By Rachel Cooke
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester
Roomfuls of boxes, cases and drawings aim to ‘catch experience’ in these sometimes haunting musings on migration
On the morning I visited ToGather, an exhibition of drawings and installations by the German/Egyptian artist Susan Hefuna at the Whitworth in Manchester, the galleries were eerily quiet. For minutes at a time, I was quite alone with the work, something I found to be disappointing at first. After all, as the show’s title suggests, its subject is people, and all the ways they live, together and apart; it would have been nice to see more of the real thing around. But then, as the emptiness took its effect, I began to be glad of it. Wandering the room in which, for instance, Hefuna has built 13 towers using afaz, the improvised palm wood cubes that are commonly used by Cairo street vendors, it was as if I’d stumbled upon an abandoned city. Here, all around me, were the teetering ziggurats of misery and desolation we see on the television news almost every night. No wonder I jumped at the sudden sound of laughter somewhere far off.
The cases, built of metal and glass, are actually the wheeled, stainless steel carts Cairo street vendors use