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Emii Alrai | Miriam Cahn | Camilla Dilshat | Sotiris Gonis | Graham Gussin | Ania Mokrzycka | Shahpour Pouyan | Tal Regev

20th March - 11th May 2024

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Ainalaiyn Space and Three Highgate are proud to present Thresh(hold) exhibiton in London. 


Thresh(hold) presents selected works from eight contemporary artists who are approaching the theme in its expanded notion. Artists think about material and conceptual thresholds, ones that are real and imaginary, those within and between different bodies, spaces, environments and processes. They explore how these different ideas connect and affect their lived experience.

There is also an interesting linguistic interplay and tension between different parts that make up ‘threshold’ as a word (for example thinking about the word broken into two - Thresh: to remove the seeds of crop plants but also to move violently, thrash; and Hold: to support but also to exert power over).

The theme is being approached through moving image, installation, ceramics, photography and text. Artists imagine occupying the space in a collaborative and organic manner, making the most of its intricacies and unnoticed elements and teasing out its own physical thresholds.

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The fact that there is no clear etymology of the word threshold is already intriguing. According to Professor Anatoly Liberman, linguist and poet, earlier etymologists, like Junius and Mahn, 1743 and 1864 editors of etymologies respectively, were wrong in thinking that threshold is a compound of thresh + hold.[1] Liberman states that ‘(t)his Germanic word for “threshold” was opaque as far back as the time of the oldest written monuments.’[2] Liberman also mentions that for some reason, the Latin, limen and Russian porog, meaning ‘threshold,’ also ‘lack a definitive etymology’. Undoubtedly, the threshold is an enigmatic phenomenon.


Even though there is an ambiguity about thresh + hold, the title of this exhibition is Thresh(hold), where both words are considered by artists as two separate words that then incorporate into one: ‘We are interested in the linguistic interplay and tension between the different parts that make up ‘threshold’ as a word, for example thinking about the word broken into two: ‘thresh’: to remove the seeds of crop plants but also move violently or ‘thrash’, and ‘hold’: to support but also to exert power over.’[3] The physical process of threshing is removing the old top layer off and bringing the new seed out, metaphorically speaking giving new life or opportunity, which in a certain way coincides with the purpose of the threshold.   


The French scholar Arnold van Gennep makes an exceptional exploration of experiences of the liminal as a social threshold in The Rites of Passage, 1912. In this anthropological work, van Gennep considers all the transitions that an individual goes through in a society, such as birth, puberty and marriage, up until death. The scholar explains the common structure of these transitions, assembling the ceremonial patterns:


... which accompany a passage from one situation to another or from one cosmic or social world to another. Because of the importance of these transitions, I think it legitimate to single out rites of passage as a special category, which under further analysis may be subdivided into rites of separation, transition rites, and rites of incorporation.[4]


Separation, transition and incorporation are the bases of transitional phenomena in psychoanalytical theory which Donald Winnicott discusses scrupulously in his groundbreaking book, Playing and Reality, 1971. In this book, Winnicott identifies the intermediate area of experiencing, where the contributing factors are both inner and outer reality. Winnicott also highlights the realm of illusion, which is fundamental in the initiation of experience. In infancy the development stage is made possible by the mother or carer’s ability to adapt to the infant’s needs, ‘thus allowing the infant the illusion that what the infant creates really exists:’[5]    


This intermediate area of experience, unchallenged in respect of its belonging to inner or to external (shared) reality, constitutes the greater part of the infant’s experience, and throughout life is retained in the intense experiencing that belongs to the arts and to religion and to imaginative living, and to creative scientific work.[6]


This creative capacity for illusion that one develops from the earliest stage is fascinating and seems essential; it then helps one as an adult to go through and cope with different passages and to live a creative life.



Perhaps that’s what I feel, an outside and inside and me in the middle, perhaps that what I am, the thing that divides the world in two, on the one side the outside, on the other the inside.


Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable, 1953


Numerous great thinkers have considered the dialectics of the internal and external as well the symbolic metaphor of the door. In his book The Poetics of Space French philosopher Gaston Bachelard concludes with the formula that ‘man is a half-open being.’ The philosopher reflects on the wish of ‘being’ to be both visible and hidden, with numerous opening and closing movements.[7] The thought is then continued to the metaphor of the door, as ‘an entire cosmos of the Half-open.’[8] Bachelard thinks of it as the origin of a daydream. The classification of the two types, open and closed, accumulate desires and temptations. Indeed, if one is ready and makes the first step to open the door, one crosses the border of what is known, entering the intermediate space before facing the unknown. There is the presence of desire to initiate the new, but sometimes accompanied by fear.


