For the first time, the contemporary Turkish artist Nil Yalter will do a survey exhibition in Germany at the Ludwig Museum, opening on Friday 8 March 2019, at 7pm. An incredible goal for the feminist artist who, since the 1970s, has worked as a pioneer of socially engaged and technically advanced art. She is one of the first artists in France to use the newly emerging medium of video.
The exhibition is called “Exile Is a Hard Job” and is made in cooperation with the Center for Curatorial Studies, Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. The poster series “Exile Is a Hard Job / Walls” for the exhibition will be continued in public places in Cologne. The drawings and photos from her 1977 work “Turkish Immigrants”, plastered on walls like wallpaper, are put up without authorization in various neighbourhoods. The exhibition in 1977 included an installation, with photographs and drawings on Turkish immigrants workers and their families in Paris. Now, she writes the slogan “Exile Is a Hard Job” on the posters in the dominant language of each neighbourhood: German, Turkish, Arabic, Russian, or Polish. The work is by and for migrants, whose existence is both obvious and absent.
Feminism, political and social issues, workers’ rights are the main objects of her art, across borders and cultures, depicted in painting and photos that are mixed up all together in video art performances. Nil Yalter’s works emerge from current political situations such as the sentencing to death of a Turkish activist, daily life in a women’s prison, or the living conditions of illiterate “guest workers.” Language plays an important role for her, along with cultural influences from the Middle East, Turkey, and Western Europe. She sensitively integrates the voices of the people depicted in her artworks. Using a quasi-anthropological methodology, she reflects the life situation of these individuals and makes marginalized groups of people visible. Already in the 1970s, the artist began dealing with feminist issues, including migrant and queer perspectives. This makes her work seem more relevant than ever today.
Born in Cairo in 1938, the artist grew up in Istanbul and has been living in Paris since 1965. As a pantomime artist, from 1956 to 1958 Nil Yalter travelled to Iran, Pakistan, and India. From 1963 to 1964 she worked as a stage designer and costume designer at various theatres in Istanbul and increasingly concentrated on painting. In 1965 she moved to Paris, where she lives and works even today. She had her first solo exhibition in 1973 at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. With a focus on ethnological and sociological questions, the artist examined the position of women in nomadic tribes in Turkmenistan. To accompany Topak Ev, a specially reconstructed tent, she created wall panels with drawings, photocopies of photos and texts that reflect the lives of the nomads. With her feminist video work “The Headless Woman or the Belly Dance”, a piece that stands out in French contemporary art history as one of the early feminist-art classics, in 1974 she participated in the first international video art exhibition in France and emerged as a pioneer of French video performance.
In recent years her work has been rediscovered. She was involved in the travelling exhibition “Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution”, which was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and MoMA PS1 in New York (2008). Other solo exhibitions followed at venues including FRAC Lorraine in Metz (2016) and Arter – Space for Art in Istanbul (2016).
The Museum Ludwig is presenting the diversity of her work, including previously little-known paintings from her early work and video installations from the early 1970s to multimedia installations, in which she combines photography, video, drawings, and sculpture into collages. The exhibition traces the path of her engaged aesthetic. Curated by Rita Kersting, the exhibition is generously supported by the German Federal Cultural Foundation, the Kunststiftung NRW, and the Peter and Irene Ludwig Foundation. Additional support comes from SAHA – supporting contemporary art from Turkey and the Rudolf Augstein Foundation. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.
Nil Yalter: Exile is a Hard Job
Period: 9 March 2019 – 2 June 2019
Opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday: 10 am to 6 pm
Every first Thursday of the month: 10 am to 10 pm
Closed on Mondays
Where: Museum Ludwig
50667 Köln – Germany
Entry: regular 11 €, reduced 7.50 €