SHOW ME YOUR LIFE is a collaborative online art & storytelling initiative designed and peer mentored by survivors for survivors of sexualized violence directed at boys and the international sex trade in boys, who are living with the devastating physical, psychological and social consequences of being infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). There is no cure in 2012 for HIV.
Utilizing the vast potential of the Internet (its speed, worldwide reach and relative anonymity) and harnessing the creative ingenuity afforded by today’s technologies, survivors are creating international networks between distinct localities.
SHOW ME YOUR LIFE employs the scaffolding of art and storytelling, communication systems that have historically and culturally been tried-and-tested and employed internationally for their powerful and adaptive capabilities. Art and storytelling has the ability to cross geographical, cultural and social borders and explore diverse language-codes with nuanced and multiple meanings. This ability of art and storytelling to operate overtly in a global and public forum, whilst simultaneously speaking directly to a particular intelligence, is what permits the SHOW ME YOUR LIFE survivors the freedom to share their skills, disseminate their significant knowledge and collaboratively explore the consequences and choices for their lives.
Foremost in every SHOW ME YOUR LIFE guide, peer mentor and student's mind is the safety of their colleagues.
The creational context for SHOW ME YOUR LIFE, the art studios and filmmaking, story-boarding and editing, all takes place away from the public gaze. This facilitates an educational program that works best for and serves the best interest of survivors.
SHOW ME YOUR LIFE strongly encourages their artists and storytellers to use pseudonyms to protect vulnerable identities and localities. The safe visual arts program does not employ any real-name registration systems and does not permit any third party to collect users’ names, passwords or restrict rights. Sexual violence directed at boys and HIV discrimination exist at every level of society. Erosion of privacy and medical confidentiality cannot be breached or abrogated.â€¨
SHOW ME YOUR LIFE's current funding dictates that any spaces in our collaborative art program are offered first to survivors of sexualized violence directed at boys and the international sex trade in boys, who are surviving with HIV/AIDS.
SHOW ME YOUR LIFE has learned that survivors are highly intelligent and extremely creative; two skills that permitted them to survive in abusive adult environments and despite all the odds. The art and storytelling created by students, who have been classified with low or failing levels of literacy or technology skills, is some of the most dynamic, visceral and ingenious. Their knowledge and strategies for survival are highly valued within our safe art program, as are their leadership skills in highly fraught and life-threatening arenas.
SHOW ME YOUR LIFE creates visceral and intellectual art and storytelling as a direct consequence of the critical state of awareness engaged in the relationships of trust established between students, peer mentors and guides.
The guides, peer mentors and students are allowed access to fair use art materials and mixed media in the teaching of iconic manipulation in photographic, video and film production. Representations and facsimiles are presented as teaching tools and instruments employed to instruct students in the techniques and application of mixed media art and collage.
Show Me Your Life continually evolves in response to which materials and application processes, images and ideas, work best for at-risk students.
Due to the multidisciplinary and global interest expressed in the SHOW ME YOUR LIFE initiative, a continually changing selection of survivors' images and ideas are posted on www.real-stories-gallery.org for research and advocacy purposes (all copyright remains with the authors).
Tim Barrus (Founder, Cinémathèque Films; Creative Director, Show Me Your Life)
I know of no other art program where male adolescent sex workers living on the street are given video cameras and told: Show me Your Life.â€¨
Show Me Your Life is different.â€¨
There are many dynamic educational organizations and philanthropic programs whose purpose is to engage young people in new and meaningful ways as they master media-making skills. These highly sought after and competitive programs are attended by students, usually A students, who have access to foundations and media-teaching entities via an educator and/or a school. These kids have a head start, will work hard and will attain a definite competitive edge in access to major universities. The gifted among them will become top talent in media production and beyond. They will become the movers and the shakers.
