Null & Void
Null & VOID
By Nat Phillips &
In the Summer of 2018, KLK was invited to
create an exhibit for the inaugural Ceaun
Borsec Festival in Borsec, Romania. In
response, we transformed a large disused
water heating factory into a surreal
dreamscape that reflected on the dynamics
of regeneration and decay within built
Borsec, is a mountain town located to the
north-east of the Transylvanian Province in
the Carpathian Mountains. It is most famous
for its spring water, which is said to possess
Having been invited to take part in an art residency,
Matt & Nat (KLK) arrived in Borsec with little
background knowledge and a very short time-frame
to create an exhibit for a newly formed festival taking
place in the town.
We found a village sprawled along a valley and up a
mountainside. In the valley lay most of the
population in a typical Romanian town including a
couple of small apartment blocks, a grocer, a
hardware store, a bank, some cafes and a fresh food
market. Meanwhile, further up the hill, was the
historic part of town, an attraction for a small
collection of domestic tourists but most iconic for it's
array of around three dozen dilapidated villas,
cinema, hospital, laboratory and library.
Borsec, which is also an iconic bottled water brand,
owns two of the natural springs, and employing a
significant amount of the population.
We discovered a remarkable history and stagnant yet
hopeful present, with the mayor and local
administration fighting an uphill battle to bring
tourists back to the town.
Despite being home to famous springs, a few ski
runs and sauna houses, tourist visitation and the
economy has declined since the fall of the Soviet
Union (see Page 5). During Soviet times, the
government would send workers to Borsec as a
health retreat to stay in the luxurious villas which had
been claimed under communism.
Ceaun Borsec Festival 2018 was touted as an
opportunity to promote Borsec more broadly and to
try to kick-start a revival of the town. It included local
music, art, culture, gastronomy and sports.
Meanwhile the local youth described their future
options being limited to working at Borsec Water, or
leaving for a bigger city.
1980 1990 2000 2010
Fall of the
Borsec Old Town
1. Vila Martin (Home)
2. Hotel Transilvania*
3. Former Laundry*^
4. Old Library*
5. Old Apothecary*
6. Restaurant 1
7. Restaurant 2
10. Printing Shop
11. Borsec Water Factory
12. Hardware shop
13. Town Hall
14. Cafe and Night Club
^ Installation Site
Initially we had little connection or understanding of
Borsec. But thanks to some special encounters with
local characters, every day became an eclectic mix
of comical cameos.
Mayor József, welcomed
us, shared his vision for the
town, and gave us
permission to pipe
springwater into our
Our Art Residency
Coordinator. Gave us a
tour, translation services,
and hyped the launch
event. Very passionate
Logistics Manager of Arts
for the inaugural Ceaun
Borsec Festival. Gave us
advice, contacts and lent
us a jigsaw tool. Always
happy to help.
Vila Owner and keen
distiller of pălincă. We
kept him and his friends
amused with our odd
requests for tools, and
comings and goings.
The smiling women of the
town hardware store. We
visited almost daily. They
were unfailing in their
desire to assist us despite
the language barrier.
The Hungarian owner of
the building we eventually
occupied. “Do whatever
you want“. We only ever
conversed with him once
These old men took a
particular interest in our
project. They kindly
delivered us loads of grass
clippings, despite thinking
it was weird.
Manager of a local cafe
and night spot for the city’s
youth. We stopped by
every morning for an
espresso. He spoke very
Hailing from across the
mountains in the province
of Moldova, three poets
came to perform inside the
space we created. They
already knew Florin.
at Borsec Water. Gave us a
tour of the bottling plant in
the valley. He then drove
us up to his inherited villa,
which he is renovating.
Arrival in Borsec
Tour of Borsec
Disillusionment and confusion
Drinks with the local youth
A concept and vision starts to emerge
Discovered the installation site
Received permission to use the site
Tour of Borsec Water
Started collecting materials from abandoned villas
Construction mode in overdrive
Formal meeting with the Mayor
Opening - with poets and musicians
Departed from Borsec
After learning more about the way of life in Borsec from
the locals, we began an earnest exploration for an
exhibition space ahead of the fast approaching festival.
We continued to scout the many empty buildings and
began cataloging the vast quantity of materials we
required. We had several meetings with the festival
organisers before stumbling upon the old town laundry
and heating facility. After getting approval from the
Hungarian based owner, we set about mapping and
developing our concept.
THE OLD TOWN
The building, abandoned for 20 years, used to heat
spring water and distribute it across the town for
space heating. The building also operated as a
commercial town laundry. We found it empty except
for a layer of dust a couple of inches thick and heavy
rubble across the 270m 2 floor. The floor had an
assortment of pillars, foundations and pits to house
the old machinery. The neighbours became curious
as to why two tall foreigners were measuring out the
building and they insisted we should call the owner.
No hassles there: “Do whatever you want with it”.
View to the building from the town’s historic
Scale of the building from the south.
NULL & VOID:
Null & Void is the culmination of two weeks in Borsec.
A painstakingly assembled dreamscape which explores
the dynamics of building decay and natural processes
of rejuvenation. The long abandoned factory’s
expansive scale puts the exclamation mark on a
collection of smaller themed areas within the exhibit.
All materials were collected from the town’s large array
of abandoned villas, a distinct collection of items
representing the town’s recent history - from a 3m x 2m
framed photograph to a tower made out of roof tiles.
The installation opened for the Ceaun Borsec Festival
with performances by three local poets and a musician.
It has remained a meeting place for local artists.
Above: Black & white tiles were painted onto the floor in the
designated viewing area, complete with locally sourced seating and
an oddly decorated fireplace.
Right: A large metallic wrecking ball full of
building trash hung from the rafters, here
alongside a collection of old workers boots lined
up at the door.
Below: Grass clippings covered the dusty factory
floor. A painted mural backdrop mimics the natural
landscapes of the region but with trees replaced
sparsely by towers.
Above: A large floor painted footprint,
encouraged viewers to climb the podiums for
the best viewing angle and challenge their ideas
of the impact of building waste.
Left: An ever-flowing nearby spring fed an
internal waterfall, entering via the the window.
While large holes in the floor were highlighted
to create the feeling of a large void below.
Below: A local musician played classical guitar
during the opening event to a small audience of
Above: Poets from Romania and Italy read a
collection of works in different languages.
Right: English translations were read by Nat for
some of the pieces.
KLK (Koin Lowndrie Kollektiv) is Nat Phillips and
Matt Stewart, an experimental art duo from
KLK exhibitions and events usually take place in
unusual settings, and incorporate a diverse range of
mixed media, collaborators and approaches.
In June 2018, Nat & Matt took a trip
to Borsec Romania. Two weeks of
abandoned buildings, nature and
cameos later, they opened a new
space installation which is still used
as a meeting place by local artists.