It has taken two weeks to get around to posting something concerning what is surely the biggest news from Caravansarai since our opening:  We have officially closed our doors!  Of course there are new owners of Caravansarai—but if you have plans to do a residency with them, you should be ready to hang out with two dudes with no interest in “culture” unless it involves supermodels and fancy nightclubs.

The selling process began more than six months ago, but it didn’t reach the crucial money-exchanging-hands moment until the first week of March.  I (Anika) flew to Istanbul to be there for all the negotiating, logistisizing, notarizing, and tea-consuming that we knew would ensue.  We were unprepared for how time and energy consuming this task would be, and we were expecting A LOT!

A view of the room with all concerned parties:  Buyers, Sellers, Lawyers, Accountants!

A view of the room with all concerned parties: Buyers, Sellers, Lawyers, Accountants!

I wish that Julie had one of those pedometer apps (I wish I had a smart phone) that would clock how many steps we took down Istiklal Caddesi in the course of 4 days of running around!  I would estimate our steps would be somewhere close to a bajillion, but I wasn’t really counting.  I was concerned with more pressing issues—like, “Why did I wear these white high-heeled shoes in the rain?” And, “I wonder at which tax office you pay the Environmental Cleaning Tax?”

The reason that we had to put in so much walking time just to sell the business is the same reason that everything in Turkey takes so much effort—inefficiency, bad attitude, or lack of communication. Or all three.  Thank goodness for our fantastic lawyer–the wonderful Hasan Çarpar!   But even with his awesome skills of grace and timing, we spend an inordinate amount of time doing all the legwork necessary to make this sale legitimate.

Timeline to Freedom:

February 26:  Anika arrives at Julie’s flat at 6am, promptly goes to bed and wakes up with a migraine.   We spend the day fueling up to face the upcoming days of confusion.

February 27: We have a preliminary meeting with our lawyers to strategize about what needs to happen in order to make this sale go smoothly.  Although we can’t say that it sounded straightforward, it did not sound impossible to accomplish in a day or two.

February 28th:  6-hour long meeting at Hasan’s office with the buyers, their lawyer and their accountant in which we negotiate the terms of the sale.  Truly a ridiculous display of the absolute NEED for Turkish men to at least TRY to get a bargain or otherwise feel like they are coming away with an advantage in the situation. Also in typical fashion, the buyers tried to stall the sale (for no discernible reason other than they could) by asking Anika if she could change her return flight back to Sweden.  She answered them that she could, but she won’t.  That got across the point that we weren’t really into dragging our feet on this matter.

At this meeting we established that we had to:

  1. Get a notarized signature from our renters that they would pay us their back rent personally
  2. Pay two different and completely random taxes (the Environmental Cleaning Tax and the Lease Tax)—which must be paid at two different tax offices.
  3. Get the ‘books’ from the accountant
  4. Transfer all of our accounts into Turkish Lira and close our foreign currency accounts
  5. The buyers had to get their money together, because, yes, in Turkey you still pay for buildings  in cash!

 

The  “dilekçe’.  A dilekçe just means a request for something.  But in bureaucratic Turkish, it is the equivalent of asking the Sultan or his agents to perform a service for you.  Something like, “Dear Revered and Respected Civil Servant Who is Representing Our Supreme Outdated Government, Please allow us to pay the total amount owed on our Lease Tax.  Forever indebted, Caravansarai.”

The “dilekçe’. A dilekçe just means a request for something. But in bureaucratic Turkish, it is the equivalent of asking the Sultan or his agents to perform a service for you. Something like, “Dear Revered and Respected Civil Servant Who is Representing Our Supreme Outdated Government, Please allow us to pay the total amount owed on our Lease Tax. Forever indebted, Caravansarai.”

March 1st and 2nd:  This was a weekend and there was nothing we could do.  We just prepared ourselves for the rush of stuff we would have to do on Monday.

March 3:  We walked from home, to the tax office off of Istiklal, back to the tax office in Şişhane, stopped for an enforced lunch hour (the offices all close for lunch), returned to the first tax office where we met our lawyer and laughed over the fact that for this particular tax we were classified as an amusement park, fair, or carnival!  Then we had to go to the noter to prove, for the 500th time, that we can speak  and understand Turkish.  After that, Julie and Hasan went to do something at the bank and I went and picked up ‘the books’ (which was actually just a blank school ledger notebook with a noter stamp on each and every page)  and then met them at the bank.  I don’t remember what we did there, but it was not fun. The day ended at Hasan’s office for a bit of de-briefing. 

