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Elena Urucatu is artist of the Mahalla Festival


Elena Urucatu lives in Spain and Germany. The Romanian artist will travel to Istanbul to participate in the Mahalla Festival in the frame of a residency program by  MagiC Carpets. MagiC Carpets is a Creative Europe platform uniting 16 European cultural organisations that create opportunities for emerging artists to embark on journeys to unknown lands and to create, together with local artists and local communities, new works that highlight local specificities.

She will interact in the quarter with women from different communities. The diversity of the quarter, migration and interculturality are her main focuses.

We had the opportunity to interview her and to learn more about her participation in the new edition of the Mahalla Festival, which will take place between the 1st and the 10th of September 2022.

The Title of the fifth edition of the Festival is “Palimpsest”.  The term originally denotes a piece of writing material on which the original writing has been erased to make room for later writing. However, traces of the overwritten texts remain. This paleographic phenomenon is taken up as a motif in neurology and computer science, among others, but also inspires current art-theoretical discourses. In 2022 the artists of the Mahalla Festival are dealing with resources: ecologically, economically, politically, socially and in culture of remembrance.

The association Diyalog is part of Magic Carpets platform, a project that unites 16 cultural organisations from Europe and is funded by the Creative Europe desk of the European Union, with the aim to engage emerging artists to research and implement new productions together with local artists and communities. The artists are able to develop their art works in the frame of an artist residency. The Bucharest based Meta Foundation is partner of the network and nominated Elena Urucatu to participate in the Mahalla Festival. Reluca Doroftei from the Meta Foundation and Ilayda Tunca from the Mahalla Festival are the emerging curators responsible for the implementation of Elena Urucatus art project in Istanbul.

But first of all… who is Elena Urucatu?



Bucharest (Romania, 1981)

Elena Urucatu is a visual artist from Romania. She started studying sports in her country, and competed as an athlete at a professional level. At the age of 14, she won a model contest that made her travel from Bucharest to Paris. This was the beginning of a long artistic journey, very different from the sports world. Urucatu continued her studies attending the Educational Statistics and Research Methods Doctorate at Alicante University (Spain) and completing a Master of Arts at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain). In 2010, Urucatu specialised in Industrial Design, and in 2012 she created the Carlos Maté Studio together with Carlos Maté, her current partner.

Groundhog Day – Carlos Maté Studio

Urucatu’s artistic work is really open, based on different construction of facilities and performances, mixing diverse artistic techniques and collaborating with people from very different backgrounds. Urucatu is open to photography, video, sculpture and drawing. She is interested in human beings and is concerned about the planet. Urucatu’s artworks talk about the unbridled consumerism, economic power, identity and the ethics of the consumer. Always looking for an answer to who we are and who we are not. The Romanian artist believes that art is able to suggest multiple strategies to raise awareness and generate creative solutions to environmental problems, as well as reconnecting human beings and nature (1).

Her artworks have been exhibited in the Galleria Luisa Delle Piane in Milan, the Círculo de Bellas Artes in Madrid, Sónar in Barcelona and different fairs like Miart Milano, Art Brussels, Stampa or Casa Arte. She has also received several prizes: the Scholarship for Production from the Ministry of Culture in Spain, the award to the Emerging Artist in the Biennial of Liubliana and the OID prize in Milano Miart (2).



Maëla Sanmartín, Diyalog Derneği                             Elena Urucatu, artist of the Mahalla Festival

How is it that you passed from the sports world to the arts field?

I’ve always been connected to the artistic world, because it has always attracted me. The passage from one world to another was through my studies in Industrial Design, but also through the fashion world. I’ve always been directly related to this creative world through it. That’s where I probably saw a natural passage to Industrial Design. Lately, in 2012 and 2014, in the two editions of the Salone del Mobile in Milano, I’ve been doing works in the fine line between art and design. There is where I realised that Industrial Design, that has a useful factor, was not enough for me. That’s why I left industrial design and started with artistic projects.

Why did you decide to leave Romania and come to Spain? Was it a difficult decision?

