Show Me Your Life gets many inquiries from social worker types who work in one capacity or another with institutionalized adolescent boys who are being held in psychiatric facilities.
Sort of like holding pens.
Would it be possible for Johnny to participate in Show Me Your Life.
Anything to get the kid to communicate. Tell me about it.
What I get back from these people are pictures of day rooms, hallways, bars on windows, and locked doors.
I have to tell you, I am tired of looking at this stuff.
It’s not a life. You aren’t showing me anything about this kid. He is more than a locked psychiatric ward. He has a LIFE. Even if the rest of us might not recognize it as a life — it’s HIS life.
Where he happens to be is temporary. He will not be with you forever. Adolescents aren’t anywhere forever.
Stop sending me these images.
If YOU (and the rest of us) are really serious about the kid showing us his life, he has to be in it.
Perhaps in order to make this happen, you might have to think outside of your boxes. You might have to risk taking the kid to his LIFE. And you might have to risk allowing him to film it.
I am not interested in seeing your office. Get real. — Tim Barrus
“Tristan Staring at Something He Wants” by Tim Barrus
Water color and India Ink on Canvas
One woman writes to me that boys don’t wear eye make-up.
Lady, I don’t know where you live. But even I wore eye shadow to school.
As Tristan would say: fuck off… — t
Tim Barrus: WOLFBOY is a watercolor on canvas that has been on my commissioned list for about a year, now. There are many others. The commissioned list has been a huge headache for me because I don’t get to it like I should be — if I were a responsible person versus being the Internet Attila the Hun guilty of everything in the universe — and as a responsible artist I would be attending to what makes money versus my personal shortcoming which is to wander over into the poverty art arenas that bring in nothing. Wolfboy is fifteen and finds sitting for me to be a huge pain in the ass.
I am not in any way an expedient painter. Or an expedient anything. We are at the moment constructing storyboards for a video (RSG has been gifted the music) that we feel could be one of our best. It is a huge thing that RSG was gifted this score. We have to give this our best shot, and we are of the collective opinion that we need to do more painting because painting to video has a gravitas that is simply ignored by most filmmakers who are actually making art versus simply narrative. It is our feeling that painting to video can construct some unique metaphors. Where I messed up on this one is the left side of the lower lip. I wanted the perspective to imply an androgynous milieu where the lips suggest a slightly swollen aspect much in the same way a woman’s labial lips can be flushed — or swollen — which is where the suggestiveness of lips (and lipstick) in the ubiquitous sense of advertising and the use of silicon lip injections is exploited in a cultural context. The left side of the lower lip is slightly more opaque than I wanted it to be. I don’t know how to fix it because every time I tamper with it, Wolfboy appears to be more menacing than he is.
If I want menace, I try to do something with the hands. I am not sure why. I think perhaps because for menace to be real, you have to do more than look menacing; you have to actually do something, and you can suggest that far more easily with hands as the combination of hands and eyes can produce a tension that is at the same time a conflict, too. Conflict goes to irony. Wolfboy himself is about as ironic an adolescent as you can find anywhere on the planet.
My studio is a HUGE mess. Paint and canvas everywhere.
and when it rains we still shiver together in sickness/ you could not call either one of us a better homes and gardens homemaker/ mint tea and blindness/ i have this ratty old chair i like but it smells of mildew/ so how could bones turn into dust before we died/ slim as broomsticks thrown through the back door window’s glass/ acquired knowledge and to unteach/ the lucidity of gin/ there never was a lawn/
at the core of the thing we have the individual/ you; solo, the secret in the knots of blood/ small wonder, eyes with hallows where the wars go in/ culture wars to dress the dead, the body is a wretch/
the guts of what i do is a fascination with ambiguities and inconsistencies/ i watch people going about their journeys alone; alone is all we really have; i wonder about the lives people lead, wonder how they experience the world around them and how they make meaning of it/ coming to know the stories of those human beings/ narratives of isolation, of questioning and searching, of desire, and of confusion/ private moments of expectation, each photograph a location where people can play out a silent moment alone/ this moment/ right before something changes, the holding in of a breath and waiting, the preparing of oneself for what is to come/ everything is a self-portrait/ documenting a process wherein I try on the transitional moments of others’ lives in order to better understand my own/
This is not new territory. Not to us. Not to me. It would only be somewhat bewildering to you. It would not be your world. It would not be what you know.
