In September 2011 a young man I had known as an intern at Art in General, Nicolas Djandji, died in a bike wreck. Neither of us were working at Art in General any longer, I had been laid off before he finished there, but he had landed an excellent curatorial internship at Dia Foundation and was impressing people there. I think of Nick often because he was a big fan of coffee and once told me he had his morning coffee in the shower. I scoffed and made fun of him at the time, but soon adopted the practice, and still do it occasionally, thinking of him every time. The story about him that sticks in my head is that he would often go on coffee runs (as an excuse to smoke a cigarette or two along the way) and always checked with everyone in the office if they wanted some. He usually went later than I liked to drink coffee, and he mostly went to Starbucks, not my favorite, so I generally said no thanks. Finally, one day I did want coffee, and when I said yes and gave him my order, he was so excited that he insisted in buying it for me, though he was the 23 year-old unpaid intern and I was earning a salary there.
He was sensitive, creative, kind, enthusiastic, and is greatly missed by all that knew him. I remember thanking the colleague who had interviewed and hired him at his memorial. Nick enriched many lives in his short time, and it’s odd to have only known him a little over a year, and not really know his very close friends. The early thing that we had in common was that he spent his formative tween & teen years in Sugarland, Texas (a suburb of my hometown, Houston) though his family was Egyptian and (I think) had lived in Montreal. While we were working together his family, including one of his two younger brothers moved to Dubai. His father worked for the oil industry and an opportunity had come up. Nick was pretty concerned for his younger brother, he’d been no fan of coming of age in a Texas suburb, but he felt that Dubai would be weirder/worse. So his family had to travel from Dubai for his memorial.
My brother died about 3 years later and we traveled to the rest of our family in Texas from Brooklyn. Both were senseless deaths, could have been prevented, if only…
But those are thoughts I cannot have, as there is no more “if only” in their cases just the reality of loss. Each of these young men is a great loss.
Photo via Art in General, from a performance art work by Božena Končić
Badurina. Nick Djandji is on the left.