â€¨By limiting access to the acquisition of media skills to students with a head start, we limit culture’s ability to see itself. Transform itself. Show Me Your Life’s purpose is to broaden perspective. â€¨
The students at Show Me Your Life may not even be attending school. The students at Show Me Your Life are kids at-risk. Many are infected with HIV. Some have HIV/AIDS. Some are in drug-recovery. They are from all over the planet. We believe that for the at-risk student to have a voice, he has to learn more than technical expertise.â€¨
Show Me Your Life’s goal is to facilitate the at risk kid to walk through and past obstacles. We provide him with skills that go beyond becoming fluent with cameras and editing skills, storyboarding and filming life around them. Our students frequently arrive with good camera and internet skills (particularly kids who spent time in arcades, or were harnessed to the commercial sex industries). During their time with Show Me Your Life, we focus intensively on expressing perspectives through story-telling dialogues with one another. It is our experience that when this happens in a place where story-telling itself is reinforced and strengthened through media tools that enhance layering, students reinvent themselves in the creative process.â€¨
Show Me Your Life's educators are also embarked upon a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. We have found our teacher-as-participant approach creates the best people to lead the way at Show Me Your Life, where we are all learning and each piece of art created by student, mentor or teacher-as-participant, has its own intrinsic value.â€¨
Show Me Your Life is a safe visual arts program. HIV discrimination and human rights violations exist at every level of society. Medical confidentiality, and who students are and what students say as they explore their stories to become strong voices, cannot be breached or abrogated.â€¨
Show Me Your Life/ Cinémathèque Films/ Smash Street Boys/ Real Stories Gallery Foundation 501c3: Students are allowed access to fair use art materials and mixed media in the teaching of iconic manipulation in photographic, video and film production. Representations and facsimiles posted here are presented as teaching tools and instruments employed to instruct students in the techniques and application of mixed media art and collage. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows art-teaching entities the fair use of such materials in classroom and teaching-research applications. Show Me Your Life collects data from students as to which materials work best, and is conducting just such a research application process for at-risk students.
Conventional education still stresses a teacher’s lesson plans. But how do we teach innovation. I am not sure that innovation is an elusive animal that can be taught. It might be one of those things that you either have it, or you don’t. So, how do you teach innovation. You don’t. You can only make room for it. The kid is curious or he’s not. Some of the curious ones can make a run for it. Most cannot. As an adolescent, I learned how to make it in the shadows. The cake and eating it, too. It was more than I could handle, but I was having sex with everyone in that high school. It was the sixties and jackrabbits littered the desert floor.â€¨â€¨I make lesson plans. Then, I throw them away. They are mundane compared to what kids want to do.
â€¨â€¨I had today’s gig all mapped out. I could see a couple in maybe advertising. Take a martini glass and set it in the sun. You could do it in a million ways.â€¨â€¨
I got that rolling look their eyes do. Oh, please, Tim. Can you see any of us on Madison Avenue.â€¨â€¨
They wanted to play around with a bigger theme that a martini glass. Playing around is frowned upon when it comes to adolescent boys. By now, the paradigm has them playing around at being college prep material. I have nothing good or bad to say about that mainly because I do not have time. I will say that if you think you can stick anywhere near a contrived lesson plan, they will find ways to stick it to you.â€¨â€¨
There are just some kids, curiosity being a force unto itself, who aren’t going to do anything unless it’s their way. They threw convention out with the bathwater. You can make them stick to a script. They will seethe. Pout. But it can be done. It’s a lot of work. Usually, it isn’t worth the grief.â€¨â€¨
They know how to turn the paradigms of education around to the point where education is spinning on its head. I would make the argument that education changes when exactly such pressure is applied to it. Education wants definitive measuring instruments. But how do you measure a variety of overlapping relationships. How do you measure what the kid hiding in the back of the class knows. You don’t. You can only stand there like a traffic cop, and point here and there for most of them as to all the different directions their curiosity could take them.â€¨â€¨
Tim Barrus (Founder, Cinémathèque Films; Creative Director, Show Me Your Life): We launched Show Me Your Life to turn the lives of children at-risk, especially for HIV, totally around so they might begin to see themselves, not as patients, but as people who have something to contribute. So they might be less isolated to such an extent they can become change-makers. And not just sitting on the sidelines. Our mission crosses borders, sexualities, civil wars, continents, rank, and long histories of defeat. Many of us employ the magic of self-expression as therapy in our every day lives—a way to unwind after a tough week or a way to show people our innermost thoughts and feelings. Self-expression in its many forms include, but are not limited to, music, art, film, poetry, and writing. It can also be a powerful tool to help heal in times of distress. When you are fighting a life-changing illness like HIV, or when your loved one has been diagnosed and you are imagining the long road of treatment that lies ahead, self-expression becomes a critical means to treat the mind, body, and spirit. Show Me Your Life is an international art program where children at-risk construct video, film, photography, painting, and writing that is in essence a tutorial on how to implement art into any treatment program. We focus on HIV, but the principles are the same. Studies have shown that such creativity used to show the rest of us, “the other,” a glimpse into a life that might otherwise be silent and remain obfuscated can help reduce stress-related doctor visits, lower blood pressure, and improve the immune system. Students are facilitated to share their thoughts and feelings. These participants are guided through a variety of journaling techniques that will help them explore and then express their struggles. Show me your art. Show me your life. You are more than a disease, and a diagnosis, and I believe you.