What is it that I seek. This.
I do not often write posts that do not contain graphics of one kind or another.
But I am doing that here. Why.
Because I want you to listen.
Aen is a 17-year-old Show Me Your Life student with HIV and colorectal cancer. He has recently had colostomy surgery where he wears a plastic bag under his clothing where human waste is excreted as large portions of his intestines will be removed. Aen is clinically depressed, and has been emotionally unable to participate in creating video content. However, we are getting still photography from Aen that does what the masters of photography do best.
They stop the world.
Aen has stopped time itself in terms of looking at who he is.
How do we remember who we are.
Perhaps the question is more apt in asking: how do we remember who we were.
The relationship between photography and memory is an uneasy one; leaves me uneasy as well. I like to fool myself by saying I do not look back.
I do not want to give that process any more power than it already has. I am in denial.
Do not even attempt going there with me. Some denial is about surviving.
There is no pressure on Aen to produce anything whatsoever. We talk daily. He may never make video and that is fine. He takes us into his universe not so much with pictures of his body (he may never be able to do that and I am reminded of Diane Arbus’ photos of the disfigured and disabled), but with photos that speak to a unique and powerful symbolism.
There is one photograph of a colostomy bag filled with shit and taped with first aide tape to a toilet.
I have not decided what to do with that one yet.
There is another photograph pretty much the same as the colostomy bag taped to the toilet only this time there are two colostomy bags and they are side by side and one is filled with pills.
ART is speaking to this boy.
In the medical literature, there is hardly anything ubiquitous that explores HIV and colorectal cancer. It is a dark area swollen with hurtful shadows.
I am writing this not only for you, Mister and Mizz Audience (whoever you are) but I am writing this, too, to Aen.
I am thinking poetry.
Words and associations that you could make that would go to the tearing of us apart.
I want to hear this pain. I want to read your words.
Let us try that juxtaposed with the extraordinary photos you have been making. You CAN handle it.
If you kill yourself, my life will be less of a life than the one I would live if you continued to stay with us. I have much to learn from you.
You are thinking about how ugly you are and that you smell.
I hear you.
I see these photographs. Let us work together.
I will show you my scars. I do not think I have ever met ANYONE without scars. We have them, Aen, because we have healed over somehow. Often, not completely. Completely is the equivalent of death.
We know almost nothing about the relationship of this kind of cancer to HIV.
But, Aen. You are not alone. There are others. We will find them in those shadows. Together.
You have asked me to be your spirit guide.
So, go ahead, and take my hand. At 17, I was a lot like you.
I pulled the following clinical stuff from some medical website (I do not remember which one because it’s ephemeral) that was attempting to link studies that have been done.
Data on colorectal cancer (CRC) in HIV-positive patients are limited. The objective of this study was to investigate the incidence, presentation, and outcome of CRC in HIV patients.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
Clinical data on patients diagnosed with CRC and concurrent HIV/AIDS infection between 1994 and 2003 were retrieved from the institutional records. Each identified patient was randomly matched with two HIV-negative CRC patients based on age, sex, race, and TNM stage at cancer diagnosis. Presentation, treatment toxicities, recurrence, and overall survival rates were assessed. Data were further compared with those of the published international Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data.
Out of 3,951 CRC patients, 12 HIV CRC patients (0.3%) were identified. Median age at cancer diagnosis was 41 years (29-52), revealing a 3:1 ratio between patients younger and older then 50 years, compared to a 1:33 ratio in the general population. Compared to 57% in the general population, 90% of the patients had advanced stages (III-IV) at diagnosis. The median follow-up time for both cases and controls was 30 months (6-65). HIV-positive patients had a shorter disease-free survival than the controls. No difference in overall survival was demonstrated, however survival was significantly reduced in the HIV-positive patients when only patients who were initially disease-free were compared. Adjuvant therapy was well-tolerated in all patients without chemotherapy-related deaths.
HIV-positive CRC patients tend to have an early and more aggressive presentation with less favorable outcome. Further epidemiology studies to refute or accept our observations may suggest a reduced threshold for screening for CRC in HIV-positive patients.
But nothing about anyone your age.
We will have some exploring to do. In order for us to follow that path, you must be alive to do it. I would suggest you might reach lives no one knows anything about. It will be a lot of work. You will become exhausted. But you will not be so horribly alone. — t