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Agnieszka Gratza on Nil Yalter


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Nil Yalter, Harem, 1979

Over at Art-Agenda, Agnieszka Gratza writes about Turkish artist Nil Yalter’s work, which was nearly forgotten until “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” was mounted in 2007.

The recent resurgence of interest in the pioneering work of Turkish artist Nil Yalter (b. 1938), whose career spans four decades, owes much to Cornelia Butler’s 2007 exhibition “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. In her retrospective of feminist art from the 1970s, Butler showcased La Roquette, Prison des Femmes (1974), Yalter’s early multimedia work, arguably rescuing it from near oblivion. For decades, the video, photographic, and drawing installation, made in collaboration with artists Judy Blum and Nicole Croiset, languished in the collection of the Fonds national d’art contemporain (FNAC) in France, which acquired it early on but never subsequently showed it.

La Roquette, Prison des Femmes is the earliest of four works, all dating from 1974 and 1979, featured in this tightly focused solo show. A docu-fiction, it is based on the account of Mimi, an inmate at the female prison La Roquette in Paris before it was closed and demolished in 1974. The work grew out of another project called Paris Ville Lumière (1974), a critical guided tour of the French capital’s 20 arrondissements seen through the eyes of two foreigners: Yalter and her American collaborator Judy Blum, who initially met Mimi. La Roquette was their focus for the 11th district. The remnants of prison walls, filmed with Nicole Croiset, form the backdrop of Mimi’s poignant narration and reflection of daily life at the prison in a black-and-white video which is presented alongside a transcription of the text, as well as two series of 16 photographic works and photographs of original drawings, which illustrate Mimi’s narrative, mounted on either side of the monitor.

Read the full review on Art-Agenda here.