WHO’S YOUR FRIEND?– AN ENCOUNTER WITH A PURELY SOCIAL DEMON
Written by: Umjay M.
Photography by: Salman Moghaddam
They’re hard to miss. Lurking in the background, curiously observing. You catch them at meetings, when you’re out for coffee with friends, sometimes even at events around town, popping up in the shadows of the flash of random group selfies. Peeping at you from behind a sticker-bomb of other creatures and demons, all manifestations of someone else’s thoughts, all fighting for a little bit of your attention. Dark and withdrawn enough to ward off unwanted attention, to a fellow observer, they carry the innocence of an inquisitive child, one that makes it so that you can’t help but give them that little bit of attention that they secretly and desperately seek.
Do you ever wonder how many people have had the exact same thoughts as you? It is said that on average, we have between 50 and 70,000 thoughts a day. That comes out to somewhere between 35 and 48 thoughts a minute. That’s a lot to process. Most are fleeting thoughts of visual data collection on our surroundings or are instinctual thoughts on going through the motions of everyday life. Underneath those, linger a small group of thoughts, lurking in the background, curiously observing, persistently prodding, demanding to be heard. Accompanying you throughout your days, evolving, adapting, they grow familiar, almost friendly, and while most of us spend our lives fighting them, Faisal Babajan thought it better to befriend them. To make them his own, after all, they were purely social demons trying desperately to make a connection.
Himself a soft-spoken introvert, it is easy to see Faisal Babajan in his demons. They were him, just slightly more social, somewhat darker and spoke up when Faisal would otherwise have chosen not to – his alter ego, if you will. They were born during Faisal’s childhood as he struggled to make friends while constantly moving schools. Instead of silencing them, he used them as a means to connect with others. Simple, relatable, and most importantly, recreatable, Faisal hoped people would recognize themselves in his demons, enough to take them and make them their own. Because, whether or not we have the exact same thoughts, we all have demons.
In his show “Heterotopia Demons,” Faisal invited a group of fellow artists to participate in what he called the ‘PS.Demons Sketchbook Project.’ Held in Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah Yarmouk on the evening April 19th, at first you begin to feel out of place as you make your way through their pristine walls – no demons would live here. Just as that thought begins to set in, you find yourself face-to-face with a two-foot, 3D demon greeting you at the door – you have arrived. Demons are everywhere; on the walls, on the floors, suspended in mid-air, strapped to a tree of helium balloons. You forget the soft murmurs of the crowd, completely pass up the opportunity for what looked like and amazing fresh fruit cocktail and become fully engaged with these little creatures. What are they doing? How are they feeling? What are they trying to tell me? As you slowly step out of your head and look up at the faces around you, you begin to connect the dots between the artists’ friends and fans, who they themselves look like this wasn’t their first encounter but who radiated nothing but love to the many different demons, be they human, art or on display.
Among the participating artists was Alaa Ahmed. A classical artist who specializes in portraits, his demon takes on a much less friendly demeanor. Perfectly framed in gold, no longer innocent and curious, it takes on the form of a human, disturbingly life-like, portraying a much darker energy than that of its original counterpart. Zahra Al-Mahdi, infamous for her anatomical cross section mixed-media art, shared with us the internal anatomy of her demons. An unamused Qumooth of the Doghouse Collective, stands on a bag of falafel, surrounded by a group of four toddler-like demons. One, upside down in her right hand, legs flailing in the air, the other climbing the side of her face, the third sitting atop her right foot, fiddling and finally the fourth, standing to the side, looking up at her stare.
While most of the artists dressed up their demons or integrated them into the backgrounds of their stories, one artist in particular chose to interact with hers. Ghadeer Al Mesri, is shown addressing her demon – resting on the palm of her hand, it reaches back towards her face. Lurking in the corners of Sheena Doesn’t Know’s mind, she writes to them, responding to their calls for attention with positive reinforcement, accepting their existence and understanding their importance.
Thoughts are tricky little things. I mean, they’re not real, they’re just thoughts. But the mind is a powerful tool, and that small group of thoughts that have been lingering in the back of your mind ever since that one kid in the fifth grade called you awkward, have been evolving and adapting and slowly coming to life. So instead of trying to ignore them, or worse yet, fight them, Faisal invites you to #EmbraceYourDemons.
Sheena Doesn’t Know