Interview mit Erhan Muratoglu, Basak Senova, Kaya Özkaracala, Hakan Güleryüz, Simge Göksoy, Alper Eryurt, Cagil Bektas und Ceren Oykut in Istanbul, Oktober 2005
lin_c: Please start by introducing yourself and then tell me something about your work after that.
Erhan Muratoglu: I’m an interactive designer. I lecture here at a university, mostly on multimedia art and design, and am also part of NOMAD. NOMAD is an initiative working on digital art and digital culture in Turkey, doing projects both within Turkey and outside, trying to collaborate with people who are working on digital culture. So the reason why we are interested in comics in this particular project is because we were trying to collect, document and form an exhibition in order to explain the particular period in Istanbul between the 1980 coup d’etat and the early nineties, which was a quite bizarre era when people were forbidden to produce or publish anything or talk about politics, and were harshly punished if they did so. So, the younger generation who grew up in that period tried to do their production in their own ways. They tried to develop their own language, tried to get into contact with other people who were smart enough to realise what was going on but did not act in a way that cut them off from the scene. So, in that period they started to create all sorts of very interesting cultural productions including music, arts and comics. These people often had talents in many sorts, so they tried to cover the whole area, doing short video films at the same time as comics and making music and collaborating with people who were doing musical shows and stuff like that. Looking at that era, that transition period, from the beginning of the new century is quite interesting.
lin_c: Can you tell us about the recent history of “Leman” magazine
Erhan Muratoglu: (Talking about the weekly humour magazines on table) It’s strange to have all of these together, because in a chronological order, this is supposed to be the first one. It has changed a lot because of some bizarre takeover operations by some media companies and so on, but the logos have remained almost the same. This is the oldest one, and here are the guys who actually started the real opposition against the government during that 80s period. Their name was originally “Limon”, but just recently…well not recently, ten years later, they changed it. They kept two letters and changed the other three and well, they carried on.
People from that magazine just left and formed a new magazine, this is one of them. Actually I prefer to read Penguen. I feel that it is closer to my ideas. So, then this is the main thing, they are splitting up and going on and then afterwards splitting up again and forming new ones.
lin_c: So they started as a political magazine, but what happened after the splitting?
Erhan Muratoglu: They are still political! Actually Girgir was the original one and the school for the newcomers, they had a very good tutor, Oğuz Aral, who recently died, but now this is completely out of the control of those people. Now it has been taken over by somebody else, I don’t know who, I haven’t followed the history. Firt is kind of like their sister magazine, or rather used to be, and now they have the most popular artists. Leman has the highest circulation, and Penguen comes as the second.
lin_c: Are these and the others professional artists; do they live from these drawings?
Erhan Muratoglu: Yes, they mostly earn enough from selling these magazines, they are doing quite well.
Basak Senova: At that point the last incident with Penguen Magazine and the prime minister can be a good example.
Erhan Muratoglu: Actually’ that artist was not from Penguen, but they all protested about this thing. The prime Minister just sued a cartoon artist because of what he had drawn. He had portrayed the prime minister as a cat playing with a ball of wool. It is a kind of tradition, prime ministers always sue people who depict them in a funny way, so it’s not a new thing.
Basak Senova: The story is quite nice. They always caricature him (the prime minister) in every shape and in every style, and it has been mostly OK till now. Then, three or four months ago, in a left-wing daily newspaper named “Cumhuriyet”, Musa Kart, who is a caricaturist, depicted him as a clumsy cat playing with a woollen ball. The idea behind it did not imply a harsh criticism at all. However, this time, the prime minister sued him to court. In order to support him, Penguen magazine published a cover on which prime minister was drawn as a cat. He also sued them to court. A week later, they had on their cover a cartoon of a zoo drawn by all the artists participating in the magazine, and all the animals had the face of the prime minister. So he stated that he was going to sue them again. Then for the third week, the magazine’s answer was beautiful. They drew him from the back with a balloon saying something like ‘Ha, I shut them up now, it’s great’ but with a cat’s tail coming out of his trousers. I don’t know what happens with the case at the court now.
lin_c: Please tell our readers about the comic scene in Instanbul.
Erhan Muratoglu: OK, well, now the amount of people interested in comics is growing, it’s much greater than those who were dealing with it fifteen years ago. The reason is that now they have seen that there is money in this business. But it is a bit of an illusion, because the successful people are not making money just because of their magazines, they have all sorts of contacts with advertising companies and film production companies and so on. The other thing is that, in this period it is much much cooler to be an artist, in comparison with earlier, when people were not taken seriously if they expressed something in a drawing.
lin_c: What is your favourite comics artist?
Erhan Muratoglu: It is this guy, his name is Ersin Karabulut, he has a half page in this Penguen issue. His cartoons are about his own childhood, his schooldays, innermost private life and relationships when he was growing up. I admire how he can catch things and depict them and show them.
lin_c: So, Basak, could you please introduce the artists, and then we can go on with you.
Basak Senova: It would be proper to start with Kaya Özkaracalar as he will talk about the recent history of comics in Turkey.
Kaya Özkaracalar: Maybe I can give you a brief account of the emergence and development of comic publications in Turkey.
