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LEILA MESDAGHI

PRIVILEGE OF REMOVAL

Senior Project APRIL 2016

 

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Privilege is a benefit, an advantage, a reserved right, or an immunity granted to a particular person or a group of people. Privilege allows someone to do something which others cannot do. It can take the form of an experience or a particular act, as simple as having the choice to look away and remove themselves, to avoid the painful emotions that are associated with the witnessing of the suffering of the others. “Privilege of Removal” is about our relationships and how we relate to the “others” in the universal sphere; the ones we are not related to, the ones we cannot relate to, and the ones we do not give a damn about.


In “Privilege of Removal” I challenge how we observe, react, and respond to social and political issues. We watch real life behaviors of physical, verbal, and moral abuse on T.V and computer screens, and instead of rejecting, we justify and accept them as  socio-political norms. By literally throwing dead fish at a pane of glass, I act as a violent exhibitionist and remind the viewer of our silent voyeuristic nature. I smashed dead fish against the barrier that separates the world we live in from the world we witness. I chose a remote and private location, where there once used to be a residential facility for people with development disabilities, to relate to those who had been rejected by their immediate families. The physical location of the performance became important to me as it became a metaphor of where moral and social responsibilities meet.


Just because we have the privilege to look from a distance and the privilege to remove ourselves, problems do not end and people do not stop suffering. Just because we send decorated cans of food to Africa and Haiti does not mean that we have compassion and are ending hunger, homelessness, and wars. Every move a privileged person makes has a cost, and the cost is the “suffering of the others.”


This project is the outcome of a labor of love. I owe a great debt to Mila Bridger for photographing the performance, Cezar Aguilera for documenting it, and Harold Elie for installation.