• Nicholas Mangan

Hopkinson Mossman is pleased to present Termite Economies: Phase 2 (Metabolic Shift), a solo exhibition of new work by Nicholas Mangan.

Nicholas Mangan’s work draws from both recent history and deep time to tease out narratives of the rise and fall of civilizations – of ambition, construction, rupture and decay – and, more recently, the relationship between energy and social transformation.

The second phase of the larger Termite Economies project begins with anecdote from science; a hypothesis from entomologists that the sophisticated chemical communications of termites could be mobilised to locate rare earth minerals, such as gold and copper. This specific (and ultimately futile) example of the exploitation of nature for economic gain is for Mangan a point of departure, a place to start digging.

Termite Economies: Phase 2 (Metabolic Shift) includes three major new sculptural works that synthesize a number of engineering structures, both human and termite, into a hybrid speculative architecture. The sculptures are accompanied by a small boxy monitor screening a filmic vignette; a montage of archival footage from a 1960’s CSIRO documentary called “The Colony”, field research images of a cross-sectioned Macrotermes termite mound in Namibia, a point-cloud scan of an underground mine tunnel system, and artist’s footage of termite mounds in Western Australia.

The sculptures in Termite Economies: Phase 2 (Metabolic Shift) reproduce cross sections of the accreted dirt and saliva that form termite mounds, combined with various models of looping gold mine-shafts. Some sculptures are rhizomal in structure, and resemble maps of muscle or brain tissue, while others feel directional, or entropic. Brown and roughly textured with dirt, the sculptures appear organic, but they are in fact impossible objects, rendered on screen and produced using advanced 3D printing technology. For the installation at Hopkinson Mossman the gallery is darkened and each sculpture has a ‘grow lamp’ hovering above it, giving the viewer the sense that they are traversing a field-laboratory after an excavation.

Working in a long and diverse history of employing insects as allegory for human activity, Mangan’s Termite Economies project is a fiction of engineering. Considered as a ‘living’ structure, that is highly receptive and constantly adapting to the activity of its inhabitants, the termite mound is mobilised as model for thinking about connectivity, collective action, labour, and consumption. Interrogating the already uneasy dynamic between nature and culture, Termite Economies: Phase 2 (Metabolic Shift) attempts to open new understandings of the structures and systems that govern our environment.

Termite Economies: Phase 2 (Metabolic Shift) is Mangan’s third solo exhibition at Hopkinson Mossman, preceded by A world undone in 2012, and Nauru, Notes from a Cretaceous World in 2010.

Opening Hours

  • Wednesday - Friday 11am-5pm
  • Saturday 11am-3pm
  • Or by appointment


  • Level 2, 22 Garrett St
  • Te Aro
  • Wellington, 6011