The genesis of comic art in Turkey was in the 1930’s, but initially we didn’t really have a golden age of Turkish comics. Mostly it was sporadic examples scattered throughout children’s magazines. The comics boom came in the 1950’s with mostly Italian imports, and then in the 1950’s, some Turkish artists also began to produce comics. The most popular were historical comics. First they appeared as strips in newspapers and then eventually developed into independent comic magazines. All of these were also adapted into movies, and the popularity of the comics and movies mutually reinforced each other. So, roughly speaking, the golden age of Turkish comics in Turkey was the 60’s and early 70’s and a lot of the Turkish comics were medieval heroics. There were a few exceptions, such as few fun animal comics, and one comic with an air force pilot. In the 1980’s like many other genres of popular culture, the comics business went in to a sort of crisis, and the number of independent magazines exclusively publishing comics decreased a lot. However, a new development began to become widespread, that is, comics in satirical magazines. Today comics survive mostly through those kinds of satirical humorous magazines, there aren’t any magazines devoted exclusively to comics. By comics I mean narrating long stories. But there have been several attempts by Turkish artists to set up such magazines, but all of them turned out to be very short lived, unfortunately. In addition to those humorous magazines there is a thing called strip, which is half cinephilia, and half comics. That’s basically the comics scene in Turkey in a nutshell.
lin_c: What was your personal way into comics?
Kaya Özkaracalar: During my childhood I became interested in comics, if you are interested in my personal history, through the comics that my cousins showed me when we visited them. And when I was a very small kid I experimented with drawing for myself, but of course not being published, in notebooks and things like that, and since then I have been a great collector of comics, I have quite fine collections stretching to the 1930’s. I have also written about comics.
lin_c: What is your favourite comic?
Kaya Özkaracalar: Generally, I am very fond of the Smurfs, I also like the character Spiderman, I mean not necessarily the adventures but I like the character, that he comes from such an unfortunate background. He is unlike Batman, he is a normal guy. And also the Mandrake is good in terms of the fantasy element. For Turkish comics, I like the medieval heroic Tarkan very much.
lin_c: So what is that?
Kaya Özkaracalar: It’s slightly like a Turkish version of Conan. It’s slightly like that.
lin_c: Ok, thank you very much.
Hakan Güleryüz: My hometown is Izmir. I spent seven years at the University of Ankara, studying electronics and then a masters in Graphic Design, so from that, I have some relation to this kind of magazine.
v.l.n.r Kaya Özkaracalar, Simge Göksoy, Basak Senova
Basak Senova: He’s one of the members of NOMAD, and as an engineer, he prefers to work on programme-based, computer oriented, and high-tech projects of NOMAD. I think, it must be interesting to have his views as he comes from Izmir, the third biggest city in Turkey, but was educated in Ankara, the capital. Now, he lives in Istanbul. So it might be interesting to hear about how he was influenced by the comics scene in various cities.
Hakan Güleryüz: Well its very hard I suppose for most people to remember when they were first introduced to comics, because its everywhere in Turkey and the circulation is quite high, compared to most other media.
lin_c: So is reading comics part of a normal social life?
Hakan Güleryüz: Yes, it is part of being a student, certainly, and it is also part of being against the mainstream stuff. Its part of having a critical outlook. So if you have any kind of criticism against the current government or your municipality, you are directly linked with this kind of comics production. I guess at one time they were so ubiquitous that they were maybe third in comparison to Crocodile or Mad and they were able, especially the first one, Girgir, to at some time even surpass mainstream magazines. For engineering students, being a student meant reading these, for engineering students especially, I don’t know why that should be the case, but engineering students themselves tend to be criticised as being, you know, engineers. Nerds. So, you see I am laughing, I am able to laugh, I am not just a machine. So most of the time you would have, for example, some computer science student, carrying his disks and a copy of Girgir, of more recently Limon, and this of course was not too good for their circulation because engineering students buy one of these and pass it to at least twenty or fifty others. I was in a dormitory, and it was normal to have to go through all the other rooms to get your magazine back, if there was a page that you had not read. One thing that they optimised was how to read these in a group of people. Because they are not stapled, the first thing that happens is that it is shared out, and every student gets one page, and all the pages go back and forth.
lin_c: I think that that’s an advantage of comics which are physically printed, not on the web…you can hold it…
v.l.n.r Basak Senova, Erhan Muratoglu
Hakan Güleryüz: Yes, you can share it, but nowadays most of these are online and the sites have a very high hit rate. Sometimes the magazine itself is online, and sometimes the individual artists have their online sites. One very popular example is Komikaze. It was started with some series of drawings about a monkey with a kamikaze headband, and is a huge site in itself, and also the starting points for community sites. For example, Komikaze has a very successful and popular dating site called Komikaze Friends. Although its not such a specialised thing in Turkey to read Penguen, it does set a social group in some ways, but without defining much. It might mean that you are a student, it would definitely mean that you are not from radical Islam, It could mean that you have in some way a critical viewpoint. But it is not a very specialised community.
lin_c: You are from Izmiri. How is the social life there? Is it totally different from Istanbul?
Hakan Güleryüz: Well, historically Izmir has definitely been closer to the West than Ankara, at least, and in also some senses closer than Istanbul. It’s closer to Greek culture than Istanbul. Istanbul was very cosmopolitan for years and years. Izmir has always had a very close cultural relationship with Greece as they shared territory. That’s one difference. The other is that Izmir has more Mediterranean values than the other big cities. It has no clouds in summer and is hot, and is very close to seaside resorts and so on. But it doesn’t really specialise in a different type of comic. Comic culture in Izmir is very similar to the rest of Turkey, as most comics are produced and distributed from Istanbul, and other localities don’t really have their own production, as far as I know.
lin_c: Hakan, is ist right, that you also developed a software for animation?
