Simone Mangos

Traces of nature penetrate urban space in the work of Simone Mangos. (Born in Australia, she has lived in Berlin for the last ten years.) For her 1992 installation NOMADIC, Mangos arranged a half-circle of mostly broken windows in such a way that the day’s progress could be charted according to the position of the reflected sun. In her recent exhibition “ice floe,” her photographs—whether of a dock in Sydney or of a free-standing fire wall—recall the urban excursions of Allan Sekula or Gordon Matta-Clark. In stasis, 1994, white netting was drawn taut to a chair and then fanned out, like a wave, across a courtyard between buildings. Often the tension in Mangos’s work lies in the way her light, irrelevant materials expand to fill enormous volumes of space.

Her photo/object installations reference landscape art and are, in a way, “nonsites”; objects interact with physical spaces that are present only in photographs. The precise coordinates of these places are indefinite, so that a cemetery headstone (in Column, 1998) remains as ambiguous as the netting (in Untitled, 1998) found stretched around a tree trunk at a construction site: the netting resembles a bandage, the tree a wounded body.

Several of this exhibition’s eight photo/object combinations referenced Nazi topography, a subject that has fallen into obscurity since Berlin’s reunification. Though the pieces address the relationship between architectural symbols and historical restoration, one can only guess at the buildings’ true status: Are they actual memorials or randomly discovered spaces? Mangos means to profit from this uncertainty, introducing photography as a multiply-coded medium. Sometimes the photos are used as documents, as in the diptych Ehemalige Ministergärten (Former gardens of the ministry), 1998, which depicts the excavated underground bunker of Joseph Goebbels. The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is slated to be built on this site. Sometimes the photograph itself becomes an object. In Untitled, the photo of the tree at the construction site dangles from an aluminum rod, so that the swaying motion in the picture is enacted in its presentation. In Corner stain-Ecksleck, 1998, a hanging lamp is paired with a photograph of the comer of the ceiling. The object and the situation to which it refers go hand in hand: the lamp illuminates a space existing only in the photograph. Corner stain-Ecksleck underscores how Mangos’s work turns on the relationship of one place to another, and how she thematizes this relationship via methods of presentation. Her jamb, 1998, functions likewise. A severed piece of tree trunk is held horizontally by two pine jambs and covered with wire netting, as if to imply that nature can absorb foreign bodies without losing its naturalness. Mangos’s images, architectural in nature, comment obliquely on the phenomena of the artificially produced. If urban landscapes reflect the process of civilization, Mangos’s works are the “nonsites” of cultural landscape.

Harald Fricke