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La Biennale di Venezia

After several months of anticipation, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Venice Biennale. I didn’t make the same mistake as two years ago: this time, I decided to visit it over two days. One day for the Gardens and another for the Arsenale – otherwise, the eyes get tired, the brain turns to mush, and the feet become sore...

Nil’s installation in the Central Pavilion was, of course, one of my first stops. Even from the outside, I could glimpse Topak Ev, that famous work Nil created in 1973, and pictures from Exile is a hard job, from the entrance of the Pavilion. Oh boy, was I excited!

Image 1 : Entrance of the Central Pavilion

Entering the pavilion’s rotunda, one is submerged in Nil’s work. Plastered on the walls of the rotunda, a photograph, reproduced a thousand times, of a Turkish migrant family in Paris, accompanied by Nil’s drawings, surrounds us. Video excerpts also bring the installation to life, offering us glimpses into the lives of men, women, and children migrants, whom Nil has devoted almost her entire life to documenting.

Here is an excerpt from the presentation text of the installation: “Immersed in a counter-artworld of activists and feminists throughout her youth, Yalter has been exhibited and celebrated within major institutions worldwide. The Nucleo Contemporaneo features two iconic works dealing with the theme of migration. Topak Ev (1973) was made in reference to the tents made by the Bektik nomadic community in Central Anatolia, traditionally made by brides-to-be and emblematic of gender roles in such communities. Exile is a Hard Job (1977–2024), named using the words of Turkish poet Nâzim Hikmet, features videos and fly-posters documenting the lives and experiences of immigrants and exiles, with the work’s title painted over them in bold red letters, in the manner of a political slogan.

This is the first time the work of Nil Yalter is presented at Biennale Arte, and she is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement“.

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I won’t hide that I had a few tears come to my eyes in front of her installation. Even though Nil was miles away, I felt her very close to me. I also recalled that magnificent photo from the 70s where Nil is seen sitting in the center of Topak Ev – she once explained to me that back then, there were no museum technicians or managers: artists had to install and set up their works themselves, hence this photo! I was obviously thrilled to discover both the installation and especially see Topak Ev in person. I had seen the work a thousand times in photos, but there, being able to contemplate it in real life just inches away from me, was truly meaningful.

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Finally, in the next room, there was also a painting by Nil from the beginning of her career: Pink Tension dating from 1969 – I didn’t know that she was also exhibiting this painting at the Biennale!

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