Tim Barrus: 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. http://showmeyourlife.tumblr.comâ€¨
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 Show Me Your Life students may not even be attending school. The Show Me Your Life students 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. 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€¨
In Show Me Your Life, the 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 in 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 students (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.
I have decided to post this video we recently made at Cinematheque. There are lots of art students who participate, and everyone wants to put it out there that this is where Show Me Your Life started. This is where it comes from. Real Stories Gallery and Tristan's Moon has made that possible. Students who have Cinematheque Mentors work through Show Me Your Life to acquire art and video skills. In doing so, they are also examining the dynamics of their lives and how art becomes a sharing, too. A bearing witness. At-risk does not mean we will remain invisible. We were here. http://www.le-too.tumblr.com
It's all about choices
Standing up for the Rights of the Child and assisting our neighbours who are struggling to stand up.
2 of our 192 UN Member Countries have NOT yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989): The United States of America and Somalia.
56 of our 192 UN Member Countries have NOT yet ratified the Convention’s Optional Protocol: Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
61 of our 192 UN Member Countries have NOT yet ratified the Convention’s Optional Protocol: Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
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 (www.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 (source: fmreview.org)
Internet access is a human right, according to a United Nations report (May 2011): "Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all states," Frank La Rue, a special rapporteur to the United Nations.
New technologies. Several recent campaigns have demonstrated the potential of reaching large numbers of adolescents with HIV prevention messages to increase knowledge and change behaviours (Opportunity in Crisis: Preventing HIV from early adolescence to young adulthood © United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) June 2011).
There will be many children on Show Me Your Life and some of them have very difficult stories to hear. But we must hear them and we will listen.
If you travel like a tourist beyond the realm of exploitation; if you were to know any of them, any of them, you would discover that they know who and what they are. And they also know that there is so much more to life, and they are doing their best to hang tightly to what constitutes a life where hope is almost always just outside their outstretched reach. And ours.
Their eyes follow me whenever I land like an albatross anywhere in the worlds they live in.
In Paris, they were doing sex work.
It has another meaning in Cambodia (slavery).
India has the highest rate of child prostitution on the planet.
In Russia, they live in the subway tunnels.
In Thailand, the refugee camps are filled with children who fled soldiers who would hunt them down.
During the United Nation’s International Year of the Child, I worked for the Children’s Rights Group with a Ford Foundation grant. All of us involved there were committed to making the lives of children better.
We failed pretty badly.
I have arrived to tell you that the lives of children are worse.
The number one killer of children on the earth is pneumonia.
In the developing world, child mortality rates are up.
It’s a struggle to survive out there.
Violence is endemic and HIV still kills millions.
We know all of this from the news and from what we read.
We know this stuff from what adults who have been in these places and who are from these places know from what they have experienced.
But we only rarely see it from the child’s eyes.
I have started receiving video and photography from kids.
I can’t promise to post all of it.
Some of it is intense and disturbing.
This is not about making everyone harder than they are.
This is about finding a way for specific kids to capture their world even as those worlds are on the move.
The majority of kids in the world today, live ‘at risk’ lives due to poverty & malnutrition, conflicts & refugee status, inter-generational physical & psychological abuse, trafficking & sexual violations, discrimination & lack of education, homelessness & vastly inadequate or zero healthcare. Show Me Your Life gives small video cameras to kids at risk for HIV/AIDS and through an online supervised peer mentoring program they create video art and photographic collages and poetry that express their experiences and inner lives. Their body of collective portraiture is a significant document of contemporary witness and survival despite all the odds.
The relationships between the Show Me Your Life mentors and students allows for dynamic and meaningful knowledge to be disseminated. What has become indisputably clear during this program is that kids labeled 'at risk for HIV/AIDS' are highly creative and extremely intelligent; two skills they rely on to survive within our communities. We have also learnt in this two way exchange of knowledge program, the kids are acutely AWARE...
The kids are acutely AWARE of the tension and complexity that exacerbates their risk for HIV/AIDS and their ongoing risk for further physical and psychological trauma experienced, as a direct result of inappropriate and inconsistent access to healthcare and a safe place to live.
The kids are acutely AWARE the mashup of their inadequate living conditions and nutrition, their exposure to constant physical and psychological and sexual violence, their use of narcotics and alcohol to dull the pain of surviving on a daily basis, all compromise their immune systems; making them susceptible for opportunistic infections and diseases; making it difficult to treat and heal even simple infections and cuts.
The kids are acutely AWARE their lives will be further threatened due to discrimination and reprisals from those such as family and gang members, teachers and social workers, pimps and tricks, police and medical personnel, if it becomes known they have chosen to seek testing and happen to be diagnosed as HIV positive.
