Gumusluk Academy

Greetings from Gumusluk! By the end of three weeks, I was able to see everything that Kas had to offer, with the exception of the ruins of Phellos – maybe next time if I can figure out a route without the bees … I really love that town. But, my time was at an end and it was time to move along, lil’ dogie. Because my bags, all four of them, were quite heavy, and the flight of steps up to my apartment was long and steep, I decided to call a cab so that the guy could help me carry my bags down and get me to the bus station in the least amount of stress and strain. Where are those sherpas when you need ’em, eh?

The large Pamukkale bus bound for Izmir left at 9:50 am, with stops in Kalkan, Fethiye, Dalaman, and several unidentified villages on the highway, and got me to my stop, Mugla, at 2:25. I had understood that the bus to Bodrum, the next place on my journey, was leaving at 4, but when I went up to the counter to get a ticket, the man said another company’s bus would be leaving in 5 minutes. Great, because the Mugla bus station was not exactly the place where I wanted to be spending an hour and a half waiting. I got the attendant to help me with my bags, which he crammed into the luggage storage, and hopped on with only 2 minutes to spare.

On these buses, in addition to the driver, there are two other attendants, one who looks after getting the luggage on and off, and the other, not unlike a flight attendant, who drags the drinks and snacks trolley down the isle and doles them out as required. The first big bus ride was quite pleasant and I had the row to myself. The small bus from Mugla to Bodrum was a bit dodgy and not as pleasant, though. A midibus, it seated 27 and I was stuck in the back row next to a drunk who laughed and talked to himself and absolutely reeked of stale booze. It was also a bit top-heavy and wobbly; as we rolled down the highway, passing the odd truck, I was a bit nervous at times that we’d tip. On both buses there were people hacking and coughing and all I could think about was swine flu and whether any of them had recently been to Mexico. Upon arriving at the Bodrum Otogar, I was directed to the even smaller dolmush under the trees, bound for Gumusluk, about 40 minutes away on the coast. I arrived safely at the crossroads in Gumusluk where Ilknur was to pick me up and there she was. After grabbing my bags and throwing them into her car, we zipped off to the Gumusluk Academy, my home for the month of May. The three-bus trip took about 8 ½ hours.

The Academy is an odd bird of a place. Although it is not actually that old, it reminds me of some place out of the hippie era of the 70s. It has a Cortes Island feel about it. It also reminds me a bit of the Santa Reparata studio in Florence in which I worked in the early 90s, just in terms of its general seediness. The complex of buildings occupies a very nice plot of land on a hill overlooking the valley, the sea and several ruined hilltop windmills. Down below us and stretched out along the hillside opposite, are houses, both local and vacation homes, the latter which look like small white wooden blocks (although they’re concrete) perched on the hill.

The Academy buildings are clustered in small blocks. My Spartan room is in a complex of three, all of which are situated over the art studios below. I have a comfortable bed, a wooden table and chair, some cupboards with nothing in them (the cupboards were indeed bare), a tiny bathroom, and … a huge, wonderful deck out front with a beautiful view over the valley. When I flush my toilet, it sounds like a jet engine taking off. At the moment, I have no hot water. In addition to 13 residential rooms, the Academy also has a kitchen/living room complex, a library/meeting room complex, and a theatre with a disused-looking stage, overlooking a large fish pond. Also, the Academy Founders, a novelist and a photographer, both have quite nice houses here, up the hill a bit from my room. While the grounds are wonderful, full of lush semi-tropical vegetation and flowers, the buildings are less so, desperately needing to be refurbished. At the moment a crew of people is working on that, painting, redoing the library and generally trying to get the place into better shape. Ilknur explained that the weather has been wetter than usual and, as a consequence, damp and mold have done their damage in some areas. I gather that a sculptor will be arriving soon so the crew is preparing his room at the moment.

I was welcomed by the workers and the other residents and joined them for a dinner of rice, chicken, spinach and lentils. In addition to Ilknur, who has lived here for five years and is the Managing Director of the Foundation, there is Mehmet, her painter boyfriend (who works in a semi-abstract expressionist style), an unnamed sculptor who occupies one of the other rooms in my complex (whose neo-classical white marble sculptures can be found stationed around the grounds), Pilin from Istanbul, a fiction writer and poet (she writes haiku while working in her zen garden), Nils, a sportswriter specializing in soccer, his girlfriend Erhan, Baba, the workers’ boss and chief cook, and several male workers whose names escape me at the moment. Also, there are two lovely dogs, a male and a female who play ferociously together, and cats, the latter which I’ve not yet seen – maybe tomorrow.

The insanely barking dogs have followed me here from Kas, although thankfully most of the roosters seemed to have stayed behind. I can hear a few strangled cries off in the distance but not as many or as loud as in my previous pad. In Kas they were in my back yard; here they’re in the valley below.

Near the entrance to the Academy are many blocks of stone, mostly white marble but also a variety of others, along with some machinery, presumably for working with stone. Tumbling down the hill from the cabin on which the crew is working is a stream of rotten wood. In the artist studios below my place are woodworking equipment, clay and a kiln, easels, tables, and stacks and stacks of wood, along with reminders of artists past in the form of sculptures and paintings. At the end of a hallway lined with old wood and wooden doors, is another room full of wood, Styrofoam, disused equipment and materials, and sundry other unidentifiable junk, a packrat’s dream. The tile floor in here is sagging and water stains cover part of the floor and walls; many of the tiles are cracked and worn and algae creeps up the walls.

Frankly, I don’t quite know what to make of the place. In a way it looks like a dream that died, or never really got off the ground. Or, this being Turkey, perhaps that’s just the way a place like this would always be, sort of semi-decrepit even when only days old. In Turkey, even places, such as houses, apartments and the like, that are quite new are never in pristine condition. For some reason, there’s always something wrong with them. Whether it is because the builders are sloppy, or just don’t care, or are working too quickly, I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s an attitude of  “Good enough” … or perhaps being surrounded with ruins makes the people immune to things like chipped tiles, peeling paint, creaking doors, cupboards that don’t close properly, lights that don’t work properly, etc. Or maybe, in the case of the Academy, they just don’t have enough money, or people, or time, to worry about some of it.

Even so, I sure this will be a fascinating place to work for a month. My intentions are to seek out some “objects” and locations for installations. The ruined windmills on the hilltop look promising. And apparently across the valley is a “dead village” of ruins; as well, the ruins of the ancient city of Myndos are nearby, mostly under water but some on dry land. I’m looking forward to exploring the area. Today at noon Nils, Erhan and Pilin are taking me to the local open air bazaar.

See pictures here.

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