Through an artistic practice that explores the imaginaries of visual culture and comics, but is also influenced by other interests such as architecture, humour, the ultra-local, and autobiography, Francesc Ruiz (Barcelona, 1971) creates stories and then shares them through newsstands, publications, printed panels, and scale models. His work probes the endless variables of détournement, and examines anomalous forms of distribution based on fan culture characteristics like enthusiasm and loyalty.
Ruiz unearths forgotten characters and authors, and gives them new life through semantic repackaging. His research also highlights collective phenomena that transform the use images and affect the processes by which desire, identity, and dissident subjectivities are formed. From Japanese Yaoi to Italian gay Fumetti by way of internet meme culture and Tijuana bibles, Ruiz explores these surfaces that compress parody and pornography, copy and difference, information and matter, the comic book grid and the geometry of cities.
'The Green Detour' and 'Cairo Newsstand', two of Ruiz’s pieces in the MACBA Collection, sum up his work during a residence at the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo, where they were exhibited a few months before the mass demonstrations in Tahrir square.
'The Green Detour' (2010) is a nine-volume comic that connects several hotspots through a journey on foot through the city centre. It invites readers to go for a walk and follow the characters in the story, with each new instalment providing the coordinates for the following point of distribution. The protagonists – Donald Duck, Tintin, Samir, and ‘the Crushed Citizen’ – explain emblematic moments in Egypt’s cultural history (with references to imperialism, orientalism, government propaganda, and censorship, respectively). As the story progresses the characters move through scenarios with strong political symbolism, question their own status as characters, and wonder whether it is possible to break free from their authors and publishers.
The second work, 'Cairo Newsstand' (2010), is an installation that mimics the morphology of the impromptu newsstands that fill the pavements of Cairo. It contains almost 2000 copies of 64 different comics printed daily, which were all bought on the same day. Their covers were then modified with a printed image of the stones that Cairo newspaper sellers traditionally use as paperweights. The stones are given a ‘voice’ and become a kind of community that talks and shares their views on the day’s news, the social climate, and their own incapacity to move. The work thus breaks down the flow of current affairs and uses parody to draw attention to the ideological architecture that underpins the newsstands.