BEIRUT: There’s a certain pull towards the idea of an enhanced reality that attracts the eye. Whether in dreams, thoughts, or people in protests, giving a greater reality to a cause and enhancing the present’s value helps visualize a better future.
This is what Georgio Copter’s "Wings of Freedom" reflects with its augmented reality; something that seems simple, yet quickly turns into much more.
"Wings of Freedom" is a piece of wall-art created by Copter in response to the Lebanese revolution. The wings, made with the colors of the Lebanese flag, seem like just simple graffiti at first glance. However, Copter implemented into his work an unusual partner: social media. What makes the wings different is that when a Snapchat camera is pointed at them, they move.
“I made the wings in two days, it could’ve been so much better, there are a lot of errors, and even the graffiti, I can draw better than this,” he told Annahar humorously, adding, “it was my first time with spray paint, too. So I did it to show the idea that we have to be free, Lebanon will remain Lebanon.”
There’s a spontaneous aspect to the wings, in how they came out in barely two days, and it was all so fast— it was very much in resonance with how the revolution began; spontaneously.
Copter, whose real name is Georgio Bassil, received his artist name also pretty randomly— a joke between friends regarding a non-existent helicopter.
“Everyone became a copter, Paula Copter, Rita Copter, Anthony Copter,” he told Annahar. “It was so random. I liked that that happened, everyone was introducing me as Copter, but my name is Bassil. You come back for a bit of privacy.”
Before becoming Copter, Bassil studied interior architecture at USEK. It didn’t take him long to realize that that wasn’t his passion, but luckily, he discovered what he could do with Snapchat early.
“I wasn’t very excited because for me there were no challenges,” he said. “Snapchat came to the picture, and my first push in was drawing just one picture on the app, then it was stories, then it was talking in stories.”
He never called himself an influencer, preferring to focus more on the content itself rather than the followers or viewers. At the young age of 24, he has already won the Best Snapchat Artist in the World award at the Ghosties Awards in London and was named top three Snapchatters in the world by New York Magazine, surpassing the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and was named among the 6 finalists in Snapchatter of the Year award at the Shorty Awards. He also had his picture put up at Time’s Square by Nazdaq.
“After that, they started talking about me in Lebanon,” he said. “You notice almost every time, when someone gets recognized outside of Lebanon, then they get talked about in Lebanon.”
In Lebanon, a career in the arts is often not taken seriously, whether it’s within a household or even with the available majors in universities. Copter attributes his architecture degree to a lack of better orientation from universities and schools and cultural problems where artistic tendencies are brushed off as hobbies.
“It was hard at the beginning, my dad would say go work in an office,” he said. “Something that inspires me is to show young people that they can do these many things and that they don’t need to stick to their initial major. This really bothers me, just do something you love.”
Another aspect that pushes Copter forward in his field is the fact that he can take advantage of his foreign audience to show Lebanon in a different light. According to him, he’s always been the only Lebanese at the awards; and the Snapchat community is still new in the Middle East.
“People tell me ‘oh you’re from Lebanon!’ and I think ‘we don’t live in a desert’,” he said. “When you win something, they think ‘oh he’s Lebanese, they can do what we can?’ Yes, we can, and more.” Copter expanded on the irony of the audience at these events, describing how they tend to go quiet when they hear the words “from Lebanon.”
“I really hope this revolution succeeds. What we saw is that it’s going to, although not exactly how we expect, or hope,” he said, adding: “Lebanon is so much more complicated than water and electricity. We need people to understand that, and take care of it. It’s a mess.”
Art has played a significant role during this revolution, from graffitis to live art sessions to interactive wall-art. The influence of art as a means of expression has always been around— according to Copter, art and life have a cyclical relationship, where inspiration comes from real events for art that aims to inspire change in real life.
The role of augmented reality is to better what’s real by using technology. Using this technique, Copter shared his wish to see Lebanon free and to see the country in its own version of augmented reality.
“I’m planning an AR exhibition, where I want to introduce Lebanon,” he said. “In Snapchat, when you point your camera to, say, a post, a castle shows up on the screen. I want to show Lebanon in this light. If I can, I want to take this exhibition to the US next year and show them Lebanon this way too. The revolution inspired me to really go after this plan.”
For now, "Wings of Freedom" can be found on the way from Riad el Solh to Martyr’s Square. With a quick snap of the App’s camera, one can watch the wings fly away. As for Copter, he wishes the youth of this revolution luck, as well as for himself.
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