Iliya Zaki

Fire Save Us - Des

Des, a Person

"I already had a feeling, but it was one of those times where you don’t want to trust your own gut– you're in denial. We were long distancing, and I went on a two-month internship to Shanghai to accompany him. We had a talk at The Bund and I asked him if there was somebody else. We sat there and I listened to him talk about his misgivings and shit. I was still a bit crazy trying to figure out how to make this work. I kept asking myself how I didn’t see this coming. A week later we broke up on my birthday– he forgot my birthday. 

As an artist, my works are derived from things that take up a lot of my time. My works are inspired by personal experiences. This bad relationship kickstarted my current project. Why was infidelity so normal especially in my circle of friends in Shanghai? It could be because I was hanging around people my age or older. In a place where apps like tinder or tan tan are rampant- where your first interaction is based on how attractive you are, cheating is made easier. I’ve been on both sides. I got cheated on. My initial reaction was to take it out on the other girl, but she had no idea what was going on because he was lying to her as well. If she didn't know, why should she be blamed for the relationship?

My project is on Emotional Labor in women. If you are in sales, emotional labor is selling your emotions– putting up a front for your customer by pretending to be happy even if you're having a bad day. People relate the term to sales and business, but it has a more familiar context. Growing up, I noticed how my mom behaves when my dad comes home after she and I have a dramatic fight. She’d just pretend everything was okay. She felt obligated to bare our complaints. If my dad was rude to her, she’d just tolerate it. I thought this was only my family, but it happens everywhere.

After the US presidential elections, Hillary Clinton’s concessionary speech received two comments: ‘How is she not crying? Does she not have a heart?” or ‘She’s so emotional, how can she lead the country?’. The ‘Good Wife Guide’, published in 1950s taught young girls how to be women, with emphasis on being quiet, being there, and existing for the sake of men. Women are expected to be emotionally intact.

Emotional Labor should be irrelevant, and the first step is to create awareness."