa Fehily, Juliana Engberg, Charlotte Day, Sarah Tutton, Max Delany, Zara Stanhope, Ruth Bain and Stieg Persson, Jon Cattapan, Rebecca Coates, Wayne Tunnicliffe, Alexie Glass-Kantor, Jacqueline Doughty, Emily Cormack, Katarina Paseta, Samantha Comte, Brie Trenerry, Ashley Crawford, Callum Morton, Andrew Hazewinkel, Richard Giblett, Mike Conole, Michael Stevenson, Liza Statton, Sarah Farrer, Jesse Birch and Sarah Hopkinson. This book is dedicated to Moss. Shelley McSpedden would like to thank the Faculty of Art & Design, Monash University, for its support during the writing of the research thesis this publication is derived from, in particular she wishes to thank her supervisor, Dr Daniel Palmer, along with Dr Melissa Miles and Dr Robert Nelson for their feedback on that thesis. She would also like to thank Julia Grigg, Andrew, Tess, Louisa and Lachlan McSpedden and Alicia Ritson for being her cheer squad, as well as Margaret McSpedden, Jessica Neath, Lisa Radford and Meredith Turnbull for their thoughtful comments on various drafts of the text. Finally, she would like to thank John Vanzella for keeping her grounded through the heady process of converting a wistful idea into a tangible reality. Nicholas and Shelley would also like to thank Irene Sutton, Elizabeth McDowell, Kati Rule and Larisa Marossine from Sutton Gallery, along with Warren Taylor from The Narrows, for all their efforts on this project. Nicholas Mangan is represented by Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.


2010 Š Copyright of all text is held by the authors Shelley McSpedden and Geraldine Barlow. Copyright of all images is held by the artist Nicholas Mangan, unless otherwise credited wherein the copyright is held by the credited party. This publication, its format and design are copyright of the artist and designer. All rights reserved. The Narrows Publication 07 National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry: Artist: Nicholas Mangan Title: Notes From a Cretaceous World Authors / Contributors: Shelley McSpedden, Geraldine Barlow, Nicholas Mangan, Warren Taylor ISBN 978-0-9807907-1-9 Notes: Bibliography Subjects: Contemporary art, anthropology, archeology, geology

Nicholas Mangan  


Nicholas Mangan