In the Summer of 2015 I spent 5 weeks investigating, inhabiting and documenting the island wasteland Adata in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. At times I was joined by the artist & architect Anna Kostreva and my assistant and photographer William Head. The following audio file is an extract from the journal I kept while in Plovdiv read by myself and translated by Dimana Petrova. The recording was produced for One Architecture Week, Plovdiv, 2015.
28. July |
Alex Head Ryanair of the Art World
This is a beautiful country. I ate an uncultivated mushroom risotto last night, I saw Luis in the airport, no chance to speak but it was a nice touch. A last familiar face at the threshold of known and less known.
Today my brother and I traveled by train to begin what will hopefully become a series of meditations, a lived experiment and a way to reflect upon on the consequences of ones being in the world. Sounds rather profound. Its anyone’s guess quite how the conditions of our environment will shape the qualities of our existence there, on the momentarily abandoned island wasteland Adata.
I suspect that the Adata project will be less about the production of works than establishing a place to speak from, a set of coordinates partially designated by the Homey Island project, from which to plot a position. In this sense it cannot really be planned so much as arrived at. However this much we know: the wider city in which we propose to make our encampment is one of the oldest in the world. It's 6,000 year history gives us an intersection of cultures and forces at the heart of a transitional zone between Europe and Asia. Bulgaria itself is also characterized by transition, movement, migration. This is a central topic here as across much of the globe with a large wave of emigration from Bulgaria some 10 years ago and increasing numbers using the country as a border zone, arriving from Turkey and Syria on route to further reaches of the EU. If Plovdiv is historically a destination, it must also be conceptualised as a place of departure - hosting three major universities in medicine, agriculture and theatre. Plovdiv: Center of Bulgaria. Bulgaria: Center of the World.
Economically Bulgaria is of course still peripheral to the megaliths of Paris, London and Frankfurt - giving Adata island a strange and contradictory positionality itself: central to the cities geography, yet peripheral to the Plovdivian urban imagination. Central to the formalised global map (floating above the African continent) yet obscure and even exotic to both Western and Eastern experience. What access, if any, will I be afforded to a conversation around contemporary migratory issues in this country, bounded as I am by a severe lack of language? I think this project could be presented in a number of contexts beginning each time with the question and experience of inhabitation and home. The writing of Gaston Bachelard will help here theoretically speaking but this is also, if not more about describing what happens. Performative research that collapses the dichotomy of art/life once and for all. This seems appropriate given the recent imitation of my work by 'real life'.
Between the cool mountainous regions of the west that range down to the warmer, hotter planes that kiss the Black Sea, perhaps Adata can provide the basic shelter and security for reflection and further consideration upon how to exist in this world politically, spiritually, as an aesthete. What is necessary? What is it to be here? The peripheral position I hold as an artist is somehow coherent with these trains of thought though only worth a fleeting consideration. Known but not acknowledged, operating on the minimum possible turnover, emerging at obscure destinations not quite where they claim to be, truly the Ryanair of the art world. (Like the aforementioned air company I am also willing to use deviant or unorthodox proposals as a means of self promotion.)
Ryanair will typically pioneer flight connections in low cost areas before more expensive franchises move in to formalize the market. In this sense the 'pioneering' aspect of occupying Adata is never far from my attitude towards the projects' life and documentation. Is this about provocation or response? If we are participating in the former how would/could our presence and it's documentation - indeed this piece of writing - be employed or used by others to create affect for the island? How could this project be used to create an image of avant guard artistic intervention with the accompanying socio-cultural capital in tow? What is at stake here for the city? In response to the idea of Adata becoming a space of "Unlimited Creativity" we arrive at our destination 4 years early. However if we recognize the previous event of the city being awarded the ECC in 1999, we're 15 years too late. What on earth happened last time, I cannot wait to discover.