Salaam y'all. It's not Sunday, I know... I was supposed to send this out yesterday but I had a migraine, and a long, but good weekend, Alhamdulilah. I'm sure you'll understand. I wanted to really sit down and write this week, so I needed some rest in order to be fully here for this one. I hope you all are doing great, if not better than I have been, insha'Allah. I want to send a welcome to all my new subscribers :), thanks for being here, and Ramadan Mubarak to my Muslim brothers and sisters, I hope you're making the best of it... pray that I do the same.
It's been a long couple of weeks/months. I feel like for the first time in a long while of being shut off to myself, my mind has been stimulated, engaged with, and challenged, what with all the new faces and perspectives I have come across. I've been given a lot of attention, and therefore have taken it upon myself to reciprocate that attention to as many people as I can. So, I spent this weekend down at the gallery, manning it, and talking with whoever came to look at my work, despite the fact that you don't often find the artist tending their own show. There were people I wanted to see and meet however, those I wanted to walkthrough the show, network with, or just friends I had not seen in a while that wanted to come by and support -- and I was very much in need of this.
One can only go so long alone and/or surrounded by the same people, the same conversations reiterating time and time again, with those around you even becoming predictable to a fault. I blame this on my own criticism, as I know myself to be not only a self-critic but a critic of others as well (to a fault, once more). It is something I am working on, however, and therefore can admit freely, but it is my desire for and my engagement with newness that ultimately serves as a remedy to this rather toxic trait of mine. It is similar to how taking a break from a friendship or relationship can assist in not only putting in perspective that which we miss or care about in regards to one another, but even realizing new things about ourselves that can enhance those friendships/relationships when they eventually pick back up, (or even cause them to end for good).
It is rather interesting how these dynamics work though. For example, in my current state, I feel I am in need of new friends, not necessarily people to replace those who are currently in my life, but rather, people to provide me new experiences that I would not be able to have otherwise. And this dynamic I speak of which intrigues me, is purely due to a conversation I had with a friend of mine yesterday. I'll call them P.
P and I were speaking on the phone, and I expressed this idea to them that I was in need of new friends. And at first, they expressed agreement with my perspective, or at least understood it, maybe even resonated with it, at a time. P talked about how they too love making new friends, trying new things, traveling, etc. But where P differed from me was the fact that they hadn't been 'home' or didn't exactly have a place they felt grounded for a rather long time. They'd moved around from Spain, to the U.S., to Portugal, and to and fro between there and Spain, staying with various groups of "friends" or what eventually became mere acquaintances, intermittently and very much spontaneously, not to mention a large portion of this taking place during covid. P was now battling with the consequences of these constant changes in their life. There was nobody in P's life to call a true friend. Nobody to reliably call upon whenever they pleased, despite how predictable the conversations may be, despite how many times they partook in the same activities, talked about the same problems, etc. P was now faced with the emptiness that comes with an almost absolute lack of predictability in one's relationships. And I then saw the comfort we can and do find in redundancy. I talk about how much I love unpredictable people often, but the most unpredictable people in my life aren't always around for a reason. And it is only when they are, that I quickly realize one cannot keep up with a lifestyle that is smacking you around with your not having a single clue what could possibly come next. P was stuck in that lifestyle for too long, and being finally back "home", is trying to recuperate.
Believe it or not, all this was not what I wanted to talk about in this letter. That was just one of the many tangents in my constantly interrupted trains of thought. So I'll now get to the meat of this letter, what I really wanted to talk about... It's going to be a long one, I know...
After the opening of my show, I was talking with a friend, I'll call them Z.
Z and I were catching up, they congratulated me on the success of my photo book and solo exhibition and they asked me how I felt. Proud, I told them, happy I was able to accomplish such a feat, but I guess in my voice, the excitement one would expect to be present, just wasn't there. Maybe I appeared a bit too humble about it, maybe the self-critic in me was subconsciously affecting my ability to shout my accomplishments loudly to my miniscule world. I get that a lot though. People always think I am too humble or not excited enough about my accomplishments, but I am, it's just that I've learned how best to perceive and handle these accomplishments when they come about. I deal in the business of creating and manifesting ideas, this is what I am supposed to be doing after all, right?
