2Fik is a French-born Québécois artist of Moroccan heritage whose work playfully engages questions of identity and gender to discomfiting ends. 2Fik eases boundaries between propriety and scandal to suggest that identity is fractured and lost in translation.
-> What triggered your interest in Gender Studies?
Identity has always been a fascinating topic for me. As gender is the most common trait of social, personal and sexual identity, it was obvious for me to be attracted to these studies, subjects, questions and challenges.
-> According to you, has the reflection on Gender Studies evolved over the past years, if we consider the publication of “Gender Trouble” by Judith Butler (1990) a reference point?
Butler’s book has laid the base of queer theories that, with time, got more and more complex and codified. On one hand, the perception of gender has evolved and society is now a more open to the concept of performing a gender without being born in it. On the other hand the excessive codification of gender definitions has created a sort of grid in which a human being should “fit”, which is a concept that interests me a lot.
-> The operation “Gender in Translation” as it has been conceived originally tries to put into perspective French and American approaches to Gender Studies. Does this distinction still seem relevant to you? Why?
The distinction between French and American approaches to gender Studies is totally relevant. Unless, I am mistaken, Gender Studies in French are more complex as – unless I’m mistaken – each and every word in French has a gender. The concept of gender-neutral pronouns, objects or beings is not existent. The English allows certain neutrality when it comes to gender as far as the vocabulary.
The language is just an example but I consider also the approach to the “other” is different. The French and American perspectives on the “otherness” are very different. This is why observing the two through their evolution is relevant, interesting and – in a way – necessary.
-> Could you define the specificity of your approach to Gender Studies?
I directly approach Gender Studies in my art practice. In my artworks, I play a variety of characters and I change my appearance to do so. I perform genders in my art. The particularity of it is that gender questions are included within cultural, religious or social questions too. I enjoy crossing the gender matter with what makes a human being who he-she-they is-are.
I appreciate the inclusion of gender as one of many identity layers. I usually say “Your gender (if you want to define it) is not who you are, it’s a part of it.”
-> Does your research in the field of Gender Studies bear a civic and/or political engagement? Is this an important aspect for you?
Let’s start this answer by saying that everything we do is political engagement. The way we’ll consume, what we will consume and how, the way we will treat, interact, discuss and perceive the other.
Then, it is obvious that Art is a political engagement for me. I do believe that I’m lucky enough to be able to imagine something in my head and be able to create it visually. With this capacity, it would be really disappointing to be simply entertaining when I can raise awareness about prejudice, racism, misogyny, religion and social pressures.
Creating a Gender-Studies-based type of Art is important for me. I come from a Moroccan culture where gender is binary, where sexual orientation cannot exist in plural (only heterosexuality exist and homosexuality or bisexuality are hidden).
-> As a scholar/artist/thinker/curator/…, what does the title “Gender in Translation” evoke for you?
“Gender In Translation” evokes evolution, transformation. As a man who is fluently trilingual (French, Moroccan and English), I know what it feels to have some difficulties to find a word in a language to express exactly your thought is in another one.
“Gender In Translation” evokes the movement within genders: the genders performance. It goes to this precise moment where I will perform my masculinity in different ways whether I’m in Montréal, Paris or Morocco. I’m not sure yet if it’s as a response to social pressure or pure adaptation. Maybe I’ll have the answer during my experience in San Francisco !