Once a popular spa resort renowned for it's water (which is still exported from the town nationally- and maybe internationally I think I heard) that apparently has numerous healing abilities, it ran aground a bit under Ceacescu's regime when many of the villas were confiscated by the state and then after the revolution were either never reclaimed or bought up by foreign billionaires who never returned to sort things out. This had left a large portion of the village in a state of ruin. Bad for the towns people- in their opinion- though it is, this was amazing for us. One of my most favourite activities in the town was urban exploration. We adored the abandoned buildings, but as the poet Corrina would later tell us, the previous exhibition seemed to be wholly orientated about the ruined old buildings, and apparently people found it depressing. I'm sure if you live there the whole time it can get a bit repetitive art-wise as well.
However, one of the finest gems I found in the hospital was an exercise book that was full of philosophy notes. It was just on the floor, I don't know if had been there since the hospital closed, or if someone had dropped in there since, but it dated from the early nineties and was written completely in Romanian. It was such an exciting find, I didn't dare want to tamper with it with collages or screen printing as others suggested. It felt it needed to be preserved, rather than altered.
In one of the rooms, there was a mass of papers, much of it buried under a heavy pile of earth and fallen debris, but I noticed a free page of Hebrew text. I grabbed what I could, flung it out of the window and took it back home to exam it, and was soon anxious to see if there anything else left in there. However, the way up the stairs in Villa 53 looked pretty unstable, so I convinced Laura Arena to accompany me inside, lest anything bad happen, which was probably wise, as the building was found to be pretty unstable.
Climbing back out the window, dodging the neighbours and broken glass, we returned to the Villa with what spoils we could.
I deliberated over what to do with the documents I'd discovered, but was anxious not to 'ruin' them in any way, so I ended up simply presenting the strange papers and books I'd found as they were. I plan to develop them at some stage in the future (in particular getting a thorough translation of the philosophy book), but for now, my excavating them from the ruins of abandoned villas and hospitals, and bringing a piece of Borsec's history home to the vastly different world that is Manchester was enough to start with.
I noticed at the exhibition as well that the Found Things seem to generate a little excitement from some members of the public.
Where my work is usually utilised as a way to make a statement, here I found myself going into the 'having fun' mode. It's all part of a healthy cycle where creativity is concerned, and I was cut off from the regular onslaught of media, getting what news from home I could from emails and a twitter feed that kept breaking my phone. At that time the general election was on- resulting in a Tory government, plus another royal baby, so in a way, it was good timing to get away from all that - not that I would neglect my duties.
Some examples of 'different' stuff include my obsession one afternoon to capture all the different styles of conifer round and about, especially the big droopy ones that looked more like beams holding up cobwebs than branches, so I filled a whole book (actually a book of medical receipts from the Policlinica) with experimental, yet overtly simplistic sketches of the trees that I could see from the balcony.
I had also been completely excited at the size of the snails in Borsec (and was the only one who was). They were huge, some the size of sea snails. I had a guilt trip after I stood on one, and then read on the internet that it was becoming a common thing for people to paint snails so they could be seen more easily. I weighed up the pros and cons of the idea, and a lot of conservation, pro-wildlife sites seem to endorse it, but I worried this would make them more visible to birds, or would harm their shells in some way. They turned out to be selling a box of non-toxic paint in the centre of the town however, so I thought to try one and over the course of my time in Borsec, it seemed to be doing fine, so I began to paint more snails till I covered the rock where I'd first discovered them in decorated snails that discussed the concept of 'home'.