When it comes to anything I do somewhat well or effectively. People tell me how great of a job I have done, tell me they are inspired by me, talk a whole lot more of my small and TRULY insignificant accomplishments to me, then I ever wish to myself. There are the few people I will jokingly flex around, purely for laughs, but never in a genuine social setting.
Z was a bit unsettled by my apparent humility. They informed me that what I was doing was a big deal, (and I agree), and that I should be happy (which I was... I don't know why anyone would think I would be unhappy with an accomplishment, and in truth, I've heard this so much growing up that I am rather tired of hearing it,) and eventually said, and I'm roughly paraphrasing, something along the lines of, "You have to eventually stop being so humble". I must admit I was a bit set off by this. Being that Z and I have not known each other for very long, and therefore Z knows nothing of how it is I grew into the person I am today, it sent me on a bit of a rant about why it is I act the way I do -- especially when it comes to my work.
Just to get this out of the way -- I am an amateur writer and artist. Sure, for technical / professional terms I'll call myself a professional one as I am and intend to do these things for my profession. But when it comes down to it, I am, as I have recently begun calling myself, a "Dilettante Don". I don't know much about art, I don't know much about literature, writing, or the art world. I know more than the average joe or someone outside of these fields, yes, of course, I've studied literature and have been making art and writing for years, but in comparison to the masters, who don't become masters or even escape amateurism for decades, I know nothing.
I had to make it clear to Z, that the only reason I am put in the positions I am in, is because I am "humble". It is because every moment of my day, when I engage people on social media, when I talk to people in real life, when I sit in my room and think about who I am, who I want to be, and what I believe I am capable of in this short life of ours, I realize --
1. The insignificance of my endeavors if they do not serve the people.
2. That if I ever cater to my ego even for a split second, everything I have built for myself could come crumbling down in an instant.
Hearing someone tell me that I need to eventually be less humble, I found to be a bit disrespectful. I assume that it came from a good place, but I wish one inquired as to why it is I am this way first. For background, I grew up almost the complete opposite of who I am today. Sure, some of these principles I share still existed within me, but ego persisted then where a quieted one does now. When people complimented me, I believed it wholeheartedly to the point that I walked with my chest out, and would compliment myself, as if everything I was ever told, or ever told myself was fact. If you know Daygo (San Diego), people often say "You're Bick", as a compliment for being cool or a stand out. So where do you think my name "Bickness" came from in the first place?? People provided me with it yes, but eventually I gave it to myself...
It's so easy to feel at the top of the world even in our miniscule communities, but going through these motions at a younger age, and experiencing the alienation it brought about, not to mention the false, conflicted individuals it attracts into your world, I learned quickly that it would serve me best to simmer down. Something else Z advised me of was to "make myself more exclusive, hard to reach" i.e inflated in the eyes of the public. I felt they were projecting their own desires of identity onto me, but still, I had to make clear, once more, that this idea of inflation and fame and thinking that "I am different (more accomplished, doing better, cooler, more beautiful, etc.) than you, is the fakest, most detrimental sh*t one could ever experience. It's only from the outside it seems great, and I know for a fact that this isn't the first time you all are hearing this, but I can say that from the small tiny percentage of it I experienced myself in the past, that way of living is not it.
Sorry (not sorry) if I prefer to talk to people as Bilal, the individual, rather than Bilal (or Bick) the artist. (By the way, Bick is practically dead, if you knew that part of me before, you could see that I'm sure. Maybe it's time I got rid of Bickness as well...) I don't know if it's just me, but I prefer to live within one identity rather than wear a mask everytime I go out. Believe it or not, back when I used to make music as Bick, there had been multiple times where I had been out with my family and had been approached by people I didn't know referring to me as Bick telling me how amazing or talented I was and dapping me up, (this actually happened a few weeks ago and it's been years since I stopped making music), and they'd do this without realizing that I was out of character. Bick was not present. He no longer is present. That was merely a persona that took hold of me and after a while I had to strip my true self away from.
I would like more than anything to be real with people. And that doesn't mean giving everyone every part of me. If I don't want you to know something about me, I simply won't tell you. If I don't want you in my life, I won't have you in my life. There's no need to create these imaginary barriers that not only disconnect you from real genuine people, but that slowly cause people to no longer be able to relate to you.
