My passport name says “Toufik”.
My close friends call me “Touffe” [Bush].
My family calls me “Fik” [Fik].
But none of these are the names that I use when I’m on dating or cruising apps. I usually find something funny and referential such as “He Who Must Not Be Named”, “Ex Hallal Meat” or “!”. Yes, whether we want to accept it or not, we all play a role when we get on a dating or cruising app.
The world of dating apps has been fascinating me since 2011, when I started imagining how people were performing themselves in order to please, attract and satisfy others online. Indeed, each and every one of us take a conscious or unconscious decision to show themselves a certain way. The process behind it passionated me. Why do we choose this photo to look attractive? Why do we use these words to look intelligent or charming?
It all started with some fake profiles that I imagined and was keen to see their impact if they were real. I posted several fake profiles on my Facebook Page and people laughed and reacted to them in a way that was interesting to me.
I was then interested in pushing the envelope. Instead of playing a catfish and lying about who I was, what I was doing and what I was looking for, I took upon me to change the way I present myself visually and keeping a clear profile stating who I was and what I was doing (visual art).
Instead of being alone in the photos (in a selfie or a photo taken by someone else), I was portraying twin brothers. They are for me an extreme representation of narcissism. Sometimes (if not often), couples tend to look the same, dress the same, talk the same way. Couples can look like brothers and sisters!
With that embraced and outrageous generalization in mind, I decided to start a #2FikTwinsSeries: Every time I updated the photo of my twins on my dating profile, I’ll be posting it on Instagram. The reactions were radically different regarding the platform in which you discovered the photo:
On the app, men were aroused, excited, wished for an incestuous threesome and even offered money to see me and my (non-existent) twin have sex. I received a scandalous amount of genitalia photos as a first message.
On social media, people were laughing, enjoying the scenes and debating about how hot my twins looked and how kinky it was to have one of them using a pregnancy test (that detail sparked a discussion about the representation of barebacking and the fetish of “breeding”).
The effect of this photo series was particularly enjoyable when it came to an abrupt stop with my suspension from the App I was on, in 2016 after 9 months of playing this game. Many men flagged my profile as being fake. Maybe they did not get the sarcasm and all of them believed that they were talking to real twin brothers looking for fun. Side note, the first sentence of the profile was “Twin bros looking 4 other twin bros for Hallal fun. No sex on Friday”. The second sentence was something like “Don’t believe everything that you see.”
After being suspended from this app, I realized that men lack a sense of humor when it comes to getting the D. Yes, ladies, gentlemen and all other magnificent people, you cannot joke about sex because it is sacred, intimate, touchy and sensitive.
That was a turning point for me and that was the moment when I decided that my fourth photo series will be focused on a dating app. I will be creating a real app containing a 100 unique profiles. Each and every one of them will allow me to question the way we perform ourselves in the virtual world to get a real connection with other humans. And because we usually have several photos in our profile, I plan to create 300 different photos within the next year. That gives an average of 3 per profile, although some won’t have any because they are “discreet” or “on the Down Low” while some will have a dozen of them.
Because I believe in being open and sharing my creative process, here’s a step by step of how I work for this new series. Keep in mind that each photoshoot requires the same process. That means I should be doing this hundreds of times:
1 – Scouting a location for a character
The aim here is to imagine who would be evolving in this space, how will they portray themselves in it and what would be a good representation to seduce the others. Here, we have a man in a construction site. He obviously wants to highlight his virility, masculinity and strength.
2 – Finding accessories and props to make the scene realistic
The creation of a fake reality requires detailed research and knowledge. Below, I’m playing this Master who has a full dungeon in order to enjoy his and his partner’s deep and dirty sexual fantasies.
3 – Playing the character in front of my camera and taking photos of it
Here’s where the performance happens. I dress up as my character and play him/her/them in front of my camera and capture the moment with my remote. I try to catch a position, a look in the eyes, a non-verbal communication that will make the photo a success. And I define success by seeing the photo and believing the person you see in it is real and decided to use that image in their dating app profile.
After this whole process, I get something like the images below. These are not the final photos (because I want to keep a minimum of mystery he he)
After all the things I told you, I realize that I still have 224 artworks to create. So, wish me luck !