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The Green Detour #08
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Francesc Ruiz’s latest exhibition incorporates two parts: a stand-alone installation and a citywide 'paper trail.' In the gallery, Cairo Newsstand (all works 2010) re-creates a bustling roadside stall as a dynamic world populated by sculptures of the stones typically used by news vendors as paperweights, as well as stacks of newspapers whose front pages include trompe l’oeil renderings of such stones juxtaposed with speech balloons that contain utterances ranging from the personal to the political.

The distribution of narratives through formal and informal, textual and visual channels is also a theme in The Green Detour. A makeshift workspace, bathed in green light and piled with pages of comic strips alongside a map of the city and a glass of dark tea, is visible through a window in the gallery. This site acts as an anchor of sorts for the nine single-page comic books that make up the piece, planted at diverse locations throughout the city. Each installment presents a comic-strip vignette with clues leading to the next location. The stories feature an unlikely, and politically fraught, group of cartoon characters: two Egyptians (Samir, a do-goody boy-toon created in the wake of the country’s 1952 revolution, and the more contemporary Crushed Citizen), plus Tintin and Donald Duck.

If Cairo Newsstand acts as a kind of urban seashell, playing back echoes of the city’s inexhaustible clamor, The Green Detour tries to make some sense of the 'noise' by returning it to the public spaces from which it emanates. The political resonances are muted but hard to miss. The exhibition’s timing is fortuitous, following close on the heels of a series of government measures against local media freedoms, as well as a recent scandal that erupted over a doctored photograph of President Mubarak in a semiofficial paper.

— Clare Davies, Artforum