Hakan Güleryüz: I first started after my graphic design MFA to work in the field of post production for advertisements, which involves creating both images and animated graphics, and during that time I was exposed to some high-end animation production suites. While working with them, I had the idea that I could produce similar software which would work on normal PCs, because they ran only on Silicon Graphics workstations at that time, and I found it as a challenge, because no such software existed then. So we had a group of Turkish engineers and image production professionals, and we started to work on this project, and we called it Archer to label it as something closer to our culture. And then, we formed a company to distribute and support this software, called Yogurt Technologies and it is still in business and doing well in the area of web graphics and web based and location-based entertainment. Also in games, they produced the first 3D “first person shooter” exclusively in Turkish, with Turkish graphics and 3D models of the whole of Istanbul. It’s a really different experience for anyone playing that, because such games were previously always in English, or at best translated, but in this game everything is in the native version. Coming back to Archer, it had local success because there was no local competition, and there were at least four or five animation studios in Turkey at that time, I don’t know the situation right now. But there is very little animation production in Turkey, it is very limited, close to non-existent. We have seen a boost of graphic production, but animated versions requires big organisations rather than individual attempts. Most artists producing such work are also interested in games and such animation, but they cannot find the sort of support that they need to produce such things, and their backgrounds are normally not suitable for work in animation, because it is something different. I am not talking about Disney, traditional stuff, they don’t have the means and project support to produce their own animated styles, and it is very hard to apply such styles to the animated form. To cut it short, there is not much traditional animation going on in Turkey.
One of the few major centres of such work is Anadolu University, based in Eskisehir, have a very good school of animation. Most of their graduates work in advertisement, and they are very well equipped. We have had a very close relationship with this University, we installed our software there and got all the staff and students to use it. In terms of the software, it has some international presence as well, it was sold to Japan, Portugal and the UK, and in the US, we found an international reseller and began to sell worldwide, but in the end we couldn’t keep up the support infrastructure that was needed to keep it going. We tried for one or two years, going to all the animation festivals, but we didn’t have enough funding, because we came to a point were we could not continue without external funding, and then we quit. So it is not on the market today.
lin_c: Do you think that this can be one more step, to combine this software with artists working on it and see what the future will bring with this combination?
Hakan Güleryüz: Yes, yes. The current style of 2D graphic production in this area has somewhat evolved to adapt to animated graphics. This is also true of much other stuff, for example, if you look at The Peanuts, the animation side is mostly done by other professions. Most successful 2D comic strips don’t apply too well to animation. The problem is that animation needs to be taught in 3D terms, although of course this is not always the case, you can produce your own style, just like South Park, and create animated motion and a good way to express yourself, but this requires the creation of an animated style. What I think that these people can do is create very simple animated styles of their own instead of adapting to the realistic style of 3D spheres moving around, and so on. Traditional animation production is a well-established school, and well, they didn’t follow this, didn’t go to art school. If they are going to adapt to animation I think that they should do so by doing their own unique style, rather than having people expect traditional looking animation. And its not going to work if they supply one of their successful characters to an animation house and have them animate it, because I have seen several attempts at that, and it does not work, the style is not sustainable.
lin_c: Yes, I think that this is often a problem, that much good animation is often very similar in style, without much hand drawing. So maybe in ten years it will perhaps be simpler to put some hand drawings in the animation, because there is so much soul in a hand drawing.
Hakan Güleryüz: Yes, and as soon as you say that something is animated, you increase the viewer’s level of expectancy to a level, which it is hard to match on your own. So, the only way to get around that is to create an economic and expressive style of your own. Any scene that you see could be animated, obviously, by some professionals, but it would be very expensive, and it would not be economic to produce a series in this way. Animation is very important, not just because it is related to TV and mass media, but also because today it is in some ways more the language of the internet through flash animations, and having this sort of stuff animated gives access to a big audience on the internet, because the internet is not that rich in terms of such animated production. If you look at the most successful 2D examples, they are at a much lower level that their mass produced counterparts. I think that there style is a much better match for the style of internet animation. Of course we have an old style, the shadow theatre and of course there are attempts to match that as well. I’m sure that you will learn about lots of attempts along these lines if you talk to the real professionals of that area. The transitional process is from this to the internet, not to TV, because this is not on the same level as the mass media of TV, this is something else. This suits the internet much more than any other mass communication medium.
lin_c: It’s again the thing that TV is heading towards an awful future and the internet shows that something else is possible.
Hakan Güleryüz: Yes.
lin_c: Thank you very much.
Basak Senova: Here is Simge Göksoy, she is one of the new generation of artists, we have worked on a couple of projects together, all internet based. She produces a lot, but I will let her describe herself…
Simge Göksoy: I am Simge, and I’ve been living in Istanbul for the last three years, although actually I am from Ankara, the capital. I got interested in comics when I was studying for my MA degree at Bilgi University, one of the biggest universities in Istanbul, a new one, but quite good. Actually I was mostly interested in different forms of storytelling and narrative, and then I started to work in comics. First of all on the text - image relation and then on how discourse analysis can be adopted to comics, and such things. So comics are not my major point, actually I am working on interactive animations, so I am interested in any kind of sequential art, which is my relationship with comics.
lin_c: So what is the advantage of drawing comics?
Simge Göksoy: Actually I don’t really draw, I draw for myself, and I do sketches for my projects. Once I made a few pages of comics for myself, but it was to adapt a book by Boris Vian, well actually a very small part of the book, I wanted to see if I could translate it into the language of comics.
lin_c: What was the story?
