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Nil Yalter, Exile Is a Hard Job

Exile Is a Hard Job

SAHA has provided publication support to Nil Yalter’s solo show, “Exile Is a Hard Job” at Museum Ludwig, held between March 9 – June 2, 2019. Exile Is a Hard Job is the title of this first major retrospective of the Turkish artist Nil Yalter, who was born in 1938 and has been living in Paris for over fifty years. In her work, Yalter examines socially relevant issues that also affect her, such as life in exile and the role of women. She is also interested in marginalized social groups, especially immigrant workers, with whom she interacts directly, lending them a voice in her work. Her works often react to political events and social conditions, such as the sentencing to death of a Turkish activist, daily life in a women’s prison, and the living conditions of “guest workers.” Language plays an important role for Yalter, along with cultural influences from the Middle East, Turkey, and Western Europe. From the beginning of her career, the artist has dealt with feminist issues, including migrant and queer perspectives. This makes her work seem more relevant than ever today. Alongside the exhibition, Yalter’s poster work “Exile Is a Hard Job/Walls” will be continued in public places in Cologne. The line “Exile is a hard job,” taken from a Turkish poem, is written by residents on the posters in locally used languages: German, Turkish, Arabic, Russian, or Polish.

About Nil Yalter

Nil Yalter (born 1938, Cairo), a pioneer in the French feminist art movement of the 1970s was educated at Robert College, the prestigious American secondary educational institution in Istanbul. Yalter  has lived in Paris since 1965. She participated in the French counter culture and revolutionary political movement of the late 1960s, immersing herself in the debate around gender, migrant workers from Turkey, and other issues of the time.  She also experimented in different media including drawing, photography, video, and performance art.  She was a member of Fighting Women, a group of women artists who were active from 1976 to 1980.  Her earliest feminist work, A Nomad’s Tent, a Study of Private, Public, and Feminine Spaces dates from 1973. The Headless Woman or the Belly Dance, 1974,is a classic of early feminist art.   In 1978, she mounted a performance and installation acting out everyday life in a harem using a few pieces of furniture and utensils as part of  A Day of Actions, held in the studio of one of the other members of the collectif. The video of that day was recently found in 2011 when art historian, Fabienne Dumont, was working on a book about Nil Yalter. It was digitized by the French National Library and is one of the few videos of the French feminist art movement in the 1970s. One of Yalter’s interests in Shamanism; she has created two videos, Lord Byron Meets the Shaman Woman, 2009, as well as a previously unviewed video from 1979, Shaman. This last work employs shaman masks from Paris’s ethnographic Musée de l’Homme, and reflects her resistance to the appropriation by museums in the West. She has had many solo exhibitions including several at theMuseum of Modern Art of Paris, starting in 1973 and coming up to the present time.  Her work was included in the influential WACK! exhibition in the United States which traveled from the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC, the Museum of Modern Art PS1 galleries, and the Contemporary Art Center, Vancouver, Canada. Her sculptures, videos, and installations are in the permanent collections of the Tate Modern, the Istanbul Modern, Centre Pompidou and the Fonds national d’art contemporain among others.