Null & Void

matt.stewart

In the Summer of 2018, KLK (Matt Stewart & Nat Phillips) were 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 structures.

Null & Void


Null & VOID

By Nat Phillips &

Matt Stewart


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

structures.

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ROMANIA


BORSEC

bUCHAREST

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

healing qualities.

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CONTEXT

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.

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Borsec Population

Borsec Tourism

30.000

22.500

15.000

7.500

0

1980 1990 2000 2010

Fall of the

Soviet Union

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Borsec Old Town

3*^

1

4*

8

7

6

10

9

11

12

Borsec Valley

13

N

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2*

MAP OF

BORSEC

5*

1. Vila Martin (Home)

2. Hotel Transilvania*

3. Former Laundry*^

4. Old Library*

5. Old Apothecary*

6. Restaurant 1

7. Restaurant 2

8. Supermarket

9. ATMs

10. Printing Shop

11. Borsec Water Factory

12. Hardware shop

13. Town Hall

14. Cafe and Night Club

* Abandoned

^ Installation Site

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CAMEOS

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.

THE MAYOR

Mayor József, welcomed

us, shared his vision for the

town, and gave us

permission to pipe

springwater into our

installation.

FLORIN

Our Art Residency

Coordinator. Gave us a

tour, translation services,

and hyped the launch

event. Very passionate

about poetry.

VIKTOR

Logistics Manager of Arts

for the inaugural Ceaun

Borsec Festival. Gave us

advice, contacts and lent

us a jigsaw tool. Always

happy to help.

MARTIN

Vila Owner and keen

distiller of pălincă. We

kept him and his friends

amused with our odd

requests for tools, and

comings and goings.


STORE LADIES

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.

JÓZSEF

The Hungarian owner of

the building we eventually

occupied. “Do whatever

you want“. We only ever

conversed with him once

via phone.

GRASSCUTTERS

These old men took a

particular interest in our

project. They kindly

delivered us loads of grass

clippings, despite thinking

it was weird.

ARNOLD

Manager of a local cafe

and night spot for the city’s

youth. We stopped by

every morning for an

espresso. He spoke very

good English

THE POETS

Hailing from across the

mountains in the province

of Moldova, three poets

came to perform inside the

space we created. They

already knew Florin.

MIHAIT

Communications Manager

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.

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TIMELINE

JULY

2018

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

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

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DISCOVERY

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.

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THE OLD TOWN

LAUNDRY

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”.

Thanks, József.

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View to the building from the town’s historic

main street.

Scale of the building from the south.

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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.

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Above: Black & white tiles were painted onto the floor in the

designated viewing area, complete with locally sourced seating and

an oddly decorated fireplace.

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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.

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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.

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Below: A local musician played classical guitar

during the opening event to a small audience of

interested locals.


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.

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KLK

KLK (Koin Lowndrie Kollektiv) is Nat Phillips and

Matt Stewart, an experimental art duo from

Melbourne, Australia.

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.

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