Simge Göksoy: Are you familiar with Boris Vian? I don’t know the English name, but because he tells very surreal stories in a complicated way, it was very interesting for me to try and visualise a narrative as such. The most important was how to frame the story, because I am interested in comics as a narrative form. The physical structure of comics as the page, the panels and the intervals and all those things are what I am trying to analyse. So, I tried to draw and construct it as frames, and then I tried to do it as edited images and so forth.
When you read a story or read comics it is easy in both ways to see how the narratives a structured differently, but to transform one to the other is difficult, you have to understand the structure if the narrative in both ways. I work in the same university as Erhan: Bahcesehir University. I am a research assistant there, and last spring semester we gave the students a project, transforming written story into comics or photo novel form. We used the first part of ‘The Country of the Lost Things’, and in that first part there is not actually a sequential storyline, it is just the main character explaining the city and it is also a bit unreal, like the Boris Vian, so we gave sections to each of the students so that when they completed their work it was a short book of comics of one whole, but in different styles. The students looked at their work and tried to find the major idea in it, and then tried to transform it into Istanbul, basically. Istanbul is in some parts quite an unreal city, and well, it was easy to transform it.
lin_c: Could you give us some examples of the work of this project? Is it the work of drawing students?
Simge Göksoy: Maybe one third of the students in the class are very interested in comics and animations, and most of them are very interested in Manga, so they read and try to draw as such.
lin_c: What is the age range of the students?
Simge Göksoy: Twenty to twenty five, maybe twenty three, something like that.
lin_c: Turkish artists, or do they have their own style?
Basak Senova: Yes, they have their own style. Manga is quite new, there used to be small groups of Manga fans, since I was a kid, but at the same time it was not so well-known. We were introduced to Japanese comics through television, but they were not really from the Manga tradition. It has been a kind of trendy thing for the last couple of years; it has never been a tradition at all. The influence of Manga comes more from the layer of form, not from the layer of tradition. Not so much about content.
lin_c: What do you think about the influence of Manga, because it is so big, and such a big business, do you think that people want to draw more Mangas?
Hakan Güleryüz: Well, the exposure to Japanese product is quite limited. There is a small core of people who are interested, so there would be a small number of people interested in drawing in that style, but I think that the majority would be more interested in creating some more original, more indigenous Turkish style.
lin_c: And what is your favourite comic?
Simge Göksoy: Because I read to analyse, I don’t really have a favourite. I’m most interested in comics from abroad. And have been analysing a lot of historical ones, but they are not really my favourite because I am just, you know working on them.
lin_c: Is it forbidden to draw the face, or people in Islam Mosques?
Basak Senova: It was forbidden for hundreds of years, especially depicting the human figure was strictly forbidden by Sharia, the Islamic canonical law. But its interesting, we have a very rich tradition of miniatures, which look two dimensional, without perspective, but I know some scholars who have been working on trying to prove that indeed there was a concept of three dimensionality but in a very abstract way. Therefore, for ages, miniatures were the only representatives of the visual language along with ornamentation forms.
Simge Göksoy: And miniatures are very good examples of sequential art as well, because they were always not published but made as books and they were scenes of big events at the palace. And the interesting thing is that every scene was created by multiple artists, for instance one would do the drawing, and a few others would do the colouring, so it was collaboration. There was a major artist who would instruct the others, so it was quite mass-produced.
Basak Senova: As she was saying, they are always depicting a very important feast or wedding or another important event. Apart from that there is also the tradition of shadow play “Karagöz”, which is important by being quite political and very critical as well. The original ones were always very political and obscene as well, and then it becomes a tradition for kids as well, especially during Ramadan.
lin_c: Thank you very much.
lin_c: So Alper, you are working with Flash and so on. Do lots of people think that comics have a future in Flash animation?
Alper Eryurt: There are two kinds of people using Flash, some to make interactive works, and some using it like older media, to make animations. I don’t do cell animation, I don’t draw, actually. There are some flash movies I made which don’t even have any frames.
lin_c: Do you see a future in this medium?
Alper Eryurt: Yes, it is the best medium that I can express myself in, it’s interactive, it can use multimedia, it’s the best medium for me, I think.
lin_c: And do you see it leading towards interactive comics?
Alper Eryurt: If you extend it, it will eventually become a game. That is the most interactive form of all. A mini game actually.
lin_c: Is Flash your main tool, and do you work with NOMAD?
Alper Eryurt: Yes, mostly Flash. I haven’t worked with NOMAD yet. I worked with other people however. I like to use Internet, because you can spread your work everywhere, especially if it is Flash, because of the dimensions.
There can be visual elements, I can use photos, video, mostly I use a web cam to capture video, because it is so small in size and I can capture video anywhere with my laptop. I am a programmer, so I also do works with live image manipulation. I have a project, called Still Motion. For instance, you draw the images, and I have the image galleries, and in animation there are scenes were nothing is happening but the scene has to be drawn many times to give the time effect, and my program will do it for you. It looks real because it has random motion, but actually nothing is happening. It’s especially good for visualisation of stories. It’s an online programme, you don’t have to download, you can just draw the characters and give names to them and then its drag and drop. It tried to make one of the characters interactive, so that people could make their own work.
Cagil Bektas: My name is Cagil Bektas, I’m studying at Marmara University, Fine Arts College, in the sculpture department. I think I should be finished this year.
lin_c: So why do you draw comics?
