2fik romance ain't dead fta

Photo by Vivien Gaumand

2Fik’s interactive experience explores the absurdity of dating apps

Romance ain’t dead, 2Fik! is on now as part of Festival TransAmériques.

Festival TransAmériques is back. Among the intriguing shows that make up the FTA 2021 program is 2Fik’s Romance ain’t dead, 2Fik!, featuring the artist playing 100 different characters that populate a dating app he created.

While 2Fik’s work on the project began a half decade ago, its timing could not be better. The pandemic has made many turn to dating apps to find love and hookups. The artist creates a space that both finds the humour in the absurdity of dating apps, while highlighting some sad truths about the toxic culture that persists within many of these apps.

We took a dive into 2Fik’s world to discuss Romance ain’t dead, 2Fik! and plenty more:

2Fik on his relationship with the city of Montreal:

“When I arrived in 2003, I thought everybody was super nice until I understood how passive aggressive things were. Then I got to read between the lines. I think it’s super interesting. In Quebec, especially Montreal, we have bilingual and bicultural lifestyles. It’s active aggressive, not passive!”

2Fik on conceptualizing his latest interactive experience: 

“Everything started in 2016. I was on a dating app and I had this idea that I would post some photos of me. instead of being me by myself, I doubled myself, to look like twins. It was for some fun, right. On top of the text, I said, ‘This is Photoshop and visual art.’ So everything for me was, I thought, super clear that it was a joke. 

“People didn’t take it as a joke. My profile has been flagged and removed. Taking the photos on the dating app, I was posting it on Instagram at the same time. I was thinking how come I am being suspended because I’m just creative? And it was super clear about what I was doing. Meanwhile there are people that will say that they want no fags, no fems, no Asians, will not deal with people of a certain size, and that kind of thing. There have been very, very radical and sometimes even violent texts in some dating app profiles. How come this is okay, but me being creative is not?

“Instead of being frustrated and crying, let’s make it clear: It’s just an app, it is not the end of the world. I decided to dive deep ahead and just start thinking about the representation of self on the dating apps. I subscribed to 16 different dating apps for like six months. And I literally went to each and every profile, read the text, looked at the photos. 

“That year, I was traveling a lot for my artwork. I got to see different countries and the way people present themselves and then I realized, ‘Oh my God, no one is real in these apps.’ That’s how I started romancing 2Fik as this whole process of just thinking, why are we performing as someone else when we are online? Why are we weeding our images and our personalities in order to satisfy certain expectations?

2Fik on personal dating app nightmares:

“For some type of guys, I don’t look gay when I have this big beard. That’s what I’ve been told. I received a bunch of messages that I looked like a terrorist. So obviously, I think it must be true for certain people. That was literally a pick-up line I have had used on me: ‘You look like a terrorist. I think it’s sexy.’”

2Fik on performing Romance ain’t dead, 2Fik! during a pandemic: 

“I am flabbergasted by the timing, I must say I’m super pumped. I don’t know if I must be lucky as hell, or absolutely brilliant. I’m going to say lucky because I’m quite humble! But the thing is that I love the fact that the timing is so great, because we just came out of one year of crazy things where people cannot meet people, cannot touch people, cannot seduce live anymore. So everything goes to these apps. 

“When you check the main character (during the show), I will be answering live. I do 32 shows in one week. So one of the characters will try to get a date with someone and the person and my character will meet live, in rooms in which the people, the public, can walk around to take a look at what’s happening. They can hear more or less what is happening inside.

“What I think is fascinating is that this past year, people went more than ever to their screens to connect with other people. At the same time, we realized that as human beings, we need to have contact, we need to be appreciated for who we are, we need to be cared for, or at least recognized for who we are as people. More than ever, this whole year with COVID has pushed a lot of people onto those apps.” ■

Romance Ain’t Dead, 2Fik! Is on through June 9. For more information, please visit the FTA website.

For more on the Montreal arts scene, please visit the Arts & Life section.