MR — Producing a sci-fi environment sounds extremely expensive. How will you go about that?
MB — I’m shooting the film in Morocco, building a set that looks very normal, but where little hints and props make you feel like you’re in this sci-fi world. Most of the time, I will just be filming normal people who go about their neighborhood. For example, I’m going to film a party happening naturally. I’m not going to stage it, except for adding a few actors who will play characters from the future. So when we are shooting, we have these characters that look different and think differently about their bodies. And I will get to see how my family members and all these people from the neighborhood respond. How will they react? In a way, it’s role-playing.
MR — Role-playing also plays a part in your earlier work. One could say that a lot of what happens on the internet and social media in general is role play.
MB — Yeah, but I’m interested in thinking about what will happen when technology becomes biological. How it will all blend and it won’t be social media anymore. It will be the way we exist. In the film, some of the characters will be brain-uploads, where someone has uploaded his brain into someone else’s body. So I’m asking, What happens if a horny teenage boy has a problem with his body and the first one that is available is a sexy 50-year-old woman? Would he be touching his own body all the time, you know?
MR — It’s the in-between spaces you are exploring. Between nations. Between genders. Between sexualities and bodies.
MB — Yes, the whole film is about the idea of diaspora. What is that? To me, diaspora is like being suspended in between two states. You don’t really belong to your hometown, although that’s how you identify. But when you go back, you’re not accepted anymore. You’re looked upon as a foreigner. But in the place where you are living now, you’re also a foreigner. And not really belonging. So in the film, the physical manifestation of that feeling is this island in the middle of the Atlantic where illegally teleported people get stuck. They can’t go back and they can’t move on to America. It’s an in-between state.
MR — You have lived nine years in New York yourself. Do you feel part of the Moroccan diaspora?
MB — I feel like I’m part of many diasporas. Different subcultures, you know. But none of them is about being Moroccan. I think if I lived in Paris, I would probably feel that, because there are so many Moroccans. Whereas here in New York, it’s more a feeling of being in between different cultures, in between groups.
MR — One thing I really like about your work is how it blends and fuses the digital and physical aspects of our lives. How do you balance those online and offline aspects in your own everyday life?
MB— For me, honestly, there is not much of a difference. All day long at work, I listen to music on the computer. And I’m also dancing all the time. Which is so physical. Right now, I’m listening to music and making the characters for the dance battle at the Serpentine, studying dance movements.
MR — Is dance a way of doing something physical after all those hours in front of the screen?
MB — I just love it. Honestly, dancing just comes from the fact that it makes me really happy. Whatever I do, I always try to simulate the state of mind you have when making art. That’s the best way of doing anything. I think maybe it’s the endorphins. Things that make you happy, they give you so many ideas. And my way of doing that is to just make sure it’s fun, you know?
MR — And that definitely comes through in your work. It’s always fun.
MB — Yeah. But it’s not always possible to have fun, you know? I think it’s going to be harder and harder. Because the more you’re doing shows, the more making art feels like work. And I don’t want to care about work in that obsessive way anymore. I’m at a point where I’ve become really turned off by how obsessed with productivity New York is. I want to learn to have pleasure outside of making work and seeing it come to fruition. You know, I’ m so focused on work that if I party once, I feel guilty and have to work all the next day. Like everyone in New York. We’re all sick. Honestly. I think it’s sick. For example, whenever I used to go home to Morocco, I felt that I had to film and document everything. I couldn’t enjoy having a conversation with family members without thinking of capturing it.
MR — Yeah, as an artist or writer, you risk not living life in the first person. It’s like David Foster Wallace says, “I’d somehow chosen to cast my lot with my life’s drama’s supposed audience instead of with the drama itself.” You end up living floating behind your own head.
MB — Totally. You’re like your own surveillance system. As an artist or writer, your work is so intimate. So much of it is constructed in your head to begin with. You’re never not working. That myth is true. And I think that makes it even more important to take a breather from work. When you talk to any New York artist, they always say “I don’t take vacations, that’s not something I do.” That’s like the cool thing to say. Oh, I’m so obsessed with work. And I used to be like that too, but now I’m like, Well, fuck it. Because you do enter an economy as an artist. Once you start showing regularly, you enter into a full work-year rhythm. So you need a vacation and that’s something I only recently learned. To take a stupid vacation. You know, cocktails, beach, doing nothing. And it’s amazing. When you put yourself in a situation where you say, I’m not going here to work. I’m just here to have cocktails and suntan. You’re actually so much more productive, in the background of your head. It’s kind of like meditation. But you have to break through the anxiety first. It’s like with relationships, right? You have to want that for yourself. And only then can you give it to another person.