Cagil Bektas: Well actually I have been reading comics for a long time, and I love drawing, so it’s really a must for me to draw comics. In comics, you can arrange all themes within a storyline you don’t need any special effects or computers and you can just do them, it’s much smoother than movies or animation.
lin_c: So do you think that it´s faster and cheaper to work with comics?
Cagil Bektas: Yes, although I can also do those things, animation and 3D graphics, but comics are… something lowly. You don’t need anything for them, you can just draw. The only problem is the storyline. You have to have both a nice storyline and nice images to support it. Actually the story is the difficult part, and because it is hard, I’m not scared to be drawing comics somewhere or someplace, for some magazine.
lin_c: And what other themes do you use in your comics?
Cagil Bektas: There is actually a lot of science fiction, and also other fiction.
lin_c: And is it a heroic comic, or…
Cagil Bektas: No no no, not heroes, I have read all of the hero comic books, the American super heroes like Superman, Spiderman, but I don’t really like them. I much prefer the European styles, like Moebius or Enki Bilal, in the use of line also. American comics have so much exaggeration, but European ones are much simpler.
lin_c: And what form of science fiction are you interested in, is it a new way of living or a new civilisation or …
Cagil Bektas: Well no, you can use everything, you can use your setting here, you could use this café, and make it science fiction with just one event. You just need an event, to call it science fiction. What that event is depends, you can take a technology for instance, or going into space, you have to take the reader somewhere special. It’s not something general, although it can be. So lets not say that its all about science fiction, its about the story, you know, you can do something like Miyazaki, using that sort of setting, it is also science fiction, and fantasy.
lin_c: Do you think that comics are an urban phenomenon?
Cagil Bektas: Ah. Yes it can be, but not necessarily, because you can use comics in every situation. You can use a storyboard as comics, for example, you can publish it as a comics book. And you can publish a movie as a comics also, so you can call everything a movie, it just depends on the subject. You don’t always have to have balloons and conversation between characters; you can just produce the mood, that’s really important. The comics communicates the mood to the reader.
lin_c: How do you use the medium? Is it easier to take a pencil and draw the story or do you write it down?
Cagil Bektas: Well, nowadays, I have a problem with giving up on the story. If I don’t believe in it then I can’t draw anything, because the story is not enough. So it must not be a story in which only the line is not important. Some artists draw stories which just have wide and amazing and marvellous scenes, but that is not important, the main thing should always be the story. Scenes alone are a limitation for the artist, it can very much limit your drawing style, because you draw the same scene, from the same perspective, you put the characters in the same places, with the same directions and angles. So it’s always important to try different angles and look around, to feed this.
lin_c: And how do you get your ideas?
Cagil Bektas: This is hard for me, because I don’t really have a story, so I try to look into the past, into my life, or the lives of others, or how they work. How they think, how they gather a story, or what they have achieved. But it’s a little hard for me to talk about this when I don’t even have a story right now, I feel very bad about it.
lin_c: And do you have a discipline of comic drawing, a certain number of hours a day or something?
Cagil Bektas: Not specifically with comics, but with drawing in general. I draw every day at least three or four hours. Whatever is happening that day, I just need to create some time for myself.
lin_c: So are you very isolated when you work?
Cagil Bektas: Yes, I work alone, but I also have some friends who I can work with, who are also interested in the subject. They are not comic book artists, they are graphic artists, and they also know this kind of subject, they like comics and movies and so on.
lin_c: Do they come to you with ideas?
Cagil Bektas: They don’t come to me, actually we normally gather together because they are my business partners, and if there is something catchy, something strange, maybe we can do something. I think that to do something strange, you have to give a part of yourself, something that you like.
lin_c: What was the first time you read comics, how did you come to the medium?
Cagil Bektas: In childhood, because of my big brother. He read a lot of Conan books, Conan the Barbarian. I really loved looking at the pages, because at that time I didn’t know anything about reading, so I was just looking at the pictures, and copying them, so that was the start.
lin_c: In Austria, most comic artists work on commercials, it is very hard for them to create their own stories and have them published. How is it in Istanbul?
Cagil Bektas: Actually it is hard here, you have to work hard. They are not looking at how much ability you have, that’s not important, you have to create something which will get you into business. I don’t do that, because you have to really just concentrate on comic books in order to achieve something, and I want to achieve in so many different areas, like 3D animation, comics, graphic design or whatever. So it is actually hard for me to find a way.
lin_c: Do you like Mangas?
Cagil Bektas: Yes, actually very much, I really like Anime animations, so nowadays I am gathering samples of it from the TV, soaps and things. The motion is really great, they really know how to cheat the real motion, and give it a special look on screen. I love that kind of thing.
lin_c: Excuse me, but how old are you?
Cagil Bektas: Twenty three.
lin_c: And do you think that comics, as a medium, are for adults?
Cagil Bektas: Yes, you can make comics for a really wide age range. It’s all about the story again, not about the drawings or wildness or sexuality in comics, you can make adult comics with just a different philosophy. Nowadays I am not really looking out for superhero things, more for psychological things.
lin_c: What about comics and animation?
Cagil Bektas: Well there is so much to say about comics, and comics, movies and animation are so related to each other. There is a man you may know of called Peter Chung, the writer and director and artist of an animation called Aeon Flux which was on MTV recently. He has done so many nice things which show comparisons between movies and animation, and I think that they are so inspiring. They are really related to real life, so the man thinks about all of these things as a whole and really achieves something.
lin_c: Thank you!
