TRISTAN'S MOON. Survivor-led Art Installation.


Safe House Art Installation

(photographic collages, video art, sculpture, drawings, poetry)

Tristan's Moon, an art installation created by Show Me Your Life guides, peer mentors and students, was exhibited in New York City from Sept. 2011 - Sept. 2012. This significant historical document served as a catalyst for the Smash Street Boys Art Festival; a series of art & storytelling events bringing greater awareness to localities of sexualized violence directed at boys, the international sex trade in boys and the devastating consequences of surviving with pediatric HIV/AIDS.


Sexually Violated Boys Debut Art Show in New York City

"Tristan's Moon" opens to the public, showcasing the art and storytelling expressed by young males ensnared in the international sex industries and living with the devastating consequences of HIV/AIDS

NEW YORK -- Throughout the United States, one in every six males under the age of 16 is a victim of sexual abuse. More frightening, many are immersed in sex trafficking and at extremely high risk for contracting and dying from HIV/AIDS or related illnesses, substance abuse and suicide. From the beginning of abuse through death, these young people typically suffer in silence with no hope of appropriate or consistent medical care, justice or safety. The sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, sex trafficking, HIV/AIDS and ongoing human rights violations are the motivation behind a disturbing yet powerful 2012 art show at Real Stories Gallery Foundation in Tribeca, New York.

The "Tristan's Moon" art installation is the collaborative effort of young artists and their mentors. Thanks to Tim Barrus and Les Garcons de Cinematheque Films, founder and residents of an international safe-house and innovative arts program, these artists have been given a voice through artistic expression. Real Stories initiatives are showcased at with a foreword by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Tristan's Moon is also the first human rights brick-and-mortar gallery of its kind, revealing personal stories through video, poetry, music, tattooing, photo collages and fine art prints.

"Tristan’s Moon spotlights a tragedy experienced by thousands of young males worldwide, including the United States," says Dr. Rachel Chapple, Real Stories founder, anthropologist and mother of four children (three boys). "One startling story is the vast majority of abusers are married men with children. This and other realities make it a difficult story to share and to witness. But we must, if we are to end the trauma happening on our watch. Tristan’s Moon reveals the creativity and guts of young males forced to survive in an abusive adult environment, and their extraordinary empathy and compassion. We have much to learn from these remarkable young survivors. Tristan's Moon will be a life-changing experience for anyone who witnesses it."

Tristan’s Moon is a conversation raised by Real Stories in collaboration with Cinematheque Films and Art for Humanity, which have gifted their international fine art and poetry human rights portfolios. Other notable contributors include composer Philip Glass and Dunvagen Music Publishers (Satyagraha: “confrontation and rescue”); tattoo artist Anthony "Civ" Civorelli, lead singer for the punk band Gorilla Biscuits; and Sumana Witherspoon-Ghosh, assistant to Vanity Fair's art director.

Tristan's Moon is located at 36 Laight Street, Tribeca, NY 10013. For private viewings, please ask Rachel at; 646-331-0117.

Real Stories Gallery Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, facilitates contemporary storytelling and collective witness through the arts for the purpose of raising awareness and evoking social change. Through storytelling, Real Stories works to prevent human rights violations related to HIV/AIDS worldwide.

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Tim Barrus (Creative Director, Show Me Your Life)

It is rare that a press release would move me. Maybe it's because I am in the middle of a kid disclosing. It is an ONGOING gig. It never ends here. Disclosing is so explosive. It rips them apart. I will never understand it. It is one thing to treat the child. I can do that. IT IS ANOTHER THING TO TREAT THE SOCIETY THE KID LIVES IN THAT BREAKS HIM. It is not ENOUGH to treat the kid. If we can't at the same time treat the culture that would destroy children, what are we doing being here. The press release puts knots in my guts and that doesn't happen much anymore. I think it's effective. My only internalized response is to make art that maybe in some small way speaks to a kid. The umbrella over your head is fragile. It cannot always protect you. But for you to start being able to protect yourself, you must remove the leaves from your eyes so that you can see, and we can see who you are behind all the hiding places.

Tristan is no longer with us. He wanted very much to show us his life. But that life only had a limited run.

He was a sex worker. It defined him. But it also killed him.

“We love our children.”

Children have very few rights.

If I could change anything, I would change that.

Tristan was young. The tricks (seemingly straight men most of whom had families and children Tristan’s age) like their boys young. Such boys are exploited, abused, addicted, forced into sexual situations they are not equipped to handle, bought and paid for, trafficked, fucked in the mouth, fucked in the ass, torn apart, denied a childhood, frequently murdered, at high risk for HIV infection, denied access to an education, kicked out of schools, kicked out of families, incarcerated in institutions where they are raped, forced to turn to survival sex, and when they’re sick, they turn to the only family they have: other sex workers, junkies, pimps, and drug dealers. Many commit suicide. For some, HIV/AIDS is suicide.

The story of how boys are bought and sold and sold out belongs to him. The story of their destruction belongs to him. Tristan was dark and disturbed. He had been twisted around by tricks and men. Tristan is dead because the world fucked him inside and out. Yet, he was a kid. Like any other kid. He had dreams and ambition and he was smart. Smart enough to survive living on his own in a very adult, abusive environment. He had scores of friends. “Just us whores,” is how Tristan put it. He was always with a camera and photographed his world. Jumping onto subway tracks. Crawling out onto roofs. To get the shot he wanted.

When visiting (Tristan was a regular) Hôpital Européen Georges-Pompidou, he was never without a camera. Tristan frequently went with his friends (as support).  They were still tricking and heavy into drugs. Big Girl drugs like heroin. Some of these boys were thirteen. When they were being diagnosed. At the very moment of being told they were infected with HIV, Tristan would take a photograph capturing the agony on each face. They WANTED him to be there. With his camera. I think basically because it was some kind of strange record. A record that said: we were here. The photographs Tristan took are still very difficult for me to look at. Whoredrama. You get it or you don’t. You survive it or you don’t.

Photography/ Poetry/ Video are only representations. They can take many forms and each is merely the shadow of a life. It is not a life. Tristan wanted people to know something about the anguish he had endured. I cannot say that has been captured. I often go out of my way to tone the shadows down. To make it palatable for you. How many pieces of videoART and photographic collages have to be made before we admit there are children our culture abandons and treats like trash.

Treatment is not the issue. The issue is surviving the treatment. HIV-related cancers are treated like any other cancer. Tristan always volunteered his time on a variety of wards. He did things like read to kids whose vision had become a trainwreck. This can happen from pneumocystis as well. Your vision becomes impaired. He would arrive home after a day of being at the Pompidou and he was just quiet. Never said a word for a few hours and then he’d explode. “I tell kids they are not alone,” he’d weep. “But they are alone.”

I was the one left to watch Tristan die of AIDS. I was the one who held him.

I Changed His Name. I Changed Who he Was. In fact, I did Change Him, too. I Would do it Again.  And do here and now.

They tell me not to sell off pieces of the past, but the past is nothing I can hang on to.

I want the past to propel us into the future.

Right here, right now.

This is what Tristan would have wanted.

“Sell my stuff,” he’d say.

And he would not hesitate to say it.

Tristan’s Moon, an art installation of contemporary voices, will propel dozens of kids living today at the edges of existence into our collaborative and peer mentored initiative: “i believe you: Show Me Your Life.”


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