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  • Writer's pictureEce Eldek

A Mythopoetic Cycle by Ece Eldek

Updated: May 27, 2021

Ece Eldek, ma ma ma (3 act performance), performance, 16th Istanbul Biennial, Digestion Programme, 2019. courtesy of the artist

The two poetic works of Ece Eldek, “Kurulu An” and “ma ma ma” are not so much critiques of institutionalized religion, its literature and customs, as they are creative adaptations that reveal an underlying human layer, the power inherent in its psychomagic, as a source of material transformation. Her language charts the metamorphoses of interpretability, which lies at the heart of scriptural tradition. A potato, for example, in “ma ma ma” assumes symbolist potency, in reference to its history as a forbidden New World fruit to the church of medieval Europe, and later, as a device for instituting military and domestic burden.

Eldek effects lucid passages, both oblique and direct, as when she writes, in the third and final poetic cycle of her performance, “ma ma ma“:

religion is now at the final curtain
don’t beg
the voice that comes out of darkness
transforms into lullabies and songs

These lines in quotation are an apt link to “Kurulu An”, as Eldek investigated the roots of the Quran and its literature as part of stream-of-consciousness writing, a popular technique used by avant-garde surrealists to reflect their fragmented, immediate selves within the cultural milieu of interwar society. Her piece, besides being a wordplay on Islam’s holy book, is a nod to its riptide-strong current that pulls minds into its oceanic whirlpools of the imagination, prompting believers to realize the unfading dreams of their mythological ancestry.

- FictiveMag

Ece Eldek, Kurulu An / The Wound Up Moment, performative installation, 2016-2021. photo by Erhan Arık. courtesy of the artist

Two of Ece Eldek's poems in "Kurulu An", translated by Efe Murad


I should have kept silent

as the words were sore and

the deprived thing was passing the river

pour the words into an empty bucket,

let’s see what will happen?

angels do not warrant cachets

what could be the meaning of this?

would angels act disrespectfully

if only you lie

self-entitled bastards

do you have a right to fate?

a fate that threatens death?

windows are shut

run said the shepherd

how many times have you escaped?

and destroyed the city

what is now left behind?

lost pictures

ruined sorrows

one night they tucked me in

in a demolished city

words are hazy

the city slippery

women captive

my voice tweezing

ruined buildings

show no mercy

this is an act

for the honor of sinking harbor

speak up, o head

speak up, o day

don’t fade away



flashbacks, reality

winners and losers face to face


after “time?” the first question is “at what time?” did you sign the contract

prices, the invaluable, reality

chew the time

hide it in a matchbox

and wait

the time will come when you become

an old fart searching through plastic bags


Wars and pyramids

ruins and pencils

tips and Shamans

reason and cause

to which school did they go

to what ends did they journey

from which stone came their necklace

questions folded with one hand

wine and repetition

were raised in vain

art was mummified


in this degenerate world

chins ran to the water

bleeding lands

oceans to oceans

faces to faces

storms rolled into storms

Ilya passed by Olivia

Magnolias and cyanide

cyanide is burning

In the half old spiral cords

salmon time

find ideas



old fables



here they are

The visual material used by Ece Eldek in this work is based on a found book written in English. This book, titled “Muhammad and the Quran,” written by Rafiq Zakaria, contains certain verses from the Quran and narrates the life of the Prophet. While reading the book, which she came across by chance, Eldek realized that the translations of the verses into English were very poetic and began writing stream of consciousness poems on several pages of the book. She changed the title of the book to “Kurulu An / The Wound-up Moment”, considering holy scriptures as mechanisms that set up life like a wind-up clock. Stream of consciousness is a writing technique used by certain writers and poets to transfer glimpses of thought, associated to momentary feelings or triggered by other ideas, on paper. By interpreting the book with this method, the artist also wants to reflect on the moments and techniques involved in the writing of holy books.

