Photography by Anthony Stephan

Intersectional identities, queer-immigrant narratives, self aware and auto-critical, Arab art and cross cultural politics abound. 2Fik, currently settled in Montréal via Morocco, creates a clear cut world of playful introspection. It’s refreshing to hear a voice so concise, direct and unrelenting. Few art today captures the concerns and uncertainties of our worlds majority: the queer, the of-color, the marginalized and other. 2Fik unfolds, with every video and photograph a quiet answer and flamboyant exploration of our conflicting roles in today’s complex world. Affect, accents, mannerisms, ideologies, mechanisms of gender, wardrobe, everything we are, do, occult and project  positions itself at the forefront of 2Fik’s work.

So, 2Fik, what were some of your first memories or interactions with art? I rather say that my first interactions were more with artists than art. I was hanging out, when I was around in my early twenties, with some people that I considered artists. There were fashion designers, musicians, DJ, photographers or models. Some of them were known some not at all. But all of them gave me this sensation of exuding creativity and, at that time, I was literally jealous of not being able to find a creative side in me. Regarding memories, apart from the few times I went to a museum and exhibitions, I was brought up thinking that art is for an elitist population, only the crème de la crème could enjoy it. As a Moroccan-French suburban man, I wasn’t in that “league.”

Where are you from? And how do you believe where you’re from has affected your art? Originally, I’m from Morocco. My parents have their roots in the High Atlas Mountains while mine are in the 94, a close east suburb of Paris. I move from France to Morocco when I was 8 years old and got back to Paris at 16. Eight years after, I landed in Montréal in order to see what happens there. I’m finishing my eight years cycle here so I’m back in Europe next fall. This regular emigration has blurred a lot of my perceptions of what I can call home. I can see myself as a stateless person because I know three different cultures quite well but none of them really sees me as a part of their societies. Moreover, the fact of starting from scratch every time is very disturbing emotionally so my art is very clearly a way to work out all this questions about my identities.

Tell us a little about your art training or education. What was one of the hardest things to over come in your career? I studied in communication and advertisement. Never studied art, and don’t plan to do it. My education is potentially the reason why I want my messages to be as clear as possible and very direct. I’m not into abstract communication: if you want to say something, say it and own it. The hardest thing to overcome, and I still didn’t manage to go through totally is the fact that I see myself as an impostor. Like I said before, I wasn’t aware of my capacity to create until my arrival in Montréal, in a period in which was hard for me. Finally, the concept of somebody telling me “you’re an artist,” because what I did is just translate in images, performances and videos my self-analysis, is a tad disturbing for me. But I’m working this out.

Your work deals a lot with issues of identity and representation. How do you identify first and foremost? Why? My work is just talking about the questions that I ask myself. Of course, in my case, it’s all about identity and representation. Indeed, my physical appearance doesn’t automatically fit my accent or my attitude. The way people see me before talking to me is usually very different after a talk. Then, I definitely know that it will sound cheesy but, before everything, I identify myself as 2Fik: a male with north-African origins, a strong French attitude, an assumed homosexuality, a occidental culture and a big mouth! What you see is what you get.

If you can, please tell us about an instance of discrimination you encountered or endured in your life? It’s not what I can call discrimination but in my day job, as a communication agent in a non-profit housing federation, I get to meet a lot of people and organizations. When I started, when members saw me arriving in the meeting room I could see in their eyes a huge question mark “is he the one who’ll handle that meeting?” or “he seems so not serious…” Their faces are just hilarious but in the end of the day, I know what I’m doing and I do it well. I also had this situation – but in that case, I think it’s a good point for me. In the end of a meeting, somebody came to me and said: “You look less intelligent than you are.” I was actually genuinely happy about that. Thinking that somebody is an idiot is loosing up your guards. Strategically, it’s good to know that! To close this question, I also had to go through a lot of rejection because of my homosexuality and “arabness” and, seriously, it made me a stronger and better man (cheesy again!)

What are some thoughts or feelings about the art community now? I haven’t thought about it to tell you the truth. As far as I’m concerned, I still have difficulties to consider myself an artist or to talk about me as such.  Maybe my education is one of the reasons to that situation. I always believed that art and politics are frienemies because we, artists, should give an idea of what we think about the society, its evolution and principles. The problem is that I feel that most of the time, the artists that we hear about are simply here to do art and not “daring” to take a political position toward this or that matter. I just cannot separate my art, what I believe in, and I’m just scared to be a tad too straight talking for this sector. But, if I base myself on the people that I hang out with here in Montréal, they’re people with a great political conscience and I’m proud of that!

How did you come to this current project, what was your process? Usually, my imagination rules my creative process: If an idea appears in my head, most of the time, I work on it as soon as I can. This fast reaction is actually good when the photos that I take concern characters of the same gender. If I’m beardless and I feel like doing a shooting with my female characters, I just need to find the clothes, work on the style and shoot on the spot I decided to have as a background. That’s what happened with “Arabesque”, the piece where you have Fatima doing some ribbon in the park, veiled and dressed with only a bikini. But the more it goes, the less fast I can do my photos. One of the main reasons is that I tend to imagine more and more complex situation where characters of both gender are involved. In that case, I have to wait to have the full beard to start. Then, during the shoot, I start with the more bearded man to finish with the most make-up-ed woman. The preparation aspect is way more complex today than it was five years ago, when I started doing photography. Moreover, my work now involves video and performance. In that case, I have to have everything very clear before starting: there’s no place for improvisation here…

What is one of your greatest triumphs or joys of your life? One of my biggest triumphs is to have been able to make it in Montréal. Of course, it’s not a concrete jungle such as Paris or New York. But I arrived in Canada with nothing but two suitcases in 2003. And eight years after, I’m an artist who’s recognized, praised and who is genuinely having fun in what he’s doing artistically. Finally, my joy lays in the concept of achieving my goals and staying focused about what I want in life: taking pleasure everyday!

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