Encounters with Adata #2

28 Sep 2015 | Alex Head - Adata Island, Bulgaria

4. August |

The poet speaks on the threshold of being…

First day without my assistant and i'm nearly seen going through transition, coming both in and out of the site. Boy on a bicycle to my left coming towards me down the pedestrian walkway of the motorway. I pause for time as the steps down to the island are getting close, checking my phone. He whistles as loud as possible as he passes me. Loud enough for me to realise it’s for someone else, on the other side of the traffic and to not look. Two guys, homies, look over at us as he passes bye.

By the time I work out who and where they are they're still walking to my rear so now I have to slow down again. I pull out the edited map of the city I had to add my own directions to this morning and stand there. Pretending to be stupid(?). I make a sweet disappearance behind a green canvas covered lorry while they mootch on ahead looking over their shoulders at me intermittently.

I'm sucking in. Bringing everything into some sort of equilibrium of the basics like an astronaught. One cigarette at the end of the day. Water, cereal, rice. No more cabs, I find I can walk to the island in less than thirty minutes. Then another twenty stomping though the brush, making the same mistakes as last week, trying to keep calm. This is harder alone. Of course. But I manage to get about an hour and a half of reading and notation in today so it seems this is going to work - a concept in action, a limited place from which to study the basics needed for knowledge production.


The island as a kind of elaborate metaphor for the creation of new knowledge itself: the anxious unknowns, the drifting mind under sweltering heat that nonetheless finds moments of clarity, just enough to keep going. The cool river as a wonderfully flowing, fleeting continuum of ideas. But it’s jumpy. I read: "At the level of the poetic image the duality of subject and object is iridescent, shimmering…" as a dragonfly crashed into the book taking my bookmark flying into the tarp with it and i'm on my haunches, fucking tense, hands in some sort of chi gung karate position > completely still, laughing, nervously.

The dragonfly are particularly curious and basically very friendly. They want to know everything! At the river they move about in families utterly synchronised. Morphically connected or just very keen on the leaders movements? You can see why the river would encourage curiosity and playfulness, its divine on the north side of the island and was indeed once the prime swimming spot in Plovdiv. But for my purposes it seems too good to be true - visually covered from all angles, flowing fast enough to be super clear and seemingly clean compared to the other stretches not far to the west of the city (upstream). And cool, so cool even in the late afternoon when the sun has curved over the island and sits above you. With willow trees for protection and a natural aid to embarking and disembarking from the water (you can also just hang-on in the strong current and let yourself be buoyed up), the beach aspect has lost non of its appeal despite its place in the cities consciousness. Who am I to place it back on their psychic map? A determined element in the mix - this could be a big project.


On the way out I make what I hope will be a navigational breakthrough. Stick to the right (southern) flank of the island and head in (north) before you hit the scary concrete box that's been crudely draped in plastic, head though the brush and you hit the trail. In reverse, which is always the more complicated direction to navigate from, I made note of a large round stone. Ideally if I take this as the cue to turn left and head diagonally straight I should enter the fairly unobtrusive long left flank (southern side) of Adata that leads to the studio. We'll see. Dude up to my right as I ascend the staircase. Did he see me? Does he care? How long would it take for a story to circulate toward those I should be afraid of (t)here? How long could one actually hide out in such a place?

6. August |

"You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow, they know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths, or other kinds of dogmas or goals, its because these dogmas or goals are in doubt."

Slope over to Adata in the afternoon some time, escape the mad rush of the city of Plovdiv, take a little R&R on your own private island… No fear today, no feeling of anticipation underlying my excitement to be back on site. I have an objective: to create a bench and sit still upon it. Also, after ten days here i'm beginning to look less conspicuous, dusty, bearded and tanned. Not that i've noticed that beards are particularly popular save for the ridiculous velcro stick-on ones of a few ironic artisté types in the hip area of Kapana (EN: The Trap).

I meet the dead dog under the staircase that bridges the official to the unofficial city, from the motorway to Adata. I want to decapitate it and take it's skull. I know I should ask first. How? By drawing it. But this is the most risky part of the island - how can I set up a still life studio here? I ask the dog. It tells me to create an idea cemetery on the island. I settle for this and shoot it.

Talking to the architect about writing this journal, not least because hers is its prototype. She says,

'The thing is that everyone is leading these mad, epic lives but hardly anyone is putting it down, expressing the narrative voice or perhaps even listening to that voice.'

Sight says too many things at one time…

'Right', I reply, 'Which is why certain details can appear shocking or throw you off balance - we're just not used to hearing people express the full complexity of their experiences. Finding new ways of expressing the infinite day to day paraphernalia that make up our lives'.

This alone brings me out of a funk that had been festering and attempting to work itself out for days. Once more I sense admiration grow. Lightness and weight; perception is everything, but especially so in the field of human interrelations. Loneliness is a valid ontological plane, a field of metaphysical existence. Only we should probably not call it loneliness but rather, the anxiety of boredom. For once acknowledged and labeled as such boredom is far less of an obstacle than fear. Boredom can be proactively dispatched and we might do well to acknowledge loneliness in such a manner during the inevitable down time visited by the expanding and contracting, restless mind.

A slick, beautiful otter takes to the water on the other side of the bank as I bask in the current, suspended and concealed by a willow tree.


The return route stumps me once again, it took me half an hour to find the path, trudging up and down the southern flank, hitting the drug den and retreating only to decide, screw it, drug den or no drug den i've got to get off this place to meet Stefka! Eventually I hit the path after some serious jungle. Next time, time to experiment with leaving an exit trail, having now mastered the entrance navigation… though I am of course wary of the benefits to making it easier to find the studio. Same process as urban gentrification only in miniature: leave a coherent trail of signs and the yuppies start piling in. I'm not ambivalent about my presence here, it’s just that I am beginning to feel that Plovdiv 2019 only has in fact a rather remote chance of leading to the sites development, for good or bad.

The paradox is that it would be a measure of my success as an active agent to see the place being built upon in the manner of my design, despite the fact that my core intention is to leave it as it is physically while shifting its meaning and status as a waste-land. If I propose any form of material development for Adata to the Foundation Plovdiv 2019, it will, in my view, also have to fail materially as part of its conceptual success. I’m looking at a train crash as the ideas currently stand.

I would only want to ensure access, and to support efforts toward situated planning such as the idea to make the island an official park. Which is of course still to alter it… So perhaps the safest bet is to turn the island into a conceptual cemetery after all, one into which any number of masterplans, legislated borders and fashionable ventures for the aspiring urban coolster could be put to sleep.

I sit still facing downstream, why not. The meditation bench I have fashioned offers two directions of orientation, like a conversation chair. And this means facilitating a clear view in both directions out of the studio.

Once this is done and I've taken a swim to cool off I begin with the usual matra of breathing and pronouncing the Om. Clearing the space around yourself with sound, creating a bond with all the other instances of its pronunciation for you personally.

I have never shared this process with anyone before I met Anna. I am learning from her. Not only through her writing and work but from the way that she acts and reacts to the world. I've have met few people so adept in the balancing of ease and difficulty - treating that in the possession of lightness with weight and that with the qualities of weight with lightness. An ability that, coupled by no slight intellect, redraws the question of what intelligence actually is time and again. Ommmmmmmm… haha. At sommmmme point into the meditation it begins to rain lightly upon the leaves of the trees around me. I decide to sit still until the shower passes and do so.

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