Sep 16, 2022

Sombremesa by Elena Urucatu at the Mahalla Festival

Elena Urucatu


Mahalla Festival Palimpsest 2022, Istanbul, Kurtuluş, Kurtuluş Greek School
Official parallel event of the 17th Istanbul Biennial

The Romanian artist Elena Urucatu was nominated to participate in the Mahalla Festival by META Cultural Foundation. The artist joined the festival in Istanbul with an interactive performance/installation with the title Sobremesa. 

Sobremesa confronts the way we read the experience, recall the memory and understand the culture and history starting from the literal meaning of the expression reaching the deepest layers of it.  The table, the tablecloths, the food and drink is something we all have in common, but Sobremesa tries to bring to the table our culture, our education, our traditions, our roots and memories, our experiences and our emotional baggage… creating a unique experience for 20 people.

The table is a blank paper, which allows you to write multiple stories, about a single or several places or characters, eating or talking, working, the table is like a canvas that shapes us, defines us, connects us and determines our daily lives. The table is where we hold celebrations, make decisions and express our creativity.

On top of the table there are several tablecloths collected in the same neighborhood of Istanbul, each one different from the other, for its origin and design, material used, shape and color, but above all for its emotional charge. Could we go beyond the mere aesthetic, decorative and protective function of tablecloths? Are we able to delve into any of their layers? How is pain, hope, knowledge reflected in both material objects and intangible elements? Which hands have woven, washed and touched them? What stories are hidden in each one of them? If these tablecloths spoke…. what would they tell us?

The Sobremesa installation attempts to blur aesthetics and “use value” to evoke dialogues about the commemorative function of art. These marks, etched into the surface of the tablecloths, represent an accumulation of voices and moments from the past. I am fascinated by how the marks left by those who have used the tablecloths constitute an alternative and intimate historical record of the object.

Food is capable of evoking powerful memories that link us to people, places and experiences. Food is inextricably linked to cultural identities, but with this performance new challenges are being posed to gather around a table. Based on the work with the local community of the Kurturus neighborhood, it seeks to highlight the origin of the dishes as well as the imprint that each cook leaves on it. The menu is simple, based on the current policy on food access and sustainability, but loaded with a lot of identity and emotions, as well as individual and collective history.

Food brings people together and the conversation between them is one of the main points of the Sobremesa installation. If we would consider a conversation about art as art in itself, or a piece of art, this installation would function as a frame for this work, a container with the ambitious and futile intention of capturing those moments and giving it a plastic form.

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