This is a preview of our upcoming issue 18 feature on Bijan Berahimi. You can preorder the issue here.
Bijan Berahimi glows. Or he did when I first met him at a new zine festival in 2012. In crowded corridors, on stuffed tables, he sat with royal blueprints of clean abstractions made of scratches and rocks surrounded by a thick white border. For some reason, on that sweaty day, I sat down next to him and his friends and I quickly felt like one of them. Bijan has a curious way about him with obvious joy, general aloofness and a peculiar yet friendly demeanor.
When did you know you wanted to do something like what you do now?
I think I’ve always had this urge to make something from nothing, and I still feel that to this day. There are things that may be out of reach, and some things that are within reach.
The new space we’re in right now defines what I’ve been trying to do with FISK for the last ten years. There was a moment where I was waiting on the lease papers from the landlord. I was in the car with Abby [Morgan] and I was thinking, I don’t have to do this. I don’t have to take this huge undertaking of work to rebuild a space. Figure out what to do with this floor plan. Get furniture. Do programming. Have the ambition to hire people and get more work and be able to fund this project. There was this moment where I stopped and I thought: I don’t know what I would be doing or who I would be if I didn’t say yes and if I didn’t keep trying new things.
If someone was transported into your body and given your life tomorrow, what part of your life do you think would surprise them most?
That’s a crazy question. [Laughs] I think of how many different things I do in a day. I’ve really conditioned myself to be able to do such a variety of things in a day. And I’m not saying I do them very well, but I have to able to keep my practice afloat by juggling a dozen different things.
I have a really high quality of life that allows me to put everything into my work, and I sometimes have to remind myself of that. [Abby and I] live 0.3 miles away from the studio, and I have the cutest dog and we walk to work every morning. I have tea and toast in the morning and it’s a beautiful tree-lined walk in the neighborhood and there are beautiful flowers and lavender and rosemary and sometimes chickens and lots of squirrels and cats and birds. I think as much as I work, I think I’ve set up my working day to be quite pleasant, so I think if someone was dropped into my body, it would be equally like, “Oh! This is really nice!” and, “Oh fuck. There are like twenty fires in this one building and I have to put all of them out.” It would be kind of confusing.
If someone wanted to engineer their life to be like yours, where should they start?
Find something that you’re passionate about, that you wouldn’t care if you did for free, for yourself, for ten people, for fifty people, for a million people, for four million dollars, or for nothing.
I think the reason why FISK is FISK is because it was started when I was in school. It’s a really special place where you’re not thinking about capitalism as much, and you’re in this kind of safe environment where you can really be true to yourself and do something for the pure good of it. It’s about tending to this life, this project, whatever it is you do, really caring for it. Giving it time, space and love is the most important thing. I really think it’s that simple.
Is there any part of your work that you never get to talk about, that you’d like to talk about?
In the past two years, I’ve noticed more and more Middle Eastern, Asian and Indian people my age who are blossoming creatively. I think that has been such an inspiring and important thing for me. Growing up in the suburbs where I did, there were no Middle Eastern or brown people making music in America, making projects, or making TV shows in America. I think now seeing that and then realizing that I’m contributing to that, has been such a powerful thing that I’m figuring out how to dissect, and I am starting to realize how important my parents’ background and my background is to what I do.
It’s been a complex thing. It’s been really tough to put into lectures, but when I do talks or when I’m in class I almost want to just focus on that kind of subject. I’m enjoying what everyone else is making and it would be nice if there was a platform to be able to have conversations about people who grew up in the States with a similar background that are making art, because culturally that’s unique.
For more from Bijan Berahimi, follow him on Instagram.
Photography by Colin Matsui.