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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Limits to growth



Nicholas Mangan


1979 -


'Limits to growth' belongs to a body of work by Nicholas Mangan engaged with political histories in the Pacific and their intersection with a globalised economy. The installation brings two vastly different currencies into dialogue: Rai, a form of stone money used in the archipelago of Yap in Micronesia, and the contemporary digital currency bitcoin.

Historically, Rai was quarried manually, its value determined in part by scale. In the 19th and 20th centuries, a series of interventions by foreigners devalued the currency and Rai was eventually superseded by the US dollar, with value tethered to the abstract fluctuations of the stock market. As with Rai, bitcoins are acquired through a process known as 'mining', but labour is outsourced to computers and trade is virtual. Ironically, the powerful server systems this requires are still dependent on natural resources.

'Limits to growth' considers how these currencies reflect shifting cultural attitudes to production, value and exchange. The work also embodies this in concrete terms. Mangan financed the large photographs of Rai by mining bitcoin, using energy appropriated from the university where he works.




Materials used

three single channel digital videos, colour, sound; two monitors mounted onto steel poles; six chromogenic photographs; one silver gelatin photograph


single channel projection duration: 00:08:55 min, two single channel digital videos: continuous 00:02:29 min, 00:03:05 min, aspect ratio: 16:9, display dimensions variable

Signature & date

Signed and dated l.l. Certificate of authenticity, black fibre-tipped pen "N Mangan/ 28/7/2017".


Rudy Komon Memorial Fund 2017


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Nicholas Mangan

Works in the collection


Shown in 2 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 2 publications


Andrew Frost., the, 'The National review - happy accidents shine in major Australian contemporary art show', Australia, 31 Mar 2017, n.pag.. accessed 28.06.2017,

Genevieve O'Callaghan (Editor), The national 2017: new Australian art, Sydney, 2017, 106, 107, 149.