“There was no specific issue relating to Middle Eastern artists: the central issue was women artists. So what is women’s art? For example, I was sometimes criticised […] because I was using video and photography. I was working with media used by men. There were two groups: those who were looking at the female body, psychoanalytically and physically; and my work, which was a bit too politicised.”
Born in 1938, Nil Yalter left Turkey in the mid-1960s to live permanently in France, where she frequented feminist circles and discussed the place of women in the intellectual, political and economic life of the country.
“Exile is a Hard Job” could have been the subtitle of this interview conducted by Fabienne Dumont in 2019 amid preparations for Trans/humance, a retrospective on the artist that showed at MacVal from 5 October 2019 to 9 February 2020. Exile in the geographic and cultural sense, but also exile in a world dominated by men, because at the time, even more than today, being a woman artist was a struggle.
Nil Yalter is an artist who defies categorisation. A pioneer of new media and of a documentary and sociological approach to art, she is attracting growing attention for the formal and conceptual acuity with which she addresses ongoing social issues including women’s stuggles, migration and the conditions of workers.
Her interview with Fabienne Dumont, who was instrumental in her discovery, explores a fifty-year career marked by commitment to social criticism and technological innovation, as well as encounters with many fellow activists and artists, that makes her one of the essential figures on the contemporary art scene.
Nil Yalter received the AWARE 2018 Outstanding Merit Award of AWARE: Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibition, co-founded and directed by Camille Morineau. The award is designed to draw much-needed attention to important women artists whose work and careers are too often overlooked, or which garner late recognition in limited retrospectives. The award is accompanied by the publication of a long interview that offers a glimpse into the journeys and encounters that have marked the lives of these artists.