In addition to climate change, Queensland sugarcane production and land management practices are increasingly linked to the rapidly declining health of marine ecosystems – including the Great Barrier Reef. Intensive agriculture often causes damaging sediment run-off that flows into rivers and oceans where it contributes to water degradation. These shifting environmental conditions expose coral polyps to stress, inducing coral bleaching, a process that causes the coral to become transparent, reveal their brittle skeletons and become susceptible to starvation and disease.
Lasting Impressions is a sculptural installation consisting of a range of dental casts made from crushed aragonite and other mineral compounds. Some of the casts are displayed in white polystyrene boxes which are simultaneously reminiscent of commercial-grade seafood eskies and museological storage containers commonly used to protect historical artefacts from decay. They are accompanied by a wall-mounted sculpture depicting two abutting sets of dental casts in strict profile position, with coral polyps extending from either end of the hybrid form. Coral polyps and human teeth share calcium carbonate as their core substance. They also share a vulnerability to sugar– a substance that corrodes tooth enamel and plays a role in coral bleaching. Nicholas Mangan draws material and metaphoric links between coral and the human mouth to explore themes of consumption, decay and repair. In their silent stoniness, the muted mouths invite audiences to consider the political impasse surrounding environmental degradation in Australia, and its human and ecological toll.
Lasting Impressions was commissioned by Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong, for the international group exhibition, ‘trust & confusion’, curated by Xue Tan and Raimundas Malašauskas. It was reviewed in specialist art publications and mainstream media outlets including Artforum, Artnet, Artomity, NOWNESS, e-flux and the South China Morning Post. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, with English and Cantonese versions distributed globally.