Çağla Ilk

When the dreams sleep

The path from the dock to the island of La Certosa passes over a long pier. It’s an in-between area that reveals stunning views: Sant’Elena and the city on one side, the island on the other. It’s not clear where the island actually begins, it’s not clear if I’m heading towards the future and leaving the past behind or if I’m on my way from the future to the past. This is also where the idea emerged for the title of the German presentation at the Biennale: Thresholds.

In a time of global crises and wars, we asked ourselves the following question: What do places of solidarity look like? How can we leave behind the nation-state spatial constructs and ways of thinking? Change begins when I become aware of the temporary nature of my position. When dreams sleep on the threshold of awakening. The position of the threshold is this kind of temporary place between a past that is disappearing and a future that we have not yet entered. How can we succeed in creating a situation of transition out of the hard boundaries set by the German Pavilion with its dominating walls, a situation that opens up the gaze, stretches the moment, and turns a line into a threshold? How can a complete narrative be told in fragments? Perhaps the notion of the threshold helps to question the practice of logic.

In our work, Thresholds signify the awakening of a longing for the deterritorialization of the political imagination. We are witnessing an extreme formulation of confinement in nation-state, territorial thought that dominates our discourse on history and thus on the future as well. For many people around the world, living in the threshold between nationalities and affiliations is a traumatic and violent experience. Our exhibition aims to generate, from this experience, a position of insight and to transcend these borders for a moment. From the threshold, more becomes visible, perceptions and images are superimposed on one another. Louis Chude-Sokei, who theoretically influenced the preparations for this project as a chronicler, has pointed out the connection between the perception of the threshold and the experience of migration in his writings.

We do not enter the pavilion through the portal designed for that purpose, because, from the very first moment, we want to define the threshold as a place for the viewer. Thresholds are not meant to stay. They are transitional spaces. For us, the pavilion should serve as this kind of space, a space in which visitors are on the move, a space in which there is no arriving.

We enter the pavilion in order to leave. Yael Bartana’s work Light To The Nations is about nothing less than the radical question of that possibility. Is abandoning the earth the ultimate consequence of the failure of humanity as a collective? At the same time, her spaceship is a narrative of the possibilities of what a future might have been like if the impulse of healing instead of destruction had determined our actions. It seems almost impossible at the moment to defend the threshold’s position as one that makes something like hope possible, without sliding into negligent naivety. Nevertheless, we defiantly assert this word. Hope lies in movement in the threshold, in the refusal to accept arrival as a benchmark.

Ersan Mondtag’s work Monument of an Unknown Man begins in front of the portal of the German Pavilion. The earth, which blocks off access to the single-point perspective, has a history of migration. Some of it comes from the place where Ersan Mondtag’s grandfather Hasan Aygün set off for an uncertain future in West Berlin in 1965. The earth is in motion, utopian, uncontrollable, vulnerable. The threshold is the place where all those are sent who have been denied the right to arrive and thus a history and future as well. But the now is not a place where you can stay.

The pavilion’s aesthetic posture of domination can only be robbed of its power when its boundaries are dissolved. The German exhibition, therefore, does not stop at the walls of the German pavilion but takes a boat and crosses over to the island of La Certosa instead, where visitors land on the threshold between cultural and natural landscape, in a perceptual space that obeys other laws. The island is not a pristine, untouched place, it has a human history and a natural history, it whisks you away into a fragile situation in which non-human nature tries to cope with the ruins of human culture.

In their works, Michael Akstaller, Nicole L’Huillier, Robert Lippok, and Jan St. Werner undertake reconfigurations of space that invalidate the pavilion from a distance. What’s inside, what’s outside? Seen from the position of the threshold, these categories are muddled. On La Certosa we must adjust our tools for perception, we must set ourselves in motion and, with every step we take, the contexts of meaning change. The body becomes a resonance chamber, the threshold between different states. What we think we know when we see a ruin, a swampy landscape, a bunker fragment, or a forest on the shores of the lagoon is contradicted, reinforced, confused, and expanded by works that interact with the landscape and with each other in extremely varied ways.

We can only overcome the violent space of punctuation through political boundaries with a concept that is transdisciplinary and involves multiple artistic languages. When traversing these artistic positions and experiencing their superimposition, the threshold can be experienced as a walkable space.

In his novel Time Shelter, Georgi Gospodinov, who chronicled the process of creating this Biennale exhibition, addresses the temptation to go back to the past, to surrender to nostalgia, and to block out the catastrophic signs of history in order to escape the pressure to act in the present. The book refers to an attempt to freeze time and live within that time capsule. For Gospodinov, the past is a monster lying in wait for us. I wish to counteract uncritical nostalgia and the tendency towards backwardness as they are portrayed in the novel. Thresholds are the shared moments of the present that cannot be obtained as a finished concept.

I consider the pavilion’s architecture to be a lie, a dangerous fairy tale of apparent harmony. With Thresholds, we encounter this harmony through asynchrony and temporal ambivalence. We cannot curate the present, but we can create transient, disparate perceptual spaces that disturb the certainties constituting our self-confidence in the present.

On the island of La Certosa, these spaces become a physical experience. From deep in the ground of history, Robert Lippok draws the sound of his work – the earth underneath the grass is not devoid of history, and Lippok amplifies those signals in Feld (Field). Within the fraught space between the ruin and a line dividing the island acoustically, Jan St. Werner’s Volumes Inverted creates a space of meaning beyond images, which changes with every step and turns us into protagonists in the work of art. In Encuentros (Encounters), Nicole L’Huillier develops a transmitter-receiver system that translates the sounds of the island into varying frequencies. The sounds of the island itself are the central source for Nicole L’Huillier’s work, her membranes are feeling and listening entities in search of an encounter. They inhabit the island and enter into communication with the environment of La Certosa on a frequency level. And, in dialogue with the vegetation of the island, Michael Akstaller searches with Scattered by the trees for the temporal in-between space, the lost ability to listen to answers.