The kids are acutely AWARE they will be placed at risk for further physical, psychological and sexual violations and a heightened risk for HIV (including for new strains of HIV if they already happen to be HIV positive), if they are prosecuted and incarcerated for drugs, theft or prostitution.
The Kids are acutely AWARE not wearing a condom for anal sex, or two condoms for oral sex, will heighten their risk for HIV (condoms are not available for Males Who Have Sex with Males within the penal system).
The kids are acutely AWARE their immune systems are particularly vulnerable surrounding periods of detainment and enforced detox, and that exhibiting signs of vulnerability within confined environments such as the military, camps, detention centers, places them at extreme risk for violent reprisals from people around them.
The Kids are acutely AWARE a lack of ACCESS, and interrupted access, to antiretrovirals and healthcare poses a clear and present danger to their health and well-being (they often share their medications, which results in no kid receiving the appropriate dose).
The Kids are acutely AWARE a lack of SAFE safe-houses poses a clear and present danger to their health and well-being.
The Kids are acutely AWARE a lack of AWARENESS within the communities surrounding them, places them at heightened and continuous risk for HIVAIDS and Human Rights Abuses.
The kids are acutely AWARE that hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent in HIV prevention and awareness that does not address what they NEED to survive in abusive adult environments.
The kids are acutely AWARE that Sexual Abuse of Young Males, Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography are two superhighways for the trafficking of HIV and AIDS related diseases within and across international borders.
The kids are acutely AWARE too many adults believe they have no power, no knowledge or no money to assist 'kids at risk.'
The kids are acutely AWARE too many adults believe 'kids at risk' are dangerous and they educate their own children to avoid 'kids at risk.'
Show Me Your Life is an international video art program where kids at-risk, street kids, HIV-infected homeless children, minors doing sex work, children addicted to glue, displaced children in war zones and refugee camps, and children with pediatric AIDS receiving no medical treatment, are given video cameras and asked to share their experiences and their inner lives. They create, with technology as small as their hands, art videos that become their voice, their language, enabling them to reach out to their friends around the world.
Only children can show us how they see and feel their lives. Participating children are paired with peer mentors, who have already created new lives for themselves and their friends. The peer mentors help shape the art videos and at the same time guide the kids in how to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and an end, where the end cannot be known, but is implied - change is always a possibility. Their witness of empathy will offer a network of support among the next generation of adults and raise the level of awareness that HIV and children are endemically linked.
Children who live in situations where HIV is not being treated, are creating art videos of their struggle to survive in a landscape, where adult supervision means institutional warehousing, rape, and debilitating physical violence. Children who live in conflict-situations and fleeing their homes, because their families have been murdered by soldiers, are creating visual expressions of being on the run. Children who are addicted to sniffing glue to keep the hunger out and the cold away, and to dull the horror, are creating poetic imagery of their peers around them who have serious neurological impairment, and are dying. Children pursued and incarcerated in institutions more violent than the spaces from which they were pulled out of, are sharing with their peer groups their humanity, through the language of video art.
Even in their fear of death, children dying from AIDS are creating a language that says: we were here. And, we shall remember them and learn from their visual fingerprints expressing the portraiture of their lives. Technology has changed the world, yet is rarely available to children ‘at risk’ in today’s HIV pandemic. Show Me Your Life changes that, by giving these children the tools and believing it is possible for small hands to imagine and alleviate tremendous so much wrong doing and suffering.
There are no statistics that estimate the numbers of male children who live such lives. When sexual abuse, sex trafficking or conflict-situation rapes are considered, it is always with females in mind, as well it should be. But there are boys in this equation. Boys who are raised in the midst of an HIV pandemic and within environments that silence their feelings and dreams. Until our perception of the problem is inclusive enough to embrace the young male of the species -- whether he lives in a brothel or a refugee camp -- we will never get close to what is really happening.
Show Me Your Life also works directly with kids who are self-identified as sex workers. We have never met a kid doing sex work who had not somewhere in the past been sexually abused or hurt. As a sex worker you know the many risks you take. But the one silent killer out there you are dancing with is HIV. We encourage you to get tested. No one can force you into it. We want to know something about the journey you have been on. We want you to know that you can tell the story about how you live, how you have survived, and no one is going to tell you that this story cannot be told, and no one here is going to put you down and humiliate you in any way. It is what it is. You are a person with dignity and worth. It is safe for you to say: this is how I have been hurt. It is safe for you to say: these are my dreams and this is what I want from life. No one is going to beat you up for that. Your stories belong to you and only you can tell them. To that end, Show Me Your Life will work with you to find the most effective way to form and mold your story into a visual form we can all attempt to begin to understand.