It seems like something one would be hard pressed to disagree with: the word “coexist,” written on a wall using a Muslim crescent as the letter “C,” a Star of David as the letter “X,” and a Christian cross as a “T.”
But in Paris, this particular iteration of the popular inscription—here, created by the street artist Combo, who also pasted a life-size photo of himself next to it—didn’t go down well with everybody. Le Monde reports that four young people asked the artist to remove it last weekend, and beat him up severely when he refused to do so.
Combo ended up with a dislocated shoulder and many bruises.
The attack is characteristic of the inter-religious tensions that plague France and have been exacerbated by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy (see 12 Killed at Magazine Previously Attacked for Satirical Cartoons). Combo declined to discuss the identity of his assailants. “It would only add fuel to the fire,” he told the French newspaper.
A former adman, the artist has taken his politically-charged street art to Los Angeles and Hong Kong, where he pasted printouts of web pages forbidden by the Chinese government. “My pieces function in a disruptive manner, they surprise, and appear up where they shouldn’t be,” he said.
Going to Ji-art
During a residency in Bayreuth, he grew his beard and started wearing the traditional Muslim dress—not because he was increasingly attracted to a more fundamentalist version of Islam, but, again, to disrupt established codes. To his friends asking him whether he was “going to jihad” in Lebanon, he answered, “I’m going to ji-art.”
“First I thought I was French, but I quickly understood that I was Arab, then beur (French slang for second and third generation North African), now I’m told I’m Muslim,” Combo continued, talking of the French des-integration.
Reclaiming the djellaba, the artist’s inclusive messages have cropped up all over Paris. One asked “did you know that Muslims finish their prayers with ‘Amen,’ like Jews and Christians?” Another read “In France, 50,000 Muslim soldiers protect our country.” It was soon defaced with a Swastika.
Despite his right arm in a sling, Combo appears to remain optimistic. He told Le Monde, “Too bad for them, I’m left-handed.”Follow artnet News on Facebook.