Here I am in the lobby of the Perissia Hotel in the Cappadocia Region of Turkey where the lounge entertainment is a young Turkish Man singing with an acoustic guitar. He just finished a version of Kansas's classic and a significant number of the multinational crowd joined in with him - some in earnest and some in what I can only guess is high school reverie. It's great to know that culture travels. All of the culture, 70's anthem rock included.
I was in Ankara yesterday, on a group tour. The first place we went was Anitkabir, the mausoleum to Ataturk, the man responsible for what Modern Turkey is. (His image is in every place we go, humble or extravagant.) It is an incredible place, over 200 acres dedicated to a single man. (I just want you to know, that the guitarist is going into the Eagles HOTEL CALIFORNIA right now, completely without irony.) It is a masterpiece of modernism, elegant, simple, severe and challenging. It is said that a modern man should have a modern monument. He got it all right. The wall carvings of workers are clearly influenced by Soviet posters and the ornament is elaborate on the inside but is completely subordinate to the rectangle. It is more a temple than a palace and like most temples you want to kneel the minute you come in.
I have noticed this a lot in Turkey and I am very glad that my friend Daniel Bozhkov recommended this country when I was writing the grant to the ART MATTERS Foundation. The country is very focused on the future in a way I have not experienced. The tropes of Modernism are all over the place here. The gridded streets, the apartment buildings in the International Style, the obsession with technology all abound. But these ideas are never really assimiliated. For example, you will see a house that looks like something Le Corbusier himself built, but there will be the stuff of life all over the building completely destroying the Modernism form. Satellite dishes, laundry rigging, abandoned furniture. barbecue grilles and rugs of every hue become the ornament of these buildings. It is as if what is inside of the elegant box, the evidence of human activity, is forcing itself out of the architecture. Even the signs for businesses add a garish vitality to the boxes on which they rest. The failure of the modern ideal is all over the place.
That is not to say that it is not beautiful. Quite the contrary. Plus the people are lovely and very kind and thrilled to hear about Boston. (To hear a Turk try to say "Parking the car in Harvard yard is really an amazing thing.) They are very proud of their country and its achievements and really believe in the future, in things getting better, in the promise of Modern living. This synthesis of modern austerity and Turkish ornamentalism has bred some amazing visual moments.
After Ankara we drove to Cappadocia, important for its connection to early Christian communities. St. Paul began his missionary work here and legends of him abound. Seeing all of the rock churches and catacombs where Christian his from their Ottoman and Roman oppressors was sublime. You can see evidence of the very end of the Byzantine kingdom and the birth of the Turkish nation in Anatolia. It is all over the travertine stone and the volcanic fields of wind and water shaped tufa that create a landscape out of Jules Verne.