Pain has turned the threshold to stone…


Ein Winteraband (A Winter Evening) by Georg Trakl.

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Martin Heidegger, German philosopher, analysing the poem, A Winter Evening, in Poetry, Language, Thought, 1971, describes threshold as the bearing of the between, where the inside and the outside penetrate each other:


The settling of the between needs something that can endure and is in this sense hard. The threshold, as the settlement of the between, is hard because pain has petrified it. But the pain that became appropriated to stone did not harden into the threshold to congeal there….

Pain is the joining agent in the rending that divides and gathers. Pain is the joining of the rift. The joining is the threshold. It settles the between, the middle of the two that are separated in it.[9]


Heidegger highlights the pain of the threshold and Bachelard too mentions pain and hostility: ‘Outside and inside are both intimate – they are always ready to be reversed, to exchange their hostility. If there exists a border – a line surface between such an inside and outside, this surface is painful on both sides.’[10] Even though Bachelard questions the existence of the threshold, he still thinks of the pain from both sides. The spatial location of the pain is different though: for Heidegger it is a hardness, inside the threshold, while for Bachelard it is an interchangeable pain from outside of the threshold:


La porte me flaire, elle hésite.

(The door scents me, it hesitates.)

Jean Pellerin


Citing lines from La Romance du Retour, by Pellerin, Bachellard continues by proposing to consider the poet’s verse as ‘an element of spontaneous mythology’, incarnating in the door ‘a little threshold god’.[11] Referring to Prophyrus, who wrote ‘A threshold is a sacred thing’, Bachellard takes into consideration the aspect of erudition that might not let one refer to such sacralization, but at the same time encourages us to look at this sacralization through poetry. This is interesting that in the beliefs and folklore and mythology of native peoples, one indeed encounters threshold gods. This was the case for Nomads of Central Asia, who believed that there were spirits living in thresholds and it was therefore a bad luck to step on a threshold while entering.   


In Roman mythology, the god of threshold, doors and transition was Janus, who represented the intermediate area between opposing dualities. The formal representation of Janus is of a two-faced man which can be interpreted in many ways, including as having a one face looking back and one that gazes into the future. Perhaps, he who enters the threshold exits as the same, but a different man.


The manifold of threshold is vast. The artists of this show explore both material and conceptual thresholds: the concrete and the imaginary, those within and between different bodies, spaces, environments, and processes. One of the interests of the artists was to explore how these different ideas connect and affect our lived experience.


[1] Liberman, Anatoly. "Our Habitat: Threshold." Oxford University Press Blog, February 11, 2005.

[2] Ibid

[3] Sotiris Gonis and Ania Mokrzycka. Personal communication.

[4] Van Gennep, Arnold. The Rites of Passage. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1912, p. 11.

[5] Winnicott, Donald. Playing and Reality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991, p. 19.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969, p. 222.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Heidegger, Martin. Poetry, Thought, Language. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985, p. 201-202.

[10] Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969, p. 218.

[11] Ibid., p.223

Notes to Editors

Thresh(hold) runs from 20 March until 11 May 2024. The exhibition is open Thursdays and Saturdays, 2pm to 6pm, Sunday 12-noon to 4pm, and by appointment on all other days. To book an appointment, please contact and


The exhibition has been curated by Indira Dyussebayeva-Ziyabek, and produced in collaboration with Irina Johnstone, the founder and director of Three Highgate Gallery.


For general enquiries and press enquiries, please contact Indira and Irina at or

About Three Highgate 


Three Highgate is an art gallery and creative hub based in Highgate Village, an iconic part of London, perched at the top of Highgate Hill and teeming with history and culture. The gallery places special emphasis on development and promotion of both emerging and established artists with a unique and poetic vision. 


In addition to its modern and contemporary art programme, Three Highgate also runs diverse cultural Symposia - artist-led gatherings and live events dedicated to theatre, literature, music, dance, film and poetry.

About Ainalaiyn Space 


Established in 2022 by Indira Dyussebayeva-Ziyabek, Ainalaiyn Space is a nomadic arts project that showcases contemporary art from an interdisciplinary perspective. The project is primarily based in London but works in collaboration with international organisations and a global community of artists, curators and researchers. With learning, research, and experimentation at the centre of its practice, Ainalaiyn Space’s exhibitions, residencies and public learning programme celebrate the intersections between art and fields such as science, psychoanalysis, performance, philosophy, anthropology and archaeology.   @ainalaiynspace 

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