Leaving your family is the hardest thing. Breaking with my stability and everything I had at that moment -culture, education…- and giving a step forward has been the most difficult thing for me. I jumped into the void, because I didn’t know a lot about Spain. This experience changes your life a lot: it makes you much more independent and it opens you a range of possibilities at a working level, but also at a cultural level. I decided to stay in Spain because it seemed to me a very welcoming country, a place with very high human quality. In Romania, for example, people are less sensitive, colder and more distant. However, I still keep some things about my Romanian education: the order, the work scheduling, being strict with my own timetables… I think that doesn’t go with the Spanish culture at all (Elena and I laugh).

What about languages?

When I arrived in Spain I didn’t know Spanish at all. However, I was young, and I was in a life stage, where I think learning languages is quite easy. And, most importantly, I think what really helps a lot is watching films in the original language with subtitles. I was also based on the idea that with Romanian language you don’t do a lot in the world (Elena laughs). After learning Spanish, Italian was much easier for me. And now I have a new challenge: learning German, which is a bit harder for me, maybe for my age or for the roots of the language.  

“My work has a sentimental value and a straight connection with my country”

Does your “exile” or “migration” influence your artworks?

Yes, a lot. And this is part of my investigation for the Mahalla Festival and my collaboration with the association Diyalog. I personally work a lot with textiles, and that comes from what my grandmother used to teach me. From this point of view, my work has a sentimental value and a straight connection with my country. My grandmother taught me how to sew, how to hand-wash, how to cook… In some way, she transmitted to me how to use the physical body as the main mean to experience the world, and as a natural tool for producing creative work. Through textile and clothes, everyday aesthetics is an important part of our society. That’s what I bring from Romania: the textile, the devotion for materials and their working processes.

Silence – Elena Urucatu

What are you proposing for the Mahalla Festival?

What I propose for the Mahalla Festival is an artwork where I show the art of sewing as a forum. A support where we can transmit our knowledge and habits. Knowledge regarding Geography, History and Philosophy. I still don’t know how it’s going to be, but I would love to collaborate with the women to create the art piece. Not for transmitting the physical fact of sewing, but to transmit the fact of being a witness of what is happening. All of this I’m investigating from Madrid, but I think Istanbul is going to give me a lot more clues, once I’m physically there. I’m staying there from the 13th of August until the 4th or 5th of September, and the idea of my collaboration with this project is to get in touch with the local artisans. The main theme of the festival is the palimpsest, and I think I can use textile for that through recycling.

“We can all understand art”

What does art mean for you?

Art is a way to transmit the current moment, a way to teach people about the present and make it easy to read. I think that art can reach many more people than a political message or a written message. And I believe, like Joseph Beuys, that we can all make art. And here is the key, the fact that we can all understand art as well. We can all read and understand a piece of art, independently of the meaning that the artist wanted to give to it.  We can like it or not, but everyone can all read a piece of art in our way. 

Have you made a lot of sacrifices during your artistic journey?

Yes! Maternity. It’s one of the biggest sacrifices. I thought I was going to do good, but… (Elena puts her hands in her face). You can see my face (she laughs while she moves and repositions on the sofa). It’s a lot of exhaustion, a lot of patience and a lot of frustration. You hardly ever get to do things. As you know, I’m very organised and I work with strict timetables and deadlines, daily and monthly objectives… and maternity has destroyed all these concepts. 

“I would love to live in a country where art is considered a work and it’s appreciated as such”

Démodé – Elena Urucatu

Despite everything, you stay on your line in the artfield.

Yes, I stay on my line and will continue. It’s true that I would love to live in a country where art is considered a work and it’s appreciated as such. I think Spain is not at that level yet. Artistic work is still considered as a hobby and that is a big problem because we’re not integrated into society as workers. Even if we dedicate a lot more of the established 8 working hours per day. In addition, you have to look for work that can economically compensate you and allow you to live from day to day. The truth is that collaborations like this one with Diyalog are few, this doesn’t happen daily.

What is the best part of working in the art field?

I think the human side that is behind every project. Collaborating with people that might be out of the art world is really enriching, it gives a completely different perspective to your work.






  1. García, Ó. (2020). #arteencasa con Elena Urucatu. Plataforma de Arte Contemporáneo. Available at:
  2. García, Ó. (2017). Memorias inventadas de Carlos Maté y Elena Urucatu. Plataforma de Arte Contemporáneo. Available at:

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