text from

Artist wrote poems throughout the exhibition to the "Kurulu An / The Wound Up Moment". photo by Erhan Arık. courtesy of the artist

Ece Eldek, ma ma ma (3 act performance)'s chapbook, poetry & performance, 16th Istanbul Biennial, Digestion Programme, 2019. courtesy of the artist

Excerpts from three poems in Ece Eldek's book "ma ma ma", translated by Ayça Göçmen


7 months 5 days

7 months 6 days

7 months 7 potatoes

how many tins I shot I didn’t count potato

how many punishments I peeled, I counted potato

my feet sore from sitting down,

my hands from cutting

I could not get my tongue around

you are rather right

I ate my punishment

but I am not full

General repeats himself,

his spit remains on the ground

the crowd steps on it and marches on

Either own it,

Or piss off, Or piss off

how many times you experienced your master with a leash on your neck

how many times you experienced your master with a leash in your hand

it wasn’t enough


Sound of my two hands can’t catch the time

I no longer have a hope chest, I gave away everything

what remained in my hands

lost pictures

desolate grieves

the words are hazy

the city is slippery

I am a woman, imprisoned

my voice is a pincer

I couldn’t make anyone believe what cooking food means

my share was mixing of the blend only

it impossible to taste the freedom

a child’s scream would hung in the air

my body’s flapping wings would harm those around me

they shot me as I was rising up to the air

and all eyes looked up


Old stories, believers, non believers, they are all here

I have been thinking since I made up my mind to be

yes they have forbidden the potato like apple

I have been dreaming about it since I made up my mind to be

what if I can’t be, what if I can’t terrorize like god

ma ma ma

I wet my bed

out of fear

I am scared all the time


ma ma ma

wash my robe

dull voice

evil voice

wash my robe

I lost my voice


ma ma ma

don’t put potato on that table

these are recent inventions

don’t put apple as well

ma ma ma

don’t put

you brought me from the bee hive

ma ma ma

ma ma ma

they opened their eyes,

the apple was forbidden, potato was forbidden

I opened my eyes to an established moment

ma ma ma

what else should be forbidden now

let me help you with your prohibitions

they gave me that hammer secretly

for me to bang it upon my table to multiply my voice

my name written in pages

like every actor hidden in an interlude

accompany me with chorus

I vulgarly hail the ruby clothes

mama, sing your lullabies

“ma ma ma (3 perdeli performans) / ma ma ma (3 act performance)” was produced for the public program of the 16th Istanbul Biennial. The performance focused on the theme ‘potato’. Potato played a servant’s role like it has in agriculture and in society. Ece Eldek created three characters in her performance; the soldier, because peeling potatoes is a punishment; the priest, because the church in Middle Ages has banned potato; and the housewife because she uses potatoes at home quite frequently. The artist wrote three poems that criticize state, religion and family over potatoes, over these people who serve. Using the theater as her medium, the artist has created a performance. In this work, with the curtains, which were used conceptually, the housewife, the priest and the soldier are playing the identity roles that are given to them. They act as servants through the identities that the society imposes on them, and which are memorized by them. Ece Eldek distributed the text into performances with specific rhythms and with the act of peeling potatoes in the center. Eldek prepared the booklet of her performance entitled “mamama / 3 act performance”

Ece Eldek is a multi-disciplinary visual artist and poet. In her artistic practice; she mainly uses video, sound, photography, poetry, installation and performance. She tends to combine writing and visual works. Eldek is interested in rethinking and understanding what it means to be a human. Her motivations for her practice consist of unconsciousness, existence, myths, persona, identity, belonging, social classes and history. The network of social, political and cultural relations, intertwined mechanisms and processes are the focus of her interest. She is working on the whole of relationships that establish the subjective experience. Eldek graduated from Marmara University, Faculty of Fine Arts, Department of Graphic Art and Design. Eldek has participated in various exhibitions in Turkey and abroad, her poems were published in distinct publications and she has taken part in numerous art initiatives as founding partner.


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