The French-Moroccan Montrealer 2Fik is a gender-bending activist and self-taught photographer who considers his debut exhibition, held at Galerie [sas], to be his coming-out as a visual artist. In it he offers us a family slide show: it is a series of portraits of some of the many selves that inhabit him, whose personalities, distinct from his own, he has developed, conceptualized, refined and illustrated with increasing sophistication over the last four years. Ask him about any one of them—Fatima, Manon, Marco—and he’ll tell you their whole life story, likes and dislikes, how they interrelate with the other members of this complex imaginary clan.
Fatima, the linchpin, is 22 years old and is married to Abdel. She was born in the small Moroccan village of Agdz, and while Adbel was in Canada waiting for her immigration permit, she had time to complete a university degree in science. Now she lives in Montreal and works as a gofer in a fashion agency. She is a devout Muslim and wears the veil, but since her arrival in Canada has found her beliefs complexified. She always thought her main role in life was to be a wife and mother, but she’s been developing an interest in feminism and fashion as of late.
“My approach deals with a universal subject: identity,” says 2Fik, “which we might also term ‘intranarchy’ or ‘dissidentity.’ For me, personality is the result of a pileup of identity strata, each of which takes shape over years, through experiences and via the difficulties this world puts us through. These strata mix with each other, fuse together, repel each other and grate on one another. Occasionally, they manage to cohabitate.”
Much of 2Fik’s identity exploration is centred on immigration and the strained relation between the Old and New Worlds. All of his characters live in Quebec, though most come from elsewhere: places like Morocco, Lebanon and Italy. The artist himself moved to Montreal in 2003, after a childhood spent in France that included extended trips to Morocco, and he describes the experience of arriving here as a sort of entry into a melting pot.
Two of 2Fik’s characters have particular difficulty meeting in the middle: they are brothers, seen sitting across from each other at a table in a photograph entitled Absolut hatred. The elder brother, Abdel, Fatima’s husband, was raised in Morocco and is at ease with his traditional Islamic values. The younger brother, Sofiane, who was also born in Morocco but only recently arrived in Canada, has adopted the loose beliefs of the West—he thinks he can make it as a hip-hop artist. The tension between them is palpable.
The effect on him, though, seems to have been one of fragmentation more than integration. He is proudly homosexual and increasingly divorced from his Muslim upbringing—he describes himself as “nearly agnostic”—and images that reflect these polarized identities live on strong in his work. Through role play, 2Fik keeps tabs on fundamentalism, immorality, sexism, rivalry and prejudice. The humour that permeates the two dozen images gathered for this exhibition, though, shows how much fun can be had with the more exaggerated “identity strata.”
2Fik uses his works bravely, to investigate the instabilities created by pitiless self-analysis. “I am faced, in my works, with the task of integrating my personal rebellion into an attempt to better understand society’s,” he says. It’s surprising he has been able to keep his inner artist under wraps for so long.