Liu Floating In Life
Tim Barrus (Artistic Director, Show Me Your Life): Liu is a 19-year-old Chinese student who attends university, and who spends time every day swimming in a pool. Liu has HIV and is at risk for AIDS (a CD4 count of 100 or less). Liu feels as though all of his movement is slowed down and he’s being pulled under the water. He has taken the Kodak PlaySport, and has made some stunning clips. Liu is very cool, and I enjoy working with him very much. The soundtrack is a poem written by the sixth Dalai Lama. The background voices are Liu’s friends singing a folk song.
A few people have just asked about swimming in a pool with someone who has HIV. In other words, is it safe to swim in a pool that someone with HIV is swimming in as well.
You cannot get HIV from swimming in a pool. HIV is passed on through intimate contact with bodily fluids, and I include the sharing of needles in that. Chlorine and bleach are also very similar. You’re not going to become infected from anyone in the pool. No worries. — t
"Banned" by Gonkar Gyatso (Tibet; Art For Humanity)
Rachel Chapple, PhD (Founder, Real Stories Gallery Foundation):
Thank You Liu for your significant courage and for experimenting with your creativity to share with us your life. We look forward greatly to seeing your next VideoART piece and photography. Please convey our thanks and appreciation to your friends, who performed for your VideoART piece this poem written by Tsangyang Gyatso (’Ocean of Melodious Songs’), the Sixth Dalai Lama of Tibet. You are teaching. We are listening.
WARNING: Explicit Imagery and Colloquial Language
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
Tim Barrus/ Yang Ling With His Kodak PlaySport
This has never been done before, and I am not sure I can pull this off, either. There are a lot of variables and any of them could come into play at any time.
There is a viral strain of HIV B that is traveling a truck route from Myanmar into China via Ruili in Yunnan province. The B strain then appears to head directly to Hong Kong. This is also exactly the same route the purest heroin in the world takes as it makes its way toward the West.
Ruili is infamous for its sex, whores, gambling, smuggling, and now, addiction. Everyone is making money. More money than these people have ever seen. The smuggling of jade ironically brings in more cash, and Ruili is a cash economy, than heroin.
Yang Ling is seventeen. He has never heard of HIV. He is not sure he believes it. All he does is drive a truck from Muse to Ruili. He isn’t supposed to know what he’s bringing across the border, but he does know; everyone knows. The Chinese government looks the other way because prosperity is cash and cash is prosperity. Ruili was a shit hole. It is still a shit hole. But it is a shit hole now occupied by whores and heroin. Yang Ling likes both.
He is an addict.
Sex and heroin put him at risk for HIV.
He thinks filming his life is funny. I am not sure why. Maybe he’s simply nervous. I am conflicted about him being in Show Me Your Life. I suspect some ulterior motives going on but I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. All I know is that someone he knows seems to have disappeared. This is Asian organized crime. The relationship between organized crime and HIV never gets articulated anywhere. In any real way that affects real people. In any forum. And yet the relationship of drivers like Yang Ling and the epidemiological demographics of HIV and Asian addiction are identical. This particular strain of HIV B found in Ruili is beginning to show up in Canada.
Yang Ling connects to the Internet in a casino. He wants a Kodak PlaySport. I am not sure how safe this idea is going to be for him, but I have noted that boys his age all over China are obsessed with electronic gear of almost any kind. I am wondering if I can talk him into getting tested. The interpreter does not think so. But I am welcome to try.
I know from experience that cameras are not welcome in boomtown places like Ruili. Cameras are not welcome in Muse whatsoever. Muse on the Myanmar side is the shit hole of a shit hole. Tuberculosis here is like the common cold. Again, the epidemiological demographics of HIV and tuberculosis are not unalike.
Maybe I am being stupid to think that not too many people would recognize it as a camera. I am not sure how we will do this. I keep wondering if the people at the casino are the people we have to worry about.
So there are many things that put Yang Ling at risk. The vibes I am picking up seem to say: I have nothing to lose by doing this.
Show me your life.