For example, an internet friend of mine whom I just started talking to often, is an up and coming, very talented rapper/singer/entertainer. And from his energetic, crazy, even intimidating images and music videos showcasing his ridiculous build and acrobatic capabilities, you would never expect him to be the softest speaking, gentle, cool-headed individual he really is. As someone who understood where he was coming from, mind you his being a practicing Muslim, on the first phone call we had, it didn't take long before he began describing to me the confliction he faced, battling between his rapper/internet persona, and the person he was really trying to be. Those identities had now become two distinct personas, even beings, that required attention, energy, and character development from the same brain and body. I could hear the exhaustion in his voice when he described it, and could not imagine how difficult it must be for him, especially at the level of notoriety and growing success he is now at, but that is the reality of these barriers we build. Eventually, they grow tall enough to be complete and solidified, and you'll have to choose which side to reside on, or you can break them down early and decide on the identity you truly want to live with. Sure it's possible to have a bit of both, but I believe that can only come naturally and with the most genuine of intentions. It's when we chase fame and exclusivity that it only ever ruins us. Therefore, I choose myself. And I choose to fight my ego, to the death. I won't showcase an image aside from the realest I could provide, comfortably. And I won't lie to the public -- I'll only conserve my truths -- for if I lie to them, then really, I am lying to myself.
I will be surprised if you've read this far. It's just been a lot on my mind. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Photo Book Updates:
- If you are not in San Diego, live abroad, or just cannot make it my show, I'll be posting the books on my site soon insha'Allah. I estimated this week, but I am considering waiting until the show is closer to being over so I can dedicate more of my time to assuring the books are sent out without being too overwhelmed. I appreciate all of you waiting to purchase a book, I can't wait to ship them out. And thank you again, to everyone who has come through so far and purchased a book. There's only a few more left at the gallery so I appreciate y'all, truly.
I haven't had much time to watch films or read anything as of late and probably won't for the next few weeks as I'd like to focus my energy elsewhere during Ramadan, but I'll share the last things I watched/have been watching. *ALSO just an fyi if you're wondering where the heck I'm watching all these movies, the majority are on Criterion Channel. I hardly use any other streaming service. I live there at this point. Amazon Prime Video surprisingly has some good stuff sometimes too. -- also, somebody on Twitter said Amazon Prime Video look like a warehouse lmfaooo
Pierrot le fou
By Jean Luc-Godard
*its like Bonnie and Clyde I guess?? but also I have no idea what is going on.
*No context, just kaleidoscopic vibes.
*this is my favorite sequence right here --
*and yet here I am, talking about why I wish to feel like one individual...
**therefore (am still) perfecting the art of shutting the fu*k up :)
**Maybe the fragmentation of the self is solely caused by one's inability to just STOP talking?? I believe it lmaoo
**for those of you who know the role literature plays in my life and present dilemmas... look at God hahaha
By Wong Kar-Wai
*I know I know, "you haven't seen it??" No nigga I have not.
*barely started it, feels like a wong kar-wai film though, and that is NOT a bad thing.
*I like this universe...
Anthony Bourdain: A Cook's Tour
*Rick Steves still my nigga, but Bourdain had the best food and travel shows
*Action Bronson is an honorable mention tho
***Watching Bourdain with the fact of his suicide on mind is always unsettling. All this life he was living, the food, the places, the notoriety, respect, etc. behind it all, even watching his shows in retrospect, you could see the hints of discontent, at some times more than others. Often through comments made that had they not been disguised as a joke, could be a call for concern...
***That goes to say, please don't be afraid to ask for help or reach out if you need to talk to someone, especially now. Just about everybody's mental health has been negatively impacted over the past year. It's tough out here, I promise you're not alone. I'm here if you want to talk, always.
**How come I'm always watching food shows during Ramadan?? Is it just me??
For all my Muslim brothers and sisters, I wanted to share a few youtube channels that have been of great benefit to me last Ramadan as well as this one. And also particular videos to watch that I enjoy and appreciate. And if you are not Muslim and are interested in watching, learning about Islam, feel free to watch and/or reach out.
*** I also want to mention, for any subscribers who are not Muslim and are even slightly interested in learning about Islam, I can provide you with an English translation of the Qur'an if you would like, free of charge and can ship/drop them off to you. Just let me know if you'd like one, inshallah. <3
I got some film developed recently and would love to share some the photos here --
That's all from me for this one. Thank you for reading. And please feel free to reply to these emails if you feel inclined to. I'll be here.