March 4:  The Big Day! The noter’s office had prepared our documents and everything we needed to sign and we were altogether supposed to meet there at 10am—after ‘the Boys’ (as we had taken to calling the buyers) wired us some money and got money orders from their respective banks. But of course, they were late. Some problem with exchanging money, etc.  So we went and sat in a çay house with our lawyer and their accountant and wait for them.  Julie and I got antsy and went for one last trip to the building to take any remaining belongings.  We took a slow-cooker, the vacuum cleaner, and some curtains and dropped them off at Julie’s studio.  We then got the call from Hasan that they were now at the Noter, and we could go do this thing!  However, one of the guys spelled Anika’s name wrong on his cashier’s check and had to journey back to Maslak to have his bank cut it again.  Geez!  So once again, we had an enforced lunch hour, did a little shopping and then returned once again to the Noter.  After almost an hour of sweltering in this tiny space with our wet coats on, it was done!  Papers signed, money transferred, checks handed over!  But we still had to get to the bank to deposit the checks.  So all 6 of us walked back up Istiklal for what we hoped was the last time.  At this point the Boys were getting super antsy like small children, fidgeting in their chairs and playing with their phones.

 

The Boys fidgeting and being impatient

The Boys fidgeting and being impatient

We all rushed back to Hasan’s office, signed a few more things, gave each other our congratulations, and that was that!

We all rushed back to Hasan’s office, signed a few more things, gave each other our congratulations, and that was that!

Finished! An entire 12 hours before Anika’s March 5th AM flight.  Just enough time for a champagne happy-hour at Julie’s studio.

Even now, trying to write this, I find myself not being able to remember all the details because it was such a blur of walking, raining, shivering, waiting, stamping, signing, talking, and problem-solving.  But in the end, the result was the same:  Julie and Anika have resumed civilian life!  Ah, free at last!

Exhausted, but newly independent!

Exhausted, but newly independent!

This phrase keeps popping into my head these weeks as we launch upon the grand adventure of selling our building. Our building is our ‘funding’, so to speak. Four years ago, when we decided we wanted to start an art space, we knew we had little chance for any grants, funding, or any other financial support for our endeavor. Our only chance was to put down our dollars, take a loan, start a business, and buy our building. This is the final step, when our money is returned, hopefully along with our four years of salary, interest, and enough to buy a nice dinner for us and our friends.

I must say right off that it’s definitely easier to sell property that buy it, though the process is no less stressful or emotionally draining. We began with a slow word of mouth through our friends and contacts in Istanbul and abroad. This gathered the interest of Turkish artist looking for a living space and studio ‘near the center’, a few businessmen wanting apartments to rent out, and a lot of disbelief. You are really selling Caravansarai????

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Our neighborhood, on the other hand, was alive with gossip. Almost every day one of our neighbors in Perşembe Pazarı was coming up to me asking how much we are selling it for, telling me they know someone who wants to buy it, and asking please for my phone number. Uggg, the mere thought of the dozens of random Turkish men barking at me over the phone was enough to stress me out right then and there.

Two friends immediately got down to business and started researching the possibility of loans, selling family properties, and other ways to raise enough cash for the purchase. We talked a lot and were mutually very excited about the possibility that our building could have a cultured next-life, though I understood from the start that timing would be a problem.

The contractor that renovated our building tried to help by introducing us to a friend of his that might be interested. The friend was actually a real estate agent, which showed up to see the building with another real estate agent, and a potential buyer. I never did understand exactly the arrangement that the four of them had with each other, but at that point we understood we needed to set our own rules and proceed at our own pace.

Enter our faithful lawyer. With him I proceeded on a tour of a few real estate. The first meeting, a neighborhood friend of our lawyer’s proceeded in typical Turkish fashion – tea, talk, interrupting phone calls, the agent sitting behind a high, cluttered desk with his certificates and awards gracing the wall behind him. A few days later he responded that his clients aren’t really looking for investments in Karaköy. Ok.

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this is not the agent we visited…..but it could be!

