Nancy Atakan

Cultural Threads

May 5, 2022 – March 31, 2023

Deconstructing preconceptions of cultural differences and societal roles is Istanbul-based multidisciplinary artist Nancy Atakan. Her performative videos incorporate traditional handcrafted mediums associated with femininity and distinctive cultural practices with both wit and intensity to undermine the systems of control that burden our modern world.

Career Highlights

Major Solo & Group Shows

Akademie Der Kunst Berlin, ISCP, Nordic Art Association, Istanbul Modern, OMM Eskisehir, Salt Beyoğlu

Institutional Collections

Victoria and Albert Museum, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Proje4L/ Elgiz Museum of Contemporary Art

Selected Reviews

WSJ Magazine, The London Magazine, Art in America, Galeribox, Agos, Art Unlimited


The Meaning of Belonging



Cultural Threads is a virtual exhibition featuring three video works by Atakan, spanning over a decade of her career. Influenced by concepts of gender, tradition, and multiculturalism, each piece takes a closer look at specific activities that challenge our understanding of acceptable participation in cultural practices and redefine ideas of women’s work.

Meet Nancy Atakan

The following three works, in conversation with one another, expose the oppressive nature of societal gender roles and the dissolution of cultural differences. Atakan’s work asks us to question not only the role of women in contemporary society but how our globalizing community feels the need to lay claim to culture.

Throughout history painting has been a male dominated technique and I didn’t want to be a part of that tradition.

Nancy Atakan

Ascribed (2016)

Ascribed is a video piece investigating the role of needlework as a feminine practice that extends beyond our cultural or geographic borders. Two women sit in isolation, partaking in the tedious repetition of the craft. They use their needle to spell out escape and emergency, each work silently subverting the notion of the submissive woman. As these women are immersed in their own fears and frustrations, the ‘emergencies’ they seem to secretly proclaim through their thread begin to echo a greater sentiment on the collective anxieties that plague our society.

Ascribed, 2016, 3’26” double-channel video, Film installation, Edition 1/3 + 1 AP
Price on Request

Both the needlework that I inherited from my husband’s grandmother and the work by the women I interviewed should be in museums rather than trunks.

Nancy Atakan

Grandmother’s Lace (2004)

Grandmother’s Lace explores notions of generational knowledge through the inherited lace textiles within Atakan’s family that resonate with the history of cultural assimilation. We watch as delicate pieces of antique needlework and lace are removed from trunks. Hidden away and now brought to the forefront of our attention, they reveal more than their priceless value, but in their neglect, they reveal the longstanding idea that women’s crafts are deemed inferior to the art of men.

Grandmother’s Lace, 2004, 12′ single-channel video, Film installation, Edition 1/3 + 1 AP
Price on Request

I learn a lot as I deal with the process of questioning. And nothing is linear, nothing proceeds from “a” to “b”. It goes “a” to “u” back to “c” and then another look at “a.

Nancy Atakan

Prediction (2004)

Prediction forces viewers to reconcile what it means to dislocate a tradition. Atakan spends one year documenting her failed attempts to predict her future through her appropriative use of Chinese fortune sticks. Beyond the inherent humor, she illuminates deeper social and cultural issues about the nature of culture, not strictly from the perspective of an immigrant, but about the greater global construction and understanding of various cultures when displaced from their original context.

Prediction, 2004, 12′ single-channel video, Film installation, Edition 1/3 + 1 AP
Price on Request

About Nancy Atakan

Nancy Atakan has been an active figure in the Istanbul arts scene for over 40 years. Her practice, which spans most possible mediums, concentrates on topics such as the relationship between image and word, the meaning of belonging, gender politics, memory, and globalization. All of her work involves research, collaboration and dialogue as it incorporates observations of current events and references to history and culture. Believing the art arena to be a space for experimentation, as a part of her art practice, she co-founded in 2007 the Istanbul based art initiative/project space, 5533.

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