If it is true that our future also depends on how we tell our history, then the moment of perception on the threshold is crucial. What opens up from there is everything but a calm, static picture. The monument is inhabited, the past moves in between the visitors, acting differently than planned, than predicted. In the spheres of Yael Bartana’s vision, we are swept away into an overwhelming world of images until we realize that the future is happening without us there. On La Certosa I must move, engage in listening in order to discover.

In recognition of our origins and histories, and in dialogue with these places in Venice, we designed Thresholds together as a transdisciplinary work that acknowledges our own limitations. In this collaboration as a network that uses walls and leaves them behind, we are seeking something like hope in times that offer no grounds for it. Not out of the hubristic belief that we can change the world, but out of despair for the world, we attempt to be those grounds ourselves.


An Image of by the German Pavillon of the 2024 Venice Art Biennale

Çağla Ilk is a curator and architect. Since 2020, she has been director of the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden together with Misal Adnan Yıldız.
Ilk works in theory and practice at the interface of architecture, visual arts, sound, and performance. She uses dramaturgy as a method of curating and integrates transdisciplinary approaches into her curatorial practice. Her exhibition methodology follows the idea of working with events and installations that change and make transitions visible, instead of static forms of exhibition making.
Ilk studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and Mimar Sinan University Istanbul. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including the solo exhibitions Grada Kilomba Opera to a Black Venus (2024), Sarkis 7 Tage, 7 Nächte (2023), Jan St. Werner Space Synthesis (2023), Candice Breitz Whiteface (2023), Yvonne Rainer Hellzapoppin: What about the Bees? (2023), Jimmy Robert All dressed up and nowhere to go (2022/2023), and Ulrike Ottinger Cosmos Ottinger (2022) as well as the group exhibitions Nature and State (2022) and State and Nature (2021) at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden. Ilk was also co-curator of the 6th Ural Biennial in Ekaterinburg (2021) and chief curator of Studio Bosporus (2021), the nationwide interdisciplinary festival of the German Foreign Office. From 2012–2020, Ilk was dramaturge and curator at the Maxim-Gorki-Theater in Berlin, where she was responsible for cross-disciplinary projects and festivals that combined performing, performative, and visual arts, often in a transcultural context. Ilk co-curated four editions of the Berliner Herbstsalon at the Maxim-Gorki-Theater.
Ilk was active in cultural policy as a member of the presidium of the neuen Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK), as a member of the Council for the Arts Berlin, and on numerous juries for cultural funding. In March 2023, Çağla Ilk was appointed as the curator of the German contribution to the 60th International Art Exhibition - La Biennale di Venezia. She lives and works in Berlin and Baden-Baden.


Ludwig Haugk

Assistant Curator/Production Manager
Sandeep Sodhi


Thresholds is inspired by the thinking of Georgi Gospodinov and Louis Chude-Sokei, who as, chroniclers, actively influenced and engaged with the German contribution. The respective curatorial concept involves linking various artistic positions and disciplines within an overarching and pluralistic storytelling. Starting from the present as a threshold, a transition where past and future overlap, the artistic contributions also delve into the motif of the threshold as a space between belongings and the communities that shape this space.

Louis Chude-Sokei

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Louis Chude-Sokei

As a kind of prelude to the German contribution on La Certosa, the voice of Louis Chude-Sokei accompanies visitors when they arrive on the island. His sonic interventionThresholds can be heard when crossing the threshold between jetty and land.

Louis Chude-Sokei is Professor of English and Director of the African American and Black Diaspora Studies Program at Boston University where he holds the George and Joyce Wein Chair. He is editor-in-chief of the journal The Black Scholar and founder of the sonic art and archiving project Echolocution. His books include The Last “Darky” (2006), The Sound of Culture (2016), Floating in A Most Peculiar Way: A Memoir (2021), and the recent German publication Technologie und Race: Essays der Migration (2023). Collaborative works include the album AAI (Anarchic Artificial Intelligence) with iconic electronic duo Mouse on Mars (Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma 2021) and Sometimes You Just Have to Give it Your Attention, an album of collaborative sound works focused on the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, Germany (2023). His work was also the source for Curriculum II, a touring performance by the legendary Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company in New York City. Chude-Sokei lives in Boston.

Georgi Gospodinov

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Georgi Gospodinov, Photo: Phelia Baruh

Georgi Gospodinov is the author of Time Shelter (Vremeubezhishte, 2020), International Booker Prize winning novel for 2023, published in more than 25 languages. In it, an enigmatic flâneur named Gaustine starts opening ‘rooms and clinics for the past' offering promising treatment for Alzheimers patients. But soon his therapy is being weaponized for political purposes all over Europe… “Could not be more timely” according to The Guardian. Gospodinov became internationally known with his previous novels, Natural Novel and The Physics of Sorrow, widely translated and awarded. He has several books of short stories. Blind Vaysha, an animation based on his eponymous short story (director Theodore Ushev), was an Academy Award (Oscar) nominee for 2017. Gospodinov’s works include poetry, nonfiction, theatre plays, an opera libretto, An Inventory Book of Socialism – a co-authored catalogue of everyday-life objects, and social video installations like The Slap Factory and Future Cancelled, among others. His complex narratives are engaged with the memory of recent East-European past and present anxieties of Europe and the world. Gospodinov lives in Sofia.