Ceren Oykut: I am Ceren Oykut, and I am always trying to draw. I began to draw to describe my life and it was like a diary. I was trying to draw everything I lived and everything I saw and everything I thought, in one paper. I’m going on with this kind of drawing, but everything has developed and I am also working with music bands. I don’t want to make video works for them, I told them that I wanted to do something live, as a performance, and I began to draw live during the performances. I visualise the topics within the songs rather than drawing as I want to. I just draw the topic, and finish one drawing for every song. I also make animated films using this kind of material, and also try to illustrate children’s books, which I really enjoy. I also join in exhibitions.
lin_c: Do you live in Istanbul?
Ceren Oykut: Yes, I was born here.
lin_c: And for your diary, why did you choose drawing as opposed to writing, is it easier for you?
Ceren Oykut: I don’t know why, but I think that that is how I am. I also once tried to make music, but I stopped because I felt that I had to draw. I do it very quickly and fluidly, I don’t have to force anything. It comes out very naturally, so I choose this technique, and I am very happy because I can use it in any kind of performance to try to express something.
lin_c: In your diary, all the scenes are compiled, so I can use it like a book or read it from right to left or from any point to another.
© Ceren Oykut
Ceren Oykut: You have much more freedom. You just have to read it and observe the details, because details are very important for me. The whole story about a person or a space is described in the details.
Basak Senova: Basically, Ceren works in three ways. By producing individually; and by producing under the name Anabala with Murat Ertel as a group that mixes a lot of disciplines together; and then there is the third way, which involves collaboration with Babazula, which is a music band. It’s very interesting that she works in lots of different areas, but manages to maintain the same style and retain the same identity.
Ceren Oykut: I don’t want to do just visual things, I think its very important to collaborate with other disciplines, because it takes you to other spaces and makes you more ingenious. Anabala is something I developed together with a musician, when we were discussing what kind of work we could do, and decided to do something multidisciplinary. It’s a mix of music and theatre and shadow theatre and drawings, everything mixed in one bubble. In the last performance we were using our shadows and images of ourselves from a camera mounted on the stage, which we showed on a screen, and music. Everything began to get inside everything else, and it really created a show on another level, because it is not only music, or only visuals or theatre, but also everything together. Belvu project is really the first important thing with my friends as collaboration. It was a flat where I used to live, at the top of a building very near to Istiklal Street. We had to leave the flat because it was destroyed by the construction of a Metro line nearby. But I wanted to do something for that building, and also for myself as I was kind of in depression, and so we started to work inside, doing works inside and for the building, not separated from the building. I burned the wooden floor with an electric fan, and made very small wooden figures which could be followed one after another, like film strips, and it was all over the ground, and we then shot a film of these figures. That’s the sort of thing that we did in this building.
Basak Senova: But the building was literally shaking at that time, as the foundations had been damaged, so it was quite hazardous to be inside, it was really shaking. And her work took six months: she kept on going in there, burning and drawing dancing figures. It was a performance in itself.
lin_c: About six months. That’s great!
Basak Senova: Yes. Now you cannot really enter the building. The end of the production was amazing!
Ceren Oykut: And also the audience became a part of the exhibition, because there were many people who turned back because the building was so high and so dangerous, and those who dared to reach the top were very satisfied because there was a very nice view and nice atmosphere. We offered tea to people there.
lin_c: So it was dangerous just to be there, almost feeling like an adventure in art?
Ceren Oykut: It ran for six months as an artists’ initiative, with other works as well, so not only Ceren, but she was the inhabitant there, constantly working.
lin_c: And the danger was real?
Ceren Oykut: Oh yes.
Basak Senova: Yes very real. Cracks appeared while we were up there, and we could see the street through them. I think, one could have done this only in Turkey. It’s a very important and rare example, because Turkey has no tradition of artists’ initiatives. Even now there are not more than three or four, because of the funding situations. And also everybody prefers to work alone, individually in his or her own studios, so collaboration is not a common characteristic of Turkish contemporary art.
Ceren Oykut: To collaborate is one of my mains things. For example, if somebody says’ would you like to do a solo exhibition there’, I always think that I could collaborate with somebody…
Basak Senova: In Turkey, if you are an established artist, you never collaborate, it’s a cultural thing. It’s stupid, but that’s the way that it’s inscribed. That’s why I am so excited about the new generation, because they like to collaborate. Although the results are not always good. Sometimes they kill each other, but still...
lin_c: And how does it technically work when you say that you perform in real time to the music?
Ceren Oykut: I draw on the computer, using a tablet. I have a tablet and a video mixer, and work live.
lin_c: And with the figure, from the house, how did it work? Did you have the video and then the band did the music for it?
Ceren Oykut: Not like that. I had been working with them before, but it was the first time that they had made music for me. They also have a lion song, about the lions that used to live in Anatolia but were all killed.
lin_c: I see a big difference between your works. For instance this is very detailed, but far away, and this other is far more expressive…
Ceren Oykut: Yes, there are many possibilities when working with computers, and its developing.
lin_c: But I like this very much too. Is it two things?
Ceren Oykut: Yes, but many other things, like my works for magazines, are also different.
Basak Senova: She participated to an exhibition that I curated with Anton Lederer and Eyal Danon, kind of a competition exhibition. We saw more than six hundred works and then selected nineteen artists to be shown in the exhibition and Ceren was one of them with her Istanbul drawings. Then we took the show to Diyarbakir and her participation was her drawings about Diyarbakir, so she produced her works on the site.
lin_c: Have you been drawing from childhood?
