On 15 September in Paris a house painter who had just cleaned a wall has been the victim of a Combo-style retaliatory. The careless operator, guilty of having removed a work by the 28-year old from Amiens, found himself the star of a new mural: always on the same wall, always with the same subject, “Action … reaction” is an exact reproduction of the worker intent to delete that same mural.
Brilliant, this is Combo’s style. We didn’t heard talking about him in those months, at least since the regrettable fact took place in Paris on the night of January 30, in the tense atmosphere of the post-Charlie Hebdo: the french street artist was painting his picture beside the word “COEXIST” composed by the symbols of the Muslim religion (C), the Jewish one (X) and Christian one (T) when a group of four young men attacked him. After having beaten him, causing a dislocated shoulder, bruises and painful eight days of forced immobility, the group has first asked him to remove the work and then to cut his beard, ordering him not to carry out more such works. Combo wasn’t intimidated and, while refusing to reveal the identity of these children, said he would continue to do that kind of work, liquidating all with a joke: “I was hit in the right arm, but I’m left-handed. “
A provocateur, in short, who made precise choices in his life. Born in Amiens by Lebanese Christian father and Moroccan mother Muslim, lives in a very open mind family. At 19 the change: after understanding that he is not (only) French, he converts to Islam, choosing to become a beurs (French term to identify the French born to Arab parents). He decides to move to Beyruth, where he fills the city with the words “Less Hamas, more hummus”: at the question “You go there because you want to do jihad?”, Combo answers: “I go because I want to do the jih-art!”. From that moment he began his work of complaint, all made the same way: wheat pasted prints that he unpastes and then pastes back on canvas, to allow visibility as enlarged as possible.
His reputation, however, started only in 2012: on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster Combo enters the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and affix some posters praising nuclear energy. His passion for cartoons is clearly visible in the paste up dedicated to Simpson: behind the most beloved american family, engaged in a picnic outdoors, towers threatening the nuclear power plant where Homer works. In September of the same year he organized an exhibition for pigeons right in front of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, while in early December realizes, along with other street artists, the installation of the Place de la Bourse in the second arrondissement, a few minutes from headquarters of the Agence Frence-Presse, to commemorate the 162 homeless people died on the street in the previous months. In January 2013, in China where it denounces the Party’s decision to close Google also in the continental zone. As? Papering the city of Hong Kong with the screen shot of the famous search engine and showing it to all the most censured by the Party: the Tiananmen Square protests, the detention of Ai Weiwei, the violence in Tibet. This collection gives life to his first solo exhibition in Paris, “Golden Shield”, while its second exhibition, “Old up” is sponsored, in spring 2013, a paste up of nine meters depicting the dandy version of Yoda. Finally, on July 14, to celebrate Bastille Day, in collaboration with the group Femen paste huge collage on the banks of the Canal Saint – Martin in Paris. The subject is the same that Femen, waving the French flag, are portrayed in a contemporary version of “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix: a way of remembering the struggles of activists around the world but also to denounce discrimination misogynistic.
I have had the pleasure to ask him some questions.
Who are you? What have you studied and what do you do?
I am a French street artist, I’m 28 years old and I started painting in the street 12 years ago.
When and why did you start to do murals?
I had a really evil teacher when i was in school. One day i buy a spray cans and waited where she park a car usually to paint it. But she never back her car there. Finaly i had this spray cans for nothi.g so with my friend we tried to paint in the street where we lived. We like it so much that i never stopped.
What do you usually paint?
I always paint about our society and about topic in the actuality.
Why do you call yourself “culture kidnapper”?
Culture kidnapper. It’s like my surname and also a programme for what I’m doing and I’m going to do. I kidnapp the culture to make it something else. And for now the Stockholm syndrom works great!
Tell me what happened a few days ago, when a painter has covered your piece?
I came a morning to take a picture of what i painted the nigth before but I found someone was cleaning it. I was mad so I came back in the nigth to paint like the picture of him i taked to made him made like i was.
Your painting are very critical of contemporary society: someone has ever compared to Banksy?
Some american journalists called me the “French Banksy”. I think that we have lot in common: our topic, or medium and a little bitte of humour.
Which plans for the future?
I’m asking a lot in my fan page what people want me to paint. So in the next week I’ll start again new character and people will give me the quotes they like. You lust stay focus and follow me to see funny thing.