By Georgios Kassapoglou
The artwork that I chose to create is on a news article I read last year on the newspaper. The artwork I was influenced by was graffiti on a wall in Paris. The graffiti spells out “Coexist”, using an Islamic Crescent as the letter “C”, a Jewish Star of David as the letter “X” and a Christian cross as the letter “T”. In my artwork, I want to draw the Holy Kaaba as the representation of Islam, and the message “Coexist” above it. Around the Kaaba will be surrounded by golden colors drawn on an A3 sky blue cardboard. I believe this artwork shows the relation between Islam and Peace.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, people are easily influenced by the media. People easily believe what is being said on television and what is being written on the newspapers and formulate an opinion without bothering to look at the real facts. This is dangerous as the media is controlled by the people who profit from war and therefore that news headlines are filled with lies that incite hate and violence. Mostly, this hate is directed towards a certain group of people. Before World War 2, when media was first used as a tool to spread lies and propaganda, the hate and violence was directed by Adolf Hitler towards the Jews. This lead people to create a negative attitude towards the them and millions of Jews were massacred. Today, the hate is directed by the Western media towards the Muslim people but new tactics are being used. Organisations such as the Taliban and ISIS are created and funded by the West. This tactic has caused almost the entire world to believe that the Holy Qur'an preaches violence and that the 1.2 billion Muslims around the world are actually terrorists. The reason I am enjoying creating this artwork is because I believe that this terrorist stereotype must be eliminated as the Holy Qur'an actually preaches more peace than any other religion in the world. And this is obvious especially since Muslims greet others by saying “Al salam alaykom” which means, peace be upon you. Some people may think that the opinions of others do not matter but in this case, it really does. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims are being killed everyday under the airstrikes that are meant to eradicate the “terrorists”. Innocent Palestinians are being denied their right to live as normal human beings with human rights simply because they are labelled as Muslim terrorists. Innocent Muslims around the world are being attacked by the media because they are not doing enough to “condemn” terrorist attacks which have absolutely nothing to do with them. It broke my heart when I saw a picture of a little Syrian refugee, who is stuck in the Idomeni refugee camp on the Greek-Macedonian borders, carrying a sign that said, “Sorry for the Brussels attacks.” This stereotype has to stop and we must work on it from all angles, including art. My artwork alone will not make a difference on the international scale, but if everyone follows this trend, we can all make a difference together.
The artist that greatly influenced me calls himself “COMBO”. COMBO, or COMBO Culture Kidnapper, is a French street artist who started by doing graffiti art in 2003 in the South of France. After seven years spent painting from Monaco to Marseille, he moved to Paris in 2010 and became an art director at a major advertising agency. Putting his spray paint cans aside, he then started doing wheat paste. Combo’s work focuses around culture and visual jamming, as illustrated by his cartoon series in which he manipulates iconic pictures, replacing some elements by others taken from the comics or the video games universe to change these pictures' meaning according to what he wants to express. By appealing to generation Y’s pop culture, Combo hits his target at heart and takes it back to the unfairness that makes our world whether cultural, financial or identity-related. The majority of Combo's work is made of wheat pasted prints that he unpastes and then pastes back on canvas, giving it a true street feel. Whatever their size and as an advertiser would do, he always manages to get his work to be seen by as many people as possible. Combo got noticed by the media in 2012 when he introduced himself in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to paste up real advertisements that vaunted the nuclear industry, his way to celebrate Fukushima's disaster first birthday. Strongly influenced by the cartoon and the video game universe, he also put up a massive Simpsons mural, where America's beloved animated family seems to be having a great time, picnicking on a grassy mound, all while Homer's nuclear power plant is seen menacingly in the background. The Simpsons piece, though, has somehow been the only one that international media relayed. In September 2012, he set up an exhibit for pigeons right in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and hung about twenty of the most famous art pieces at eyes-height of the birds. Early December, Combo collaborated with other street artists and realized a pop-up installation place de la Bourse in the 2nd arrondissement, minutes away from AFP’s headquarters, to pay a tribute to the 162 homeless persons who died in the street over the six previous months. In January 2013 he struck again in China, where he went to denunciate Google’s decision to definitively give up on getting its service back to mainland China. It’s in the streets of Hong Kong that he chose to put his work out, giving a second life to the most recognizable Google pages censored by the Party: Tiananmen Square protests, and Ai Weiwei’s recent arrest in Tibet. An initiative that led to his first solo exhibit in Paris: Golden Shield, as per the other name of the “Great Firewall of China”. Late Spring, Combo came back to Paris and settled down in the rue des Petits-Carreaux for his second exhibit, getting a lot of attention both from the neighborhood and the Internets by pasting up a +30 ft. high portrait of a dandy version of Yoda. As opposed to most of his projects since Chernobyl, Old-Up didn't have any political dimension, allowing him to get back to his roots: cartoon. Finally, on July 14th and to celebrate Bastille Day he pasted up a massive collage on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin in Paris, realised in association with theFemen, a feminist protest group founded in Ukraine in 2008 and now operating out of Paris. The piece consisted in a reinterpretation of Liberty leading the people by Delacroix, in which it is not the Jacobins but women who march towards their freedom. By jamming such an iconic piece of art, Combo not only intended to pay a tribute to the activists’ fight, but also to denunciate the discrimination and other misogynistic behavior women still suffer too often nowadays. Despite his great works and efforts, I did not hear about him until I read an article about him in the newspaper. He was attacked by a gang after refusing to take down a mural calling for religious harmony in Paris. He was left with a dislocated shoulder and bruises across his face after being set upon in a ghetto in the east of the capital. He had just finished a design the featured the word “coexist”. So there was one Muslim trying to preach peace, and when other non Muslims saw him, they made war.
My name is Georgios Kassapoglou and I was born in Athens, Greece to a Greek father and a Syrian mother. Both of my parents were Christians and wanted to raise me to be a Christian like them. There was a point in my life where I was a strong believer and went to church every week, sometimes even twice a week. Being born in a Western country, the media there was very stereotypical and spread some lies at first. But most Greeks, being stubborn, had difficulty believing as they had many friends abroad and knew exactly what was going on. Having an Arab mother also helped me eliminate the stereotype of Muslims and terrorists. Today I am an Atheist but I still highly respect the values that Islam and all religions preach.