Nil Yalter
Exile Is a Hard Job

March 9 – June 2, 2019

Open­ing: Fri­day, March 8, 2019, 7 p.m.

Since the 1970s, Nil Yal­ter 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. Born in Cairo in 1938, the artist grew up in Is­tan­bul and has been liv­ing in Paris since 1965. With Yal­ter’s first sur­vey ex­hi­bi­tion in Ger­many, 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.

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 works. 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.

For her ex­hi­bi­tion at the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, the poster se­ries Ex­ile Is a Hard Job / Walls will be cont­in­ued in public places in Cologne. Plas­tered on walls like wall­pa­per, the draw­ings and pho­tos from her 1977 work Turk­ish Im­mi­grants are put up with­out au­tho­riza­tion in vari­ous neigh­bor­hoods. She writes the slo­gan “Ex­ile is a hard job” on the posters in the dom­i­nant lan­guage of each neigh­bor­hood: Ger­man, Turk­ish, Ara­bic, Rus­sian, or Pol­ish. The work is by and for mi­grants, whose ex­is­tence is both ob­vi­ous and ab­sent.

As a pan­tomime artist, from 1956 to 1958 Nil Yal­ter trav­eled to Iran, Pak­is­tan, and In­dia. From 1963 to 1964 she worked as a stage de­sign­er and cos­tume de­sign­er at vari­ous the­aters in Is­tan­bul and in­creas­ing­ly con­cen­trat­ed on paint­ing. In 1965 she went to Paris, where she lives and works to this day. 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 and pho­to­copies of pho­tos and texts that re­flect the lives of the no­mads. With her femi­n­ist video work The Head­less Wo­m­an or the Bel­ly Dance, 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 trav­el­ing 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).

Cu­ra­tor: Ri­ta Ker­st­ing


In ad­di­tion to public tours in Ger­man and Turk­ish as well as one in Kur­dish, an ac­com­pany­ing book­let and the trans­la­tions of the texts from the art­works (in Ger­man, En­glish, and Turk­ish) will be avai­l­able in the ex­hi­bi­tion for vis­i­tors.

Ev­ery Sun­day from 1 to 3 p.m., stu­dents will be on hand as part of the kunst:dialoge se­ries to dis­cuss the works and of­fer food for thought.

Next to the ex­hi­bi­tion, there will be a room for vis­i­tors to take a break and re­search. A mo­d­u­lar sys­tem al­lows ta­bles, bench­es, and shelves to be set up ac­cord­ing to vis­i­tors’ needs. Books, mag­azines, and brochures on cen­tral top­ics of the ex­hi­bi­tion (such as femi­n­ism, mi­gra­tion, and work) will be avai­l­able. In ad­di­tion, vis­i­tors can write on their own copy of the poster Ex­ile Is a Hard Job at a poster sta­tion and take it with them.

Nil Yal­ter: Ex­ile Is a Hard Job is an ex­hi­bi­tion by the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in co­op­er­a­tion with the Cen­ter for Cu­ra­to­rial Studies, Hes­sel Mu­se­um of Art, Bard Col­lege in An­nan­dale-on-Hud­son, New York

The ex­hi­bi­tion is gener­ous­ly sup­port­ed by

As well as the Rudolf Augstein Foundation.
Thanks to Lonti Ebers.