Nicholas Mangan, Termite Economies, 2018, 3D printed plaster, dirt, synthetic polymer paint, plywood, painted mild steel, fluorescent bay lights, 2 Sony Trinitron PVM 2130 QM monitors, 4 Sony Trinitron PVM 9042QM monitors, archival and recorded footage (continuous loop), four channel surround sound of termite warning signals. Variable dimensions. Installation view, Sutton Gallery, 2018. Images courtesy the artist and Sutton Gallery, Melbourne. Photography: Andrew Curtis.
Termites ate my entire ground floor. Seriously. Industrious little blighters. And when we pulled up what was left of the floorboards we found they’d built a mound roughly the size and shape of a small car. Impressive. So whenever anything to do with termites crosses my desk I take a personal interest. Combine my fascination with these insects with sculptures by Nicholas Mangan, as in his solo show Termite Economies (Phase One) at PICA in Perth, and the pull is irresistible.
Mangan’s interest in these insects seems to have been long standing. I first saw his work in the 2004 iteration of Primavera, the annual showcase for Australian artists under the age of 35 held at the MCA in Sydney. Mangan presented Untitled (nest), 2004, an aluminium and wooden ladder that termites seemed to have been munching on. In this work the theoretical nature culture/clash was made manifest with a kind of dark humour. It was uncanny in the true sense of the word: the familiar made weird.
Termites are the star architects of the insect world and in Termite Economies (Phase One) Mangan has constructed his own fictionalised version of their complex structures using 3D printing technology. I can’t wait to see where he goes with phase two.