Northern Festival Centre, Port Pirie
16th November 2018 – February 2019

Unsettling Space

For the project Temporary Localised Art Project, presented by Tom Borgas in Port Pirie

Adelaide-based artist Tom Borgas has spent two weeks in the regional South Australian town of Port Pirie, exploring, mapping and researching its history. As we drive the street together, he points out his favourite buildings, the town’s unique architecture and relates the stories he has gleaned about the people of the port town. It’s an intimate view, but from a distance, a balance that has allowed Borgas to bring a unique eye on the town. His experiences will come together to inform a new artwork, to be created and installed at the Northern Festival Centre.

Borgas begins by walking the streets, travelling through space in order to map it and understand its layout. He has spent hours in the library researching, taking a particular liking to the mechanics manuals. This has led to conversations with locals, hearing stories about growing up in the town, and the characters that make this place a home. But there is one feature that he has come back to over and over again: the Smelter.

The smelter stack, alongside the silos, dominates the skyline. It is one of the first features that can be seen on the drive up to the Port, and plays a role in every aspect of Port Pirie life.

The first smelter was built in 1889, changing the future of Port Pirie, and the people who lived there. Its reach spreads in the very soil, the industry it represents causing the lead levels to rise and require continuous monitoring. It dominates the psyche of the town, a constant looming reminder.

In his experiments, Borgas has been redefining the skyline. Taking photographs of important features, he encases them in organic forms constructed from his signature geometric patterns. They creep from behind to envelope them, growing according to an internal logic that Borgas has defined. He has conjured digital structures, like fallen beams, and placed them into the landscape in bright colours. The speculative public sculptures do no grow slowly out of the town, but rather they explode with an energy that comes from below the surface.

Borgas will draw on these experiments to create his new work. It will grow out of the floor of the theatre, rising up before breaking through the wall of the theatre and moving into the public space outside. People will be welcomed in, invited to speak with Borgas as he builds and shapes his form. Through this process, Borgas will draw out the tension between the industrial and the environmental, transforming the space in order to find balance between these opposing forces.

Whether it’s planting shapes in disused public space, growing a new skin over a wellknown monument or developing an unknown element in the corner of the Northern
Festival Centre, Borgas’ work disrupts our idea of these everyday spaces. In doing so he draws attention the nooks and crannies, inviting his audience to reconsider their relationship with the landscape. This object will be temporary, but in removing the work in a few months, Borgas will again have changed the landscape, making us think again about how it is used, its value and meaning.