The second meeting was with a new office in Karaköy, opened specifically to broker local and international investments in and around Karaköy in light of the imminent GalataPort development project. The difference between the two meetings couldn’t have been more extreme. We sat at an empty conference table, each member of our party having a clear line of sight to the other. Here, clear information about every facet of the work, responsibilities, commission, and timing were presented clearly, in chronological fashion. They called a few days later to say they had a serious client and could they please bring him by to see the building. Our lawyer saw this as a tactic to push us to sign a contract with them, but I saw more as proactivity. Nuevo-Ottoman apart hotel here we come!

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the sultan’s suite

Settling into the lull of commercial real estate, I’m working to break the last remaining strings of attachment I have to the building itself. With our personal belongings and much of the furniture removed, that has been an easier process. Hopes of a good future for our dear building are growing slim. We simply can’t agree to wait for a situation where there is waiting and risks when we can take the path of a clear straightforward business transaction. But does a shrewd decision necessarily have to end in so much faux gold?

Since the close of our building, we have been soul-searching and rediscovering who we are as a collective. What is our mission? What are our goals? What sort of projects are we attracted to? Who will take part in these projects? Where is the money that is supposed to fall out of the sky allowing us to make these goals a reality?

One such goal–that has been much discussed throughout the history of Caravansarai–is to have matching outfits for all our members. A team uniform, if you will. Arni and I have a performance we do in which we have dolls who’s clothes match our own. Julie and I occasionally buy the same jacket, or shirt, or sometimes the same dress.

uniform

Last year, when Istanbul was the 2012 Capital of Sport, we designed tracksuits for the Caravansarai Goldfish (our swim team that never happened.) Then we decided all of our artists should have matching attire.

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I am finally in a place to make the matching outfit dream a reality. I am in China. There are whole stores where they sell matching outfits for couples. It is also possible to have anything made to specification on the spot. People can buy matching pajamas and wear them outside and often do!!! All I’m saying is that if we can reach some sort of consensus on our work clothes, then perhaps it will help us construct and firm up our future goals altogether. But what do our members think?

Me (Anne Weshinskey): I vote for our orientalist Party 21 dresses (pictured above) and the track suits for sportive occasions, and the yellow painter overalls for work. I am currently working on a new foot juggling apparatus with the Fujian Acrobatic Troupe, developing a new stage show with two other American acrobats trained in China, and making work with my husband, Arni Gudmundsson.

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Arni Gudmundsson: Arni is partial to yellow painters overalls. He is doing a residency at the Chinese European Art Center  in Xiamen, China.

Julie Upmeyer: Last time I checked, Julie agreed with me: That we should have a variety of matching outfits to pull out depending upon the occasion. Julie is currently being hyper-productive in her new studio in Şişhane, Istanbul. Her newest work was exhibited with critical acclaim in a show, which will close the 30th of October at BAUART (the new gallery of Bahçeşehir University)

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Here Julie’s work is featured on television

Sibel Horada: I would hope that Sibel prefers the Party 21 dresses. However, I think there was some sort of debate about choosing NEW dresses. We have yet to see the designs. Sibel is also very hard at work in the studio she shares with Julie (and another artist Mehmet Ekiz) in Şişhane. Her solo show at Daire Sanat in Istanbul opens soon.

Korhan Erel: I would like to think that Korhan would do anything for art and just wear the Party 21 dress, but I think he has his own opinion in the matter. Damn. Always motivated and headstrong, Korhan is always playing concerts with various improvisational artists. Currently in Istanbul, you can check out Korhan’s website for when and where to catch him: korhanerel.com

Fiona Davies: She is strictly anti-uniform unless it is black or silk. I don’t wear black, but if she can come up with something in silk, I will wear it. Fiona has been making new work, curating, traveling, and just unveiled a sculpture commission in Australia and is now taking a break to organize herself and her studio.

Anita Bacic: Anita has been very vocal about her refusal to wear any sort of tight dress. Therefore, the Party 21 dresses are out. She does plan to buy a pair of the yellow painter overalls when she returns to Istanbul from traveling around in Europe researching for artworks.

We welcome any other member or the CC to post their preferences and update us about their current projects via the comments!!!!!

Live from Istanbul, Sweden

I had become accustomed to thinking that there is nothing in my life worse than dealing with Turkish bureaucracy. But then I encountered something even more frightening: Turkish bureaucracy in Sweden! Combine the macho inefficiency of Turkey with the macho inflexibility of Sweden and Viola! You have the recipe for one of the most frustrating experiences of your life.

