Ancient Lights

Artist. Nicholas Mangan

Organisations. Artspace, Chisenhale, IMA

Years: 2015, 2016

Nicholas Mangan – b. 1979, Geelong, Victoria. Lives and works in Melbourne, Australia.

Nicholas Mangan’s work Ancient Lights is a major filmic installation which explores the relationship between energy and social transformation. It comprises a two-channel video work powered entirely by an on-site solar PV system installed on the roof of the exhibiting institution.

Ancient Lights explores Mangan’s research into the physical and conceptual power of the sun and the role it has played in human culture, economy and technology throughout history. This work builds on Mangan’s enduring interest in the complex relationship between nature, culture, politics and economics.

Mangan’s research-orientated practice reassesses and reimagines how we approach our natural world and the structures and systems we have developed to govern our environment so that we may harness and exploit its resources and control its populations. Ancient Lights reflects on the intersection of scientific and mythological conceptualisations to understand our relationship to the sun in this current epoch.

The two interrelated videos which comprise Ancient Lights explore connections between the Aztec Sun Stone, the concentric mirrors of the Gemasolar Thermosolar Plant in Southern Spain and pioneering advances in dendrochronology carried out by A. E. Douglass at the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research at the University of Arizona.

The exhibition is powered by energy harnessed using solar panels placed on the roof of the institution which feed a set of batteries installed in the gallery. This off-grid system operates as a closed circuit, enabling light from the sun to be transformed into the projected light of the films.

This work was made possible through a co-commission between Chisenhale Gallery, London and Artspace, Sydney with the Keir Foundation as a proud Commissioning Partner. Ancient Lights premiered at Chisenhale in July 2015, Mangan’s first solo exhibition in the UK. It returned to Australia to show at Artspace in Mangan’s solo exhibition Other Currents in September 2015. It was included in Mangan’s solo exhibition Limits to Growth at IMA Brisbane in October 2016.