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Two Lionesses at Home

Being outside of Paris during these past few days, I haven’t had the chance to see Nil this week. For those following this blog, you’ve probably noticed that our last meeting was several weeks ago. Nonetheless, we still keep in touch occasionally and try to call each other just as much. We attempted to coordinate a Zoom call this week, but due to the time difference (I was in the United States) and Nil’s busy schedule after the Biennale (on the day of the appointment, she had an interview with a journalist), our attempt unfortunately failed.

However, I did have the pleasure of receiving some beautiful photos from her, including one that I wanted to share with you. I wish to share it with you not so much for what can be seen in it, but because it deeply moved me. Here it is:

Image 1. The Golden Lion

There seems to be something perfectly poetic in this image. I'm not sure if it’s the lion suddenly finding itself “domesticated“ in Nil’s apartment, as if to prove that it belongs to her - or rather the contrast between the prestige of this golden object and the disorder of Nil’s apartment, amidst the turmoil of a major move for several months. In any case, the lion appears as a precious anomaly in her daily life.

But if I was touched so deeply - to the point of having to momentarily excuse myself from work so that no one could see my eyes suddenly welling up with tears -, it’s because Nil shared with me, out of the blue, a piece of her intimacy, a gentle proof of our relationship that goes beyond mere work. It’s also because of the few words that accompanied the photo. Words so simple and brief, yet so touching. In this exact spelling, syntax, and punctuation, she wrote to me: « Le lion est chez moi je l'adore. Une femme (“he lion is at my place, I adore it. A lioness“)

This simple phrase, hastily typed on her phone’s keyboard, resonates with a symbolic depth that I cannot ignore. By proclaiming that the lion has indeed arrived at her place and that she adores it, Nil establishes an intimate connection with her reward, valuing it as an integral part of her space and artistic career. A significant milestone, undoubtedly.

However, it’ s the subtle and evocative addition of “A lioness“  that amplifies this

declaration. This phrase goes beyond merely feminizing the trophy; it imbues it with profound significance rooted in Nil’s convictions and history as an artist who has infused her art with a feminist spirit for over 50 years.

After dedicating decades to artistic endeavours where she centred the feminine discourse in her creations, Nil doesn’t perceive a golden lion; she envisions a lioness, embodying traits of strength, resilience, and independence. This deliberate decision to portray the trophy in feminine terms underscores her dedication to women’s liberation and her belief that authority and eminence are not exclusively male attributes. By linking her trophy with the symbolism of the lioness, Nil commemorates the potency of femininity in all its facets, thus introducing a fresh outlook on authority and acknowledgment within the art realm. For me, through this straightforward statement, Nil aligns herself with a collective of female artists who have tirelessly advocated for their voices to be recognized and their positions asserted in an art domain predominantly governed by men. The lioness undeniably, Nil epitomizes it.

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