Cologne

Nil Yalter, Untitled (Black Veil), 2018, ink-jet prints on Dibond, polyester fabric, 68 7⁄8 × 55 1⁄8".

Nil Yalter

Museum Ludwig

Half a century ago, Nil Yalter broached issues that others dare not touch even today—female genital mutilation, for example. Her video The Headless Woman or the Belly Dance, 1974, shows her writing on her body, the text spiraling over her naked belly an excerpt from the French poet and historian René Nelli about the clitoris as the center of female sexual pleasure and the persistent practice of cutting it. Then the artist, a native of Cairo who was raised in Istanbul, performs a belly dance, her marked-up torso epitomizing the contrast between the oppression of female sexuality and the aggressive pursuit of erotic delectation on the part of men.

The Headless Woman was one of Yalter’s first videos. Moving to Paris in 1965 at the age of twenty-seven, she started out as an abstract painter. Influenced by the Russian Constructivists, she painted circles that represented the female element.

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