Ceren Oykut: Yes, I started to draw when I was one year old. I find it very strange when my mother shows me the pictures that I did. I couldn’t really hold the pen, but I was drawing portraits, necks, faces, teeth, eyes, but not connected. All separated neck here, teeth there. I have tried to go back and watch them, and I am learning a lot from these drawings. I work on them, just look at them.
© Ceren Oykut
lin_c: That’s very interesting to, the combination of two periods.
Ceren Oykut: Sometimes it’s like somebody else who drew that, but the same person also. I always try to catch this feeling, how I saw the world as a child, how did I catch this feeling and express it. I went to fine arts academy, and was in the painting department, and it really changes you, your way of looking and everything. It all changes and you are not so pure any longer. So after the school I tried to catch the pure feeling and I chose to forget everything I had learned, and just gave all my paintings away, they weren’t signed anyway, and I turned back to where I came from. It was a conscious choice. Zen masters always say that you have to learn and you have to forget it, and then learn and then forget and you also have to cancel your name when you become famous and go on with a different name because then you will be much freer. It’s very important in every kind of art, I think.
lin_c: That’s a very important point, lots of people aren’t able to develop, I think it’s really good to have this stuff from the past.
Ceren Oykut: Yes, I always draw spontaneously, the topics come to me while I draw, and I think that this belongs to our culture, because spontaneous music and calligraphy have a long history in Turkey, and I try to find connections with these arts and also with the Far East. I focus mostly just on the East. But Istanbul is something different, the lifestyle and the culture, you can find everything here. What I express is Istanbul art, but the way that I do it is much more Eastern.
Basak Senova: She also has a series about cities, which have interesting details. She also uses her drawings with different formats. For instance, she was working with another artist named Selda Asal. Selda was shooting scenes of Istanbul, and Ceren was accompanying the work with her animated drawings.
lin_c: Do you use the computer only for live performance?
Ceren Oykut: No, also for other works. Always really. I also have sketchbooks, full of drawings, but they are too much, I can’t carry them. The A4 format and very classic pen.
Basak Senova: And when she was exhibiting them with me, she preferred to exhibit them through slides, so her work was a slide projection, one after another. It was interesting, for example, in Istanbul, where she showed it in a hidden corner and she wired a microphone to the slide projector and amplified the sound of the changing slides; it was really loud. So, the audience first attracted by the sound, then saw the light source, and then found the hidden corner, and eventually realised what was happening. It was nice.
v.l.n.r Basak Senova, Ceren Oykut
Ceren Oykut: This is for a magazine, it’s a very long, historical story. There was a very important artist called Pir Sultan Abdal, who was killed by the Ottoman state because of his songs. Everybody was throwing stones apart from two people who threw flowers. But they couldn’t kill his art. But it happened again; this was very bad, fundamentalist people attacked a festival for Pir Sultan Abdal and killed more than thirty people when they burned a hotel.
Basak Senova: Perhaps you heard about it: “The Massacre of Sivas”, it was in 1993. Muslim fundamentalists burned 37 people to death during an Alevite festival.
Ceren Oykut: It was terrible.
Basak Senova: It was a shock for the whole nation.
Ceren Oykut: And this magazine gave me a page to draw, saying I could do whatever I wanted, but the page would be named ‘Art is Long’, and I chose to express this topic because it’s too long, longer than a human’s life.
This picture was made for a magazine cover, its about the military regime in Turkey in the 80’s. That was a very important period for Turkey, so this was a difficult work for me. I was a two year old child during this period, and my family, and friends of my family, were in prison, so I drew groups like nightmares, with everything skewed. Fascism was still going on in Turkey. It covered almost everywhere and killed many innocents, even the young, they also killed youth power, and for a long time nobody could talk about what was going on in Turkey. Now its developing. Things used to be terrible, up until the end of the 90’s.
Basak Senova: 12 September 1980 was the date of the last coup d’etat designed to end the increasing terror between political fractions. Suspension of the parliament was followed by six hundred thousand people taken into custody. Before and after of this date was really horrible, there was hardly freedom of speech. She was two, but we were older, at school, and it was very suspicious and not safe to speak about the recent history. I remember mean incidents. Then, a drastic shift from the mixed economy to neo-liberal monetary politics started to change everything. Turkey followed a very similar politics with Thatcher. This shift brought corruption, not only in the politics, but also in the moral values of the society. In the 90’s, people started to talk about the recent history. But as you also read from the newspapers, people may still get into trouble just for saying what they think. It seems that we still have a problem with freedom of speech, but it’s improving.
lin_c: I guess that you also have to learn to speak about it?
Basak Senova: It’s not about learning, the moment you speak, you may be severely punished. As the result of this formatting, the generation that comes after us is called “the sleeping generation” as they have no memory and they are extremely apolitical. Perhaps, Ceren is exceptional.
