Nil Yalter : memory, migrants and workers in 1970s-1980s France by Fabienne Dumont

Fabienne Dumont, « Nil Yalter : memory, migrants and workers in 1970s-1980s France »

n.paradoxa, vol. 26, July 2010, p. 52-58.


From the 1970s to nowadays, Nil Yalter has completed numerous projects concerned with the lives of women, migrants and working people. Several projects present working women, linking their activities in the workplace to those in the family’s sphere. Each time, Nil Yalter includes a gender perspective, showing both men and women in the community she represents. Between documentary and aesthetics, her work reflects a whole section of memory of migrants, workers and women in the 1970s and 1980s in France, memory that is still unknown. Working for many years with Nil Yalter, this article attempts to account for this by analyzing a few examples of working women. These multimedia documents (photographs, videos, articles, testimonials, etc.) were generally presented in installations. Nil Yalter is now known for her feminist work of the 1970s, but her production has many other interests. The article reveals projects that relate specifically to the theme of working women.


First paragraph :

The work produced by Nil Yalter since the 1970s combines the power of testimony with a wide-ranging critique of domination on many levels but specifically from women as workers and migrants. By showing these people’s lives, foregrounding their perspectives and giving them value by creating works with a strong aesthetic of both formal and simple but effective beauty, Nil Yalter contributed to a socioaesthetic movement that offered an alternative vision of history of the working-class. A principle feature of these works was to highlight women’s role in poor and exploited communities and show the particular conditions of their work through testimonies that are very rare and often overlooked in accounts and artworks about working-class men or migrants. If the reception of this work, between art and documentary, was very controversial at the time, many contemporary artists are now using these types of schema […] In the period 1970-1980, […] Nil Yalter’s and her multiple partners’ work – that is artistic partners, political and cultural partners, sociologists, migrants and workers themselves – are often seen as forming part of an anthropological and aesthetic approach in which testimonies and reality were filmed and photographed and then combined with representations in other mediums such as drawings or texts to form installations. When collected together, Yalter’s works offer important insights into a history of the 1970s and 1980s lives and conditions of immigrants and workers which present a unique feminist perspective.



To read more :

Volume 26, July 2010

Feminist Pedagogies

Fabienne Dumont, « Nil Yalter : memory, migrants and workers in 1970s-1980s France », p. 52-58.





Fabienne Dumont is art historian. She is teaching at the University since 2005 and has been writing a PhD on Women, art and feminisms in the seventies in France (2004, to be published by Presses Universitaires de Rennes), many articles about these subjects, and directed an anthology of Anglo-American texts : La rébellion du Deuxième sexe – L’histoire de l’art au crible des théories féministes anglo-américaines (1970-2000), Les Presses du réel, Dijon, 2011. She is now working on a monography about Nil Yalter.