11th Gwangju Biennale
2. 9. – 6. 11. 2016



Nicholas Mangan

The Limits to Growth begins with the story of the Rai stone currency of the Micronesian Island of Yap, established around 1000 AD, and proceeds to investigate the arrival of Bitcoin—the first successful global digital/crypto-currency. Invented in 2008, a crypto-currency uses principles of cryptography to provide secure online exchanges and the minting of digital coins for a decentralized network. The title The Limits to Growth is borrowed from the influential 1972 book on the effects of economic and population growth as well as finite natural resources based on a computer-modeling program called World 3.

Nicholas Mangan’s (b. 1979, Melbourne) recent project takes the shape of a video showing a Rai stone money sitting on the ocean bed, a Bitcoin rig, and a large-format digital printer which constantly reproduces images of the stone “coins” using Bitcoin mining. Each time there is enough Bitcoin mined, a new image will be printed onto a continuous roll of paper, conditional on printing costs of ink and paper, and the cost of energy consumption required in running the rig.
Traditionally, the Rai stones being mined and carved into circular disks with hollow centers became so large that after their initial risky transport from the place where they were they were mined, their exchange became symbolic rather than material. The stone would remain situated on the premises where it was first sited, or even drowned while transported; however, its ownership and value was transferred in community as well as inter-village ceremonial exchanges. Through this series of material and immaterial exchanges, The Limits to Growth connects the logic of stone money to the currents of value in crypto-currency, and the future of digital currencies. It examines the systems of abstraction of physical, material wealth into an intangible/virtual currency/value, demonstrating the environmental traces/debt or labor force behind what is considered virtual value production.

The project is a continuation of Mangan’s previous projects and general interest in tracking and detouring cyclic systems of matter, energy, and ideologies—specifically, in the context of Pacific Island and its sociopolitical histories. In his installations, which on many occasions function as closed circuits, geophysical and cultural narratives intertwine and create a complex web of micro and macro worldviews. By creating installations as closed circuits, and remodeling the dynamisms, The relationship between energy extraction and social transformations, ongoing impacts of colonialism, humanity's relationship with the natural environment, consumptive cultures, and the complex dynamics of the global political economy are recurring themes in Mangan’s practice. AM


for as long as i can remember i have been pulling things part but not always putting them back together the same way.

my practice is driven by the desire make sense of the world by unpacking histories and possible narratives that surround specific contested sites and objects. This investigation explores the unstable relationship between culture and nature, evidencing the flows of matter, energy and ideologies that are produced through the tension of these two realms. A tropical mine in a conflicted state whose local inhabitants used coconuts as fuel in their resistance, a strip-mined island-nation in bankruptcy that took refugees in return for payment from the Australian government, the island of stone money that exemplified money as a social technology, and a geological sample of the earth’s oldest crust have each lent material to this process of dissection and reconfiguration. By rerouting each of these stories, new forms and latent narratives are unearthed.