Basak Senova: NOMAD is an association and a group which consists of engineers, artists, curators and designers, and its kind of an art production house, focusing on digital art. We also have a specific emphasis on sound art: “ctrl_alt_del” is one of the large-scale projects that we have been working on since 2003. We started with the 8th Istanbul Biennial, so we were linked to them. And we realized ‘ctrl_alt_del’ with two institutions from the Netherlands. The project manifested itself in two cities in multiple formats: CD release, panels, workshops, performances, web site presence, exhibition, and CD-ROM. Istanbul phases had more educational emphasis as we were introducing sound-art, whereas the Maastricht phases were more experimental. More than 30 people from 16 different countries contributed to the project. In 2005, “ctrl_alt_del” took place in the “positionings” section of the 9th International Istanbul Biennial. This time, 57 people from 12 countries participated in the project. Among these participants, 30 of the artists were from Turkey, whereas in 2003 there were only 5 artists from Turkey in the project. Our basic topic was Istanbul and we tried to process all of the workshops, performances and activities through three concepts: the city, noise, and open source. At the opening night we screened videos of some performances, and then the next day we had a boat tour in which we tried to create a phonic mapping of Istanbul. We made two stops, one in Kadir Has University, where we had Boris D. Hegenbart from Germany performing, and then the second performance was kind of a stage performance, a huge production from Israel by Uri Katzenstein and Binya Reches. After that we had a one day break so that people could see the Biennale, and then afterwards on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we had all day workshops and presentations in the Advanced Musical Research Centre of Istanbul Technical University, MIAM. And then we had a series of performances at night, in the MIAM concert hall. We had a wide spectrum of countries, from Macedonia, to Bulgaria, to Palestine and Israel, and this time, although our PR was not that proficient, the project got a lot of attention. It was full all the time, and all the concerts were good, so it means that the sound art scene is really progressing, although this is the only sound art festival in Turkey.
Erhan Muratoglu: For the first one, we began with the idea of restarting everything, hence “ctrl-alt-del”, which refers to rebooting a computer. Every time you reboot your computer it is open to new kinds of experiences, new kinds of possibilities, and ways of seeing things over again.
Basak Senova: But at the same time, because of the RAM, you still have something preserved from the previous settings.
Erhan Muratoglu: So it is kind of like seeing the whole process of producing and consuming and listening to the sound itself. It covers the whole spectrum of music and sound design and also spatial design and capturing and presenting the sound itself, and also how you listen and how you conceive, experience and perceive, basically, in different geographies and countries. So it was our first chance to make people get acquainted with the scene from other places. There was the combination of the scene here in Turkey, and from Europe, and we invited people from the States and from Japan and many different places. And so we had the chance to present people from all over. In the second one, as we had decided on the three themes of the “city”, “noise” and “open source”, we had the chance to really make people concentrate on the ideas, which were sometimes in combination and sometimes standing alone and really think about the themes themselves. The things we did in the seminars, workshops and performances were all connected to each other, and the themes were intertwined. And now it is turning into something like a festival.
Basak Senova: But at the same time, I think what was important this year was this time we had an open call. There was a very serious jury consisting of both academic and professional names from Turkey and abroad. They chose five people, some of them were groups, though…for instance, one group was from Finland. And we managed to bring them all here and give them this platform to perform. So this time our emphasis was also very much on the emerging Turkish sound-art scene. Over the last two years we have been trying to create the only sound art archive in Turkey. We have no selection criteria, we are just collecting pieces at the moment, nonetheless, we are working with experts from MIAM to index them. So we are just saying to people, send your works to us. I believe that in 10 years this archive will be an important resource. We have a lot of contacts with magazines, especially music and sound-based magazines, which are not only dealing with the scene itself, but also deal with our projects, trying to understand what we do. The scene is getting more and more crowded and we have started to get a lot of packages and CDs from all around Turkey, and it’s getting really good. The only hard thing is that although NOMAD has a vivid and hyperactive structure, we have no subsidy at all. We raise money per project, that is why we do so many. Now it is time for us to find constant income so that we can go on. Otherwise, the adventure is getting longer and longer and we are getting old. We are happy with what is going on at the moment and I hope we can continue producing.
lin_c: And the feedback from the people of Istanbul?
Basak Senova: I must say that we did quite a smart thing for the festival by dividing it into two. We started with the opening night within the Istanbul Biennial and organized a boat tour. These two activities were specially designed for the Biennial audience. Then for the following days, we organized workshops and discussions and presentations and the performance series especially for the local scene. Of course, not everything was local as we had a lot of international input as well as the international audience.
The boat satisfied all people, and we managed to bring some workshops, which are normally impossible for Turkish students to afford. For instance, we brought Steim workshops from The Netherlands. It must cost almost 1000 – 1500 Euro along with their visa and travel cost for three days for a student. And we provided this for free. So it drew attention, and I am proud of what we did. You can also understand the richness of the content by listening to its CD. It was fun. The festival attracted a lot of attention and demonstrated the richness of working with a lot of things. One thing I found out that I really like is that on their last day here the Palestinian guys were working with Boris D. Hegenbart in their room, and now they are doing a project together. I really loved that. We are quite happy about it. I mean, I really love to collaborate, but it only works when the frequency is the same, I have experienced some catastrophes as well. But, here NOMAD is really forcing people to collaborate. Also, we recently started Upgrade!Istanbul. It is a monthly meeting to foster dialogue and create opportunities for collaboration within local digital culture.
Upgrade International is another network of autonomous nodes united by art, technology, and a commitment to bridging cultural divides. The current nodes are Boston, Chicago, Lisbon, Johannesburg, Istanbul,, Montreal, Munich, New York , Oklahoma City, Scotland, Seoul, Sofia, Tel Aviv, Vancouver, and Amsterdam. It started in the states and the first meeting took place at a bar in the east village with Tim Whidden & Mark River, Mark Napier and founder Yael Kanarek and now spreading in world.
Another good example of collaboration for NOMAD is the <rotor> Association for Contemporary Art in Graz. I am really happy about our first collaboration with <rotor> in 2003. Since then, we went on working with Margartehe Makovec and Anton Lederer on various projects. And in due time, we linked each other to other people and countries.
lin_c: Thank you!