So, as we had announced a few weeks ago, Julie and I are selling Caravansarai (the business and the building.) In an awesome example of bad timing, I picked September 24th as the date I was going to move to Stockholm. But before I can start to actually live in Stockholm, I am doing a residency of my own in Xiamen, China for three months. I only give these personal details as a way to explain how I found myself in the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm a mere 20 hours after I left Turkey.

In the past months leading up to our final exhibition and my imminent departure, I had forgotten to give Julie the authority (invested by the Turkish government) to sell my shares of the Caravansarai business in my absence. That gives me exactly 3 days to take care of this little, piddling piece of bureaucracy before I head to China. “No problem”, my lawyer says.

I’m not sure if the agent who authorizes power of attorney was constipated, or hates women wearing green coats, or Americans with red hair and green eyes and small hands, or didn’t like the way I spoke Turkish, or what. All I know is that at some point in our interaction it because clear that this man did not like me and that would cause a “Big Problem”.

He seemed on my side as I explained in Turkish what I wanted to do. He told me, “We only do that in the morning.” Which is sort of funny because their consular service hours are 9-12 in the morning and then again from 2-3 in the afternoon. We arrived promptly at 2 in the afternoon with the expectation that we would probably have to come back in the morning. And as we all sat there, waiting for the agents to arrive at the windows, the clock ticked away. Finally, at 2:21, one agent approached the window. He took a customer. Then another agent called another number five minutes later and quickly told those customers to take a hike. After them, we were called up.

So I am supposed to come back the next morning. But what am I supposed to bring with me for this very simple procedure? I considered that a pretty reasonable question in my position. He asks me, “Are you Swedish?” I say ‘No, I’m American”. “The partner you are giving the power to, is she Turkish?” “No, she is also American”, I reply. A small groan from the guy. I start to feel nauseous.
“Let me see your passport.”

Keep in mind that throughout this entire time, we have been speaking Turkish. He then asks me, “Can you understand Turkish”. And I reply that yes, we have been speaking Turkish to each other for the past five minutes. But then he decides he is going to test me, so he grabs the paperwork of the previous customer and asks me what it says. First of all—major violation of that person’s privacy! Because, guess what? I can understand what it says. Fortunately for that Turkish citizen,whose documents I was asked to read, the sentence he chose only said that all of the things recounted in the succeeding paragraphs are first hand accounts of.and told by, the person himself. So I told the agent that. And he said, “No, how do you say it in Turkish!” And I pointed out to him that that sentence IS already in Turkish and I was telling him what it says in English—the only other language I can speak relatively well. He snatched away the story of the poor, violated Turkish Citizen and asked me, “Can you speak any other languages?”

At this point, I realized that he did not believe I had the ability to understand the power of attorney document written in Turkish. And probably, I couldn’t. Who understands legal jargon in any language? He then told me to go and have something or other translated in Swedish (huh? I don’t speak Swedish) and then notarized and bring it back in the morning.

We just came back in the morning and hoped we would get another agent. And we did! But after explaining to her in Turkish what we wanted, she summoned the guy we had the day before! And he was just as grumpy. But this time, Arni (my husband) had strategized that he would use his Icelandic charm. I still am unsure what that means theoretically, but in practice, it meant that he told Arni he was not going to help us and that we could just take the document written in Turkish by our lawyer to a notary public and have my signature notarized. But without any explanation of why and what we were to do then. He said, in Swedish, “We are finished here, I am not going to help you.”

At the notary public we found out that we needn’t have ever subjected ourselves to the abuse of the Turkish-Swedish bureaucrat because all we needed for this procedure was an Apostille. Thank you Hague Conference on Private International Law and thank you Maria Lindkvist and Mikael Bratt, Notaries Public, for providing your little oasis of civilization and sanity as contrast against the pathetic, dismal display of consular ‘service’.

Happy Anniversary, Honey!!! Today I bought Julie a milkshake and a hamburger to commemorate our partnership as Caravansarai. She had sadly forgotten that today is the day, three years ago, that we opened our doors. But it is understandable that we would forget that today marks the date of a momentus occasion, because we have been seriously busy with a few other momentus tasks recently!

Most notable of these tasks has been the opening and continued run of our final exhibition, Perşembe Pazarı Projects. We managed the work of 13 artists, in addition to creating our own, doing all of our own design, publicity, and basically everything. We deserve more than a milkshake, but I suppose an awesome show is its own reward!

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Opening guests do secret Hurdacı Karaoke.  Looks fun, huh?

