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Thresholds: German Pavilion– La Biennale di Venezia | 20.04.-24.11.2024

Editors’ Choice

For the German contribution to the 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia entitled Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, curator Çağla Ilk invited the artists Michael Akstaller, Yael Bartana, Robert Lippok, Ersan Mondtag, Nicole L’Huillier and Jan St. Werner to move on the edge, on the gradation, on the border under the title Thresholds. Based on alternative readings of history and the future, the contribution extrapolates areas of experience from the border area.

Image above: German Pavilion, 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Ersan Mondtag: Monument Of An Unknown Man, 2024, Performance View, Photo: Thomas Aurin

For the first time and for the duration of the exhibition, the presentation of the German Pavilion will extend beyond the boundaries of the Giardini della Biennale to another location: the neighbouring island of La Certosa. Yael Bartana and Ersan Mondtag will present their works in the pavilion building. On La Certosa, the idea of the threshold will be expanded in contributions by Michael Akstaller, Nicole L’Huillier, Robert Lippok and Jan St. Werner.

Thresholds are border spaces that are subject to a paradoxical intermediate order. They lead from one place to the next and are both spatial and temporal links. The curatorial method chosen for the presentation consists of combining different artistic approaches and disciplines within the framework of a pluralistic overall narrative. Starting from the present as a threshold, as a transition where past and future intersect, the artistic contributions deal both with the threshold as a place between different types of belonging and with the communities that characterise this space of meaning. The concept is inspired by the thinking of Georgi Gospodinov and Louis Chude-Sokei, who accompany the German contribution as chroniclers in an active exchange.

The artistic work
Ersan Mondtag counters the fascist architecture of the pavilion with its claim to eternal validity with a monument to an unknown person. At the conceptual centre is the question of collective memory. A central motif of the monument is the earth, which Mondtag symbolically transfers from Anatolia to the German Pavilion as a contested object of territorial conflicts, as the habitat of the dead and ghosts. In the midst of a seemingly archaeological landscape, Mondtag and five performers bring biographical fragments to life: Workplace, factory, living spaces, public space.

Deutscher Pavillon / German Pavilion, Internationale Kunstausstellung / 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Ersan Mondtag: Monument eines unbekannten Menschen (Monument Of An Unknown Man), 2024, Installationsansicht (aussen) / Installation View (exterior), Foto / Photo: Andrea Rossetti @andrea_rossetti_archive

His point of reference is the life of his grandfather Hasan Aygün, who came to West Berlin from Central Anatolia in the 1960s, earned his living by working in the Eternit asbestos factories and died as a result of this labour. On a parquet floor that was moved from an abandoned cultural centre in Brandenburg to Venice, Mondtag crosses post-migrant history with forgotten biographies from the working society of the GDR. By placing motifs from migrant and East German biographies at the centre of the pavilion, Mondtag raises questions about post-heroic historiography, representation and narrative on the threshold of a post-industrial landscape.

With her current work “Light to the Nations“, Yael Bartana approaches a threshold in time and space: the current reality of planet Earth, which is on the brink of ecological and political destruction. In an act of redemption, a spaceship conceived by the artist and named after a passage from the Book of Isaiah carries several generations of people to unknown galaxies. It is a great journey with an open end that serves collective healing and contains utopian and dystopian elements in equal measure. With this installation, which also includes a newly choreographed video work entitled Farewell, Bartana expands on the work she has developed over decades in which she explores and reinterprets group ceremonies and the social movements that surround them.

Deutscher Pavillon / German Pavilion, Internationale Kunstausstellung / 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Yael Bartana: Light To The, Nations – Generation Ship, 2024, 3D Model, Installationsansicht / Installation View Pavillon / Pavilion, Courtesy the Artist and LAS Art Foundation, Foto / Photo: Andrea Rossetti @andrea_rossetti_archive

By overlaying speculative technologies with Jewish mystical teachings, the Kabbalah, Bartana uses the ship as a vehicle of redemption. Without the presence of humans to destroy it, the earth can recover, and without the limitations of the land, new forms of society can be developed on the ship. ‘Light to the Nations’ is based on Jewish traditions, but the great endeavour transcends religious, ethnic, national, state and tribal boundaries. It offers a future for all of humanity and defies the pull of the planet and the human quest for belonging. With her method of pre-enactment, Yael Bartana transports ‘Light to the Nations’ into both the past and the future, leaving visitors to the German pavilion in the limbo of forgotten hopes.

Michael Akstaller, Nicole L’Huillier, Robert Lippok and Jan St. Werner create a bold reversal of traditional narrative forms in their figurative bridge from the monumental and historically charged German Pavilion to the island of La Certosa. An island with fluid borders becomes a place where borders are considered. The contributions of the artists working here confront us with the present and the nature surrounding us and open up worlds of sound experience. The vision of a common future begins where we learn to listen to our fragile and wounded environment, to ourselves and to each other. In this respect, stepping away from the pavilion creates a resonance that flows back from La Certosa, and so the step outwards becomes a step inwards. La Certosa is open to the public at all times, both for visitors and for Venetians.

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

Deutscher Pavillon / German Pavilion, Internationale Kunstausstellung / 60th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, Yael Bartana: Farewell, 2024 as part of Light To The Nations, 2022-2024, Einkanal-Video, 15.20 Minuten / Single channel video, 15.20 minutes, Installationsansicht / Installation View Pavillon / Pavilion, Foto / Photo: Andrea Rossetti

In “Scattered by the Trees”, Michael Akstaller investigates how sound spreads in certain ecosystems and how trees and forests determine the parameters of our perception of sound. Akstaller’s sound installation works with the natural system on La Certosa without imitating it.

Ambiguity, belonging and codes are fundamental to Nicole L’Huillier’s work. For her installation Encuentros (Encounters), she developed a transceiver system that translates the sounds of the island into different frequencies and mixes artificial and natural sounds to create an acoustic space. Her sound-sensitive membranes populate the island and communicate with the surroundings of La Certosa. In their receiving function, they react to the sounds in their vicinity and activate a sound system based on the reciprocal relationship between sending and receiving. This exchange of natural and electronically generated sounds leads to a blurring of boundaries.

In his field, Robert Lippok buries numerous subwoofers in the floor of La Certosa. Arranged in triangular constellations, his soundscape plays with the listener’s perception by opening the ground beneath their feet like a window to the island’s past. The work emphasises the layers hidden beneath the grass. Lippok marks a quivering field of transitions through a sonic threshold.

For “Volumes Inverted” Jan St. Werner developed a loudspeaker instrument especially for the monastery ruins on La Certosa. In dialogue with another loudspeaker, which bundles a sound beam from the lagoon over several hundred metres back onto the island, two interlocking sound installations are created: one activates the interior of the monastery, the other distributes the sound across the island. This duality questions its own localisation and encourages an exchange between the island and the surrounding lagoon.


Exhibition dates: Saturday, 20 April to Sunday, 24 November 2024

Opening hours:
Saturday 20 April to Monday 30 September 2024, 11am-7pm
Tuesday, 1 October to Sunday, 24 November 2024, 10 am – 6 pm


Giardini della Biennale
30010 Venice VE


Normal price: 8.50 Euro

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