Syrian artist Saint Hoax's infatuation with pop culture started with a kiss. "I still remember the day Madonna and Britney kissed on MTV," he explains. "I wasn't shocked. What truly shocked me was the way people reacted. That kiss got everyone talking! This is when I first realized that I'm infatuated with pop culture's effect on people and people's effect on it." Saint Hoax harnesses that effect in his art, which ranges from a digital illustration of Honey Boo Boo as the face of Durex condoms to a short video that transforms Kanye into Kim through the "power of contouring." In his series, "War Drags You Out," the artist re-imagined world leaders in full-tilt drag: Bush wears pink lipstick with a silver headpiece and yellow feather boa, Putin models a top bun, Divine-esque eyebrows and lavender sequined gloves. Though outright funny, Saint Hoax's work is intended to challenge how we interpret pop culture; it exaggerates the foibles of celebrities and politicians. It also tackles tough topics such as domestic violence, sexism and shame. For example, for his "Bloody Princess" series, Saint Hoax added period stains to the gowns of Disney princesses. "Why is it 'embarrassing' for a woman to get her period," Saint Hoax asks in the following interview, "but natural when a man has a nosebleed?"
Who was the first person you satirized and why?
The first person I satirized was Hitler. It was part of my first series, "War Drags You Out." I was in Amsterdam and I just got back from my visit to the Anne Frank House. I guess I was angry or emotional and the only way I could express myself was through satire.
Why did you add hundreds of pounds to photos of certain celebrities (like the Spice Girls and the cast of Sex and the City)?
I was inspired to start my "Super-Sized" series after I saw all the slimmed down celebrity photos that are posted on Instagram everyday. My project also alters celebrity bodies, but instead of slimming them down, I exaggerate their curves and magnify their figures. Initially, Instagram was meant to feature instantaneous photos uploaded by users. If you look at most celebrity accounts and see their photos, you realize that there's nothing "instant" about them. In fact, the "spontaneous" images that they post probably take as much time to edit as the images that appear on the front covers of fashion magazines.
What do you think about modern beauty standards?
We live in a world where the Kardashians/Jenners currently set the beauty standards. I think that says it all!
I love your takes on the Kardashians, from the Kylie Jenner Emoji update to the before-and-after timelapses of Kim and Khloe. But I noticed that your spot-on rendition of an American Horror Story promo, which featured the whole Kardashian crew, was missing Caitlyn. What do you think about her and what she is doing
I love her! Although some people would argue against this, she is a hero! It's true that Caitlyn isn't the first transgender person, and many before her have transitioned from man to woman or vice versa. But the overall story of the athlete, family man and public figure that took this huge decision makes this story very different. As long as Caitlyn is using her experience to educate people about the transgender community, I will support her.
Why are women's issues central to your work?
I was raised around extremely powerful and independent women at a time where it wasn't so common for women to be this way. I always felt that as a man it's my duty to stand up for women's rights and fight side by side with them. I come from the Middle East where women are still struggling for their rights. They're surrounded by sexism, domestic violence and verbal abuse. The law in the Middle East doesn't support women as well. There's a lack of awareness that I always try to address through my work.
Period stains seem to be the cronut of the art world. Why do you think so many artists and photographers are focusing on this now? What do you hope this will achieve?
It's ridiculous that people still tiptoe around something as natural as that! I think what we're all trying to achieve is to get people used to the idea of periods, without cringing. Why is it "embarrassing" for a woman to get her period, but natural when a man has a nosebleed?
Why did you make the Donald Trump blow-up doll?
As you may know, Donald Trump stated a few weeks ago that if he wins, he's going to send Syrian refugees back from the U.S. He also called Syrian refugees a "Trojan horse." I usually never pay attention to his statements, but this one was a bit more personal (since I'm Syrian). As a response, I began producing blow-up Donald Trump dolls. The net proceeds of the project will be donated to the UNHCR: UN Refugee Agency.The reason why I chose to sell blow-up sex dolls based on Donald Trump is so people can fill him up with air and deflate him at any minute. It's a symbolic representation of how a political leader is made.
What do you hope to achieve through your work?
To tackle serious issues through art and humor.
Text Zio Baritaux
All images courtesy Saint Hoax