Opening guests do secret Hurdacı Karaoke. Looks fun, huh?

Fiona Davies' work, "Blood on Silk: Turn to Turn Away" but AT NIGHT!!! Spooky.

Fiona Davies’ work, “Blood on Silk: Turn to Turn Away” but AT NIGHT!!! Spooky.

This is a runic grafitti in Icelandic which translates as, "Arni was here and found his wife, Anne"  Awwwww

This is a runic grafitti in Icelandic which translates as, “Arni was here and found his wife, Anne” Awwwww

It was not done with conscious intent, but it seems funny to us that we would start an end on the same date. How’s that for “closure”?

So it seems like now is a good time–two years after our last post–to make our big announcement:

We are selling Caravansarai and organizing what we are considering our final activity in the space—A retrospective exhibition of all the works about Perşembe Pazarı done by Caravansarai Collective in the last four years

We are not desperate, but, like this photo, we are sad!

We are not desperate, but, like this photo, we Are sad!

That’s right, our LAST activity. After September 21st, there will be no more circus classes, no more workshops, residencies, Thanksgiving dinners, cross-dressing parties, Ms. Kumpir pageants, art production, open studios, Miss Universe appearances, or drinking tea on the terrace. At least in this building.

What there will be, though, is the expanded artistic careers of the two of us, along with the rest of the collective! While we both pursue our own personal artistic careers (more on that in later posts), we intend to continue working together far into the future as Caravansarai Collective.

Our newest collaborative (and homeless) endeavor is called “Hindsight is 20/20”: A Case Study. The Caravansarai team reflects upon all that we have done since the conception of our idea in Istanbul. The final outcome of this reflective process will be a case study presented in a symposium format. It will consist of lectures, exhibitions, performances, discussions and other creative content generated by the Caravansarai Collective and other participants.

Hilarious, and frightening, and so true . . .

Hilarious, and frightening, and so true . . .

So, to pick up where we left off—this blog will be the container which will hold all of the thoughts and experiences of the next investigative phase of Caravansarai without a space.

We here at Caravansarai (All two of us) are big fans of summer. And if there is swimming involved, it is pretty much paradise. Which is why we are a little disappointed that our building isn’t big enough to include a pool (or an elevator, or a hot tub, or any of the other things we get requests for.)

Our summer residents positively melted, but it didn’t make them any less productive–and we DID fit in many trips to our favorite Princes’ Island, Burgazada.

June artist Tim Craker went straight to work designing rusty tiles, delicate mobiles, and prints on paper. Then one day he discovered beet juice, and we loved coming to work to be greeted by bright, fuchsia beet prints pressed to paper. Sadly, you CAN take it with you, and he did. He returned to Australia (via Malaysia) with everything he made save a mobile made of plastic cups. This was the prototype for a work which now hangs in a hotel in Penang.

And if you can stand any more fabulousness in this powerhouse month–Tamiko Thiel spent the long days networking for an upcoming Augmented Reality intervention for the Istanbul Biennial, visiting sites, and was just generally interesting. Tamiko was joined by her husband, Peter and Tim’s partner, David (a chef!) helped us kick off the summer the way it is meant to be: Spent mostly grilling on the terrace.

The temperature spikes in July–much to the chagrin of novelist, Randa Jarrar. I had promised her that by the time she left Istanbul, she would be able to lay out in a sweater and black jeans and not break a sweat. While that did not happen, Randa DID complete her latest novel, gave a reading at a dinner party in her honor, AND swam several times in the sea.

Douglas Gast built a website for his Pin-a-Point project while spending some quality time on the islands working on his tan with girlfriend, Casey. The lovebirds got engaged during his residency. Awww. . .

Ouch. August is never a productive time in Istanbul, and this one promised to be less so, as it was also the month of Ramazan. We had warned our guests–artist Fiona Davies, curator/writer/theorist Freek Lomme, and designer Lara deGreef that life moves s-l-o-w-l-y during these days. But they managed to get more done that we expected: Fiona shot footage off of our terrace of the hardware action below, made silk paper, researched various divergent topics, and went swimming. Lara developed a pattern copier, designed patterns, and learned the Turkish handicraft of oya, and went swimming. Freek did not go swimming, but from his perch at a low table in our office, he sweated away over his computer writing texts, poetry, and generally taking over the Istanbul art scene. Freek, Lara, and Fiona’s stay ended with a public display of Show and Tell.

I can’t believe the summer is over!