Nicholas Mangan's exhibition stems from his interest in the Walter Burley Griffin Pyrmont incinerator. Delving into records and archives Mangan discovered a complex history, from the debate for the location, to the elaborate design on its façade, the controversial demolition and, finally, to the fragments housed in the Powerhouse Museum.
A specific image of this site resonated with Mangan: the incinerator is pictured in ruin, the severe decay coupled with the decorative design is at odds with its location in inner Sydney. In the final days before being demolished "the Pyrmont incinerator's resemblance to a Mayan ruin was uncanny—overgrown with tundra shrubs and trees, crumbling and covered in its own sacrificial soot and ash". The ornamental relief of the Pyrmont incinerator was in fact inspired by pre-Columbian architecture of Mesoamerica and specificly references the Mayan Palace of the Governor of Uxmal in Yucatan, Mexico according to some architectural historians.
Mangan's Some Kinds of Duration pays homage to the Pyrmont incinerator through the construction of a Canon NP6030 photocopier as an object in ruin. Cast in concrete, this particular model with its terrace stacking, geometric strata and elaborate abstract motifs, mimics both Mayan and art deco design.
In addition to revealing design and functional connections between these machines of industry, Mangan also presents a formal and temporal connection. The construction and demolition of the Pyrmont incinerator now exists primarily in the pages upon pages of photocopied archive material. Mangan draws this connection through carbon—the incinerator destroying and reducing matter to carbon and a photocopier using carbon to reproduce and record.
Immediately recognisable, this vintage-model Canon machine—once a reliable source for shared information—is now redundant. This concrete photocopier ruin, with elegant design evident, stands alone as a mark of innovation and progression though it equally speaks of decay and historical record.
Like the few incinerator tiles that remain in the Powerhouse Museum, Mangan's installation utilises this institution to breathe new life into an abandoned object and, in doing so, ensures these histories are an ongoing conversation. Mangan's Some Kinds of Duration takes the viewer through a narrative of destruction, reproduction and preserved histories.
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