Oliver McTernan (Broadcaster & Writer, Human Rights Activist, co-Founder & Director of Forward Thinking, U.K.)
I had the privilege of visiting Tunisia during its revolution earlier this year and meeting with some of the young people who through their courageous actions brought momentous change to that country. In the course of our conversations it became clear that these young people had overcome the fear that had dominated their lives and were prepared to risk all in their quest for dignity and agency. They were no longer prepared to tolerate the climate of repression that had robbed them of self respect and freedom to control of their own lives.
It was a deep sense of accumulated grievances and injustices that motivated them to act to change their lives in a decisive way.
It is well documented of course the significance of the internet in facilitating the changes. People were empowered by the ability to communicate.
They used their computers and mobiles not only to organise but to tell their stories.
It was soon after returning from Tunisia that I was introduced to the work of the Real Stories Gallery.
It struck me that it is the same quest for dignity and agency that motivates these young people from around the world who have been the victims of abuse to tell their stories.
Through the use of videos they too are learning to overcome the fear that has gripped their lives and to discover their intrinsic dignity despite what may have happened to them in the course of their early lives. I fully recommend Real Stories Gallery, who provide these young people with a chance to be free.
It's all about choices: standing up for the Rights of the Child and assisting our neighbours who are struggling to stand up.
Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) has not been ratified by 2 United Nations Member Countries: USA & Somalia.
Convention’s Optional Protocol: Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography has not been ratified by 56 UN Member Countries. **The USA has ratified this protocol, but has yet to implement a Federal & Coordinated response to serve the best interests of child-survivors within its territories.
Convention’s Optional Protocol: Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict has not been ratified by 61 UN Member Countries. **The USA has ratified this protocol.
Sexual violence against men and boys: The problem of male-directed sexual violence remains largely undocumented. We do not know about the relationship between conflict-related violence and sexual violence within institutions such as militaries, police forces and penal systems. The reluctance of many men and boys to report sexual violence makes it very difficult to accurately assess its scope. In the last decade, sexualized violence against men and boys – including rape, sexual torture, mutilation of the genitals, sexual humiliation, sexual enslavement, forced incest and forced rape – has been reported in 25 armed conflicts across the world. If one expands this tally to include cases of sexual exploitation of boys displaced by violent conflict, the list encompasses the majority of the 59 armed conflicts identified in the Human Security Report (humansecurityreport.info).
Sexualised violence against adult men and boys can emerge in any form of conflict – from interstate wars to civil wars to localized conflicts – and in any cultural context. Both men and boys are vulnerable in conflict settings and in countries of asylum alike. Both adult men and boys are most vulnerable to sexual violence in detention and during military operations in civilian areas and in situations of military conscription or abduction into paramilitary forces. Boys, are also highly vulnerable in refugee/IDP settings. The issue of disclosure is further challenged in localities where homosexual activity attracts legal penalties.
Sexual violence is however a mechanism by which men and boys are placed or kept in a position subordinate to other men and has no relationship to generally accepted notions of homosexuality as consensual relations between adult male partners. Sexual violence is an exercise in power and humiliation (fmreview.org)