Susan Hefuna

Susan Hefuna: CROSSROADS 2002–2016

CROSSROADS 2002-2016 will be Susan Hefuna’s fourth solo exhibition with Pi Artworks Istanbul/London and follows a successful 24 months in which she has had solo exhibitions at the UBS Headquarters, Castle Wolfsberg, Switzerland; The Sharjah Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE; the Osthaus Museum, Hagen, Germany; both Pi Artworks London and Pi Artworks Istanbul; and Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago, USA. The exhibition will bring together five films shot at crossroad junctions in Cairo and the Nile Delta in Egypt, Frankfurt and Marxloh in Germany, and a new work filmed in London.

The networks and structures of connection that inhabit public spaces and become the framework for peoples’ interactions with each other are the leitmotifs that Hefuna draws upon in her work in various mediums. Within her CROSSROADS series, the structural backdrops are locations in which two roads intersect in different parts of the world. Each film documents the movement of people within this small cross-section of a city or villages’ nervous system. 

Prior to shooting each film Hefuna takes a diagram of her chosen crossroads and then intuitively composes with pencil and ink continuous, overlapping lines. By navigating these lines across her map she creates interlocking structures analogous to her well-known drawing works. These annotations subsequently become notations for a group of participants who navigate the crossroads in accordance with the flow of her pencil. A camera is placed at a fixed, elevated position and over the course of approximately 100 minutes captures unedited her participants, both those that are filmed unwittingly and those who are following her annotations, as they move in and out of shot. Each of these individuals are part of a subtly choreographed scene. Observing the situation at street level is the artist herself, who is present in each film, sometimes sitting motionless in shot and sometimes actively engaging the people on the street.

To the viewer, it remains unclear which pedestrians are unaware they are being filmed and which, if any, are following their script as they exchange gossip, cross roads, and herd cattle. The extent of the prearranged staging is brought to the fore by the presence of moments of action such as a sewer pipe bursting or a camera crew appearing to interview local residents.