Reframe artist statement and work: Cem Özüdürü


Cem Özüduru is the youngest Turkish creator ever to have a graphic novel published: Zombistan was on the shelves in 2009, just a couple of years after Özüduru was introduced to readers in the pages of the monthly Rodeo Strip. He is also the very first Turkish artist to have his original pages on display in the Comics Museum in Angoulême, France. He is a graduate of the Painting Department of Mimar Sinan Academy of Fine Arts. Recently, his second graphic novel, Breeze of Dawn, hit the book stores in Turkey.

The first time I ever saw the illusionist Derren Brown, I was absolutely convinced that what he did was real magic. It was his stage performance called Something Wicked This Way Comes. At the end, he explained how he did it. I felt hypnotised by his wicked wit and razor-sharp cleverness as I sat in front of the screen in my dark room. Life suddenly had become more exciting and magical for me. He was using the greatest trick of all time. The trick was that ‘there was no trick’. He was simply manipulating us to think. It was hard work. It was science. It was nature, and ultimately, it was art. As Alan Moore once said: “Art is, like magic, the science of manipulating symbols, words or images, to achieve changes in consciousness”.

Brown’s style and work are real inspirations when I think of a new story. Even when I plan an outline of a page, I think about new ways of manipulating images to express my real thoughts and ideas.

In every good story, there is an unpredictable ‘abracadabra’ moment, and from Derren Brown you can learn how to deliver that moment in very different ways.

As a storyteller from a country where over-expressing highly unconventional opinions may stir things up more quickly than anticipated, watching Derren Brown demonstrate the value of free thinking and broad mindedness is an amazingly informative experience. The freedom of thought and speech is our own way of creating meaning and eventually creating art. We attribute meaning to life through thoughts and words.

Even though the speed of communication and the existence of a functional virtual reality make borders mean less to people today than they used to decades ago, it still is a challenge to speak up from one corner of the world and be heard from another. Being a writer and an artist from Turkey, I do feel the desire to reach out to people whose work has influenced me. And this current collaboration definitely provides the best opportunity for me till now.

Working on short stories about the merits and problems of the European Union was especially interesting because of the timing. With Gezi Park, protests had once again brought up the need for an updated and secured means of mass communication. Many TV channels and newspapers had tailored their portrayal of the events in an effort to please the government. What good was it to have hundreds of private channels if only a few could provide an alternative point of view?

As a means of communication, comics (and their creators) are much harder for the authorities to control. Maybe because we don’t aim for the unconditional sympathy of the man on the street, or simply because we tend more towards provocation than cooperation.

Freedom of expression is the most talked about topic at times like those we have recently lived through. And for me, it is the very core value that sets the EU apart as an example to follow. As some past incidents may imply, problems regarding self-expression may even be seen within the EU. However, I do believe that the more we practice cultural exchange, the better we sail towards dreams... Dreams like the ones we build up with pencils and brush on paper...

And dreams are where the subconscious can scream freely, uniting this and that part of any border with no regards to borders.