Monday, 7 December 2009

Contemporary Utopia Management

Well today, after the religious holidays, I had my first meeting with Esra and Ece from CUMA, Contemporary Utopia Management, a not for profit arts organisation that in their words "aims to activate urban and rural communities by creating contemporary art projects and acting as a mentor for arts organisations and initiatives".

I really liked their ethos and their approach, and some of the projects they had done, particularly those working with rural communities.  They were planning a flash mob event on Saturday, apparently the first in Turkey, and an idea I really like..the Istanbul Complaints Choir.  Given the issues around freedom of speech, this seems like a very brave initiative.  So I've registered my mobile number and wait to hear where to meet.

They were both really friendly and incredibly helpful, providing me with a whole list of potential people to contact.  Just what I was hoping for.  As with Bucharest you just need to meet some people on the ground who are open and well connected, and know what's happening and a whole world starts to open up.  I couldn't have asked for a more welcoming and perfect start.

Thank you Esra and Ece for a great welcome and such generosity:))

You can find out more about CUMA at

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The pomegranate

If there's one fruit that sums up istanbul, it seems to be the pomegranate. Street vendors on every corner surrounded by mounds of pomegranates and oranges selling freshly squeezed juice for 1 or 2 lr.

The pomegranate has of course featured heavily in the arts and crafts (including textile designs) of parts of south east europe and south west asia, the fruit originating from Iran, and has significance to all the main religions. Here I have to do more research.

I'm not aware of it in either english or romanian design or folklore, but please correct me if I'm wrong. I still remember, when I was about ten years old, the day my dad returned from a business trip to Turkey (he worked in the coffee trade) with a pomegranate. It was the most exotic and alien fruit we had all seen up to that point in our lives. The whole family stood around it wondering what to do with it and how to eat it!!

I wonder whether the fruit is still an icon used by contemporary turkish designers. And whether the vendors are just for tourists or frequented by locals too.

More pondering of the pomegranate to do. Wikipedia as always is a good place to start.

Friday, 4 December 2009


Well made it out of bed, and out to get some food.
If Bucharest was the city of the dogs, then Istanbul is the city of the cats..everywhere you turn. Domestic, wild or semi-domestic? I shared my meal with three black kittens, who quickly decided that the people next to me had better food on offer than my vegetable kebab. No loyalty cats, not like dogs.

Strolled back to hotel, up onto the roof terrace. Amazing night time views of the Sea of Marmara, the cargo ships doted across the port, all pointing in the same direction awaiting their call to action. And the Blue Mosque at night shining bright like a golden beacon. The seagulls swooping around the minarets appear like flakes of gold that have broken free from the dome dancing with the pleasure of their new found freedom.

I forget the cold, my flu and am lost in the moment.

The Flu!

Well, I think I tempted fate by saying that this travelling lark was great, as I awoke on my first morning with a banging headache and a temperature. Great I've got flu, so I have spent all day in bed. Not exactly the start to my trip I had imagined.

rest, water, rest , water, rest, water, water, rest.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

futbol futbol

Well I've arrived in Istanbul, for the next leg of the research project to meet with potential collaborators from Turkey. This is my second time in Istanbul. Last time I came for a holiday with one of my best friends - the two of us raised christian and muslim respectively exploring the city together brought different perspectives to the journey. That time was for the tourist trail of museums, mosques,bazaars, hamans, clubs, bars, restaurants, etc.

This time I'm alone and the plan is to meet artists, musicians, dj's, curators working and living in the city. To explore, to meet, to listen, to discuss and to learn with an open mind and open heart.

I arrive at the hotel and on presenting my passport, I'm immediately questioned as to which football team I support - Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham??? The two staff (who I soon find out are both Fenerbahce supporters) and I then spend the next ten minutes shouting out random footballing names at each other..Liverpool, Steven Gerrard, Alan Hansen, Bekistas, Benayoun, Galatasarey and then out of nowhere comes Nottingham Forest and to round it off Brian Clough! - priceless. That wasn't me by the way. Football is such a great leveller.

Isn't travel wonderful.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


"I come through the paths
path: the first ABC of my life
A: alienation, B: being together
M: meeting, Z: beyond all boundaries

I grasp an island of loneliness and come"

from ABZ by Leyla Sahin