HOMEWORK #9: $AFIA BAHMED-SCHWARTZ - CRASH Magazine
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HOMEWORK #9: $AFIA BAHMED-SCHWARTZ

By Alice Butterlin

Most of the world has been in lockdown for over a month now due to the COVID-19 crisis. A moment frozen in time, when people are faced with solitude, grief or anxiety and see their daily lives shift for the better or the worse. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we can also take the time to reflect, create and enjoy the passing of these strange elastic days. We thought it would be interesting to ask musicians around the globe how their creative process has changed during the quarantine and if it has been an inspiring or rather daunting experience… with a quick snapshot of themselves in lockdown. Today, get to know how French musician and artist $afia Bahmed-Schwartz is spending her time. With a sultry voice, she explores the boundaries of sensuality, absurd humor and erotic dreams. With her, there’s never a dull moment as she takes her music to new levels with each EP, mixing hyperrealistic lyrics with soft, funky or ambient productions. She recently released a music video for the track “CyberSilver”, made for La Souterraine’s Rurbaines compilation and her next album $afia Bahmed-Schwartz PASSÉ/PRESENT/FUTUR which will be out in June.

How has your daily life changed since lockdown began?

Everything fell apart in the first days of lockdown, but then I got more structure. All the new measures, gradual restrictions and information overload kept me from really doing anything. Having to reorganize everything was a lot of work. But when it comes down to it, apart from my weekly singing lessons and work sessions, my daily life hasn’t changed much. I work at home a lot.

Have you had to rethink the way you create?

I’ve found a new sense of joy in creating again, immersing myself in work, writing, editing, painting, for hours on end with no deadlines or appointments to spoil the fun. At the very beginning I was physically and mentally devastated by what was happening. I was in a state of shock. But then I told myself that I had to do things that make me happy, so I found an immense joy in creating and going with the flow. Now that I’ve gotten used to things, I’m trying to stick to a schedule and have some structure in whatever I’m working on.

Did you realize anything in particular during this time?

I started painting portraits of people I love and miss more than ever right now. Painting involves a longer, slower sense of time, and I love spending that time with my loved ones. I’ve also gotten into music production, since I’ve never had time to dive in and learn.

Are you worried?

After the first wave of restrictions, things were postponed and rescheduled for the near future, like concerts and events. It was annoying but not too worrying. But after the second wave of announcements and Macron’s speeches on and after April 13, nothing was certain anymore, and it seems like we will have to rethink the music industry’s economic model. Aside from the income, I miss getting on stage. I miss all those moments of celebration, togetherness and group fun. Not knowing when it might happen again makes me depressed.

Do you feel more inspired or paralyzed by the lockdown?

The quarantine in itself doesn’t inspire me. I don’t want to paint what I see out my window or inside my house, or even talk about being quarantined. It would be like a 404 error in my brain, I think. Nevertheless I think it’s the perfect time to dive even deeper into myself, see what’s there, and bring out some wonderful things.

Have you started or returned to any activities that you do not normally have time to do?

I wanted to make bread (just like everyone else, right?), but it came out more like an inedible frisbee. So I decided to focus instead on what I do best: making art. Especially before quarantine, I was working every day to finish up a compilation project called “$afia Bahmed-Schwartz PASSÉ/PRESENT/FUTUR”. That, plus my sacred daily hour of erotic painting and the hubbub of everyday life meant that I didn’t have much time left over. I also started writing a novel about a serial killer who slays men for revenge. I’ve gone back to working on it now and it’s really enjoyable. It’s like living outside of quarantine again, in another person’s body and mind. I can make her do whatever I want or go wherever I want (even without authorization). It’s a great escape and it’s very enjoyable.

What do you think you’ll take away from this shutdown?

Some positive things, as long as we have the chance and privilege. This is the perfect time to get organized, to really get to the bottom of things, find out what you like, what you don’t like, your rhythm, your problems and their solutions, without all the whirlwind of contemporary life or scrutiny from other people. Some negative things, because not only is this a suspended period of time, it’s also a time of suspended crisis, and I get the impression that even the first round of suspensions will erase everything we were fighting for, thinking about and organizing. Like Simone de Beauvoir said: “at the first sign of crisis it’s women who will go under” (I’m paraphrasing). I’m nervous about what consequences the quarantine will have on people and minority groups.

How do you see life after this crisis?

Good question! It will take strength, resilience, kindness and structure.

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