Show Me Your Life

Speaking out and involving other organisations and the community in addressing sexual violence help ensure that it is no longer hidden. “By making the projects visible, we are bringing the problem to the surface. By giving victims a voice, by talking about it, we are breaking through the taboo”, said Meinie Nicolai, MSF operational director. (SHATTERED LIVES: Immediate medical care vital for sexual violence victims. A report by Médecins Sans Frontières. March 2009).

Smash Street, Cinematheque Films and Real Stories Gallery were involved in the creation of a peer-mentored Video/Art program called Show Me Your Life, where kids at-risk are given video cameras and are invited to portray their lives, through exploring who they are and who they would like to be. The student's goal is to understand various cultural icons and symbols, and to artistically blend them (employing mixed-media and collage under fair use). In this creative process the student reflects upon the situations he finds himself confronting and constructs a new identity for himself.

Tristan's Moon art installation (detail from sex trafficking cage)

What I like about Show Me Your Life is that the kid can make a video, and it’s safe; the life, the violence, the rapes, the incarcerations do not pull him into the computer. The video is a SAFE place in which he can articulate the rage at what has happened to him. What really pisses me off about so many professionals is that they look at me and say they can’t participate because the kid could harm the camera or he might steal it. GIVE ME A FUCKING BREAK! The camera is a VOICE for a kid who is desperately attempting to construct one.

Icanu's Cage клетка

Iancu, 15, is from Eastern Europe. He was given a Show Me Your Life camera. In very telling ways, he shows us his life through the images he creates. Iancu is only now just beginning to tell some of his story, and he is practically inseparable from that camera. There is a place he wants to film. This place, too, was his life. Some people would consider it to be a thing not a place. But to Iancu, it was a place. The word for this place is: клетка. Iancu lived in an клетка. We will find a клетка, and Iancu will film it, and perhaps make a GIF when he is ready but not before then. And maybe never. It would be very, very difficult for him to face an клетка, and nobody is going to force him to even look at one ever again. He may decide to never film it. Or he might. It is completely up to him. It would be safe to look at a клетка as a GIF. I promise. He does not have to bite his arm when he sees a клетка. He does not have to go inside. You cannot go inside a computer. I welcome him to Show Me Your Life.

The kid who made this video is participating in an art class assignment. 

We encourage students to explore the iconic manipulation of photographic, video and film production, mixed media art and collage, poetry and ideas set out in human rights documents. We believe the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and other such official remits must always permit chronically at-risk kids, peer mentors and teachers, fair use of such materials and cultural archives as a means to express their voice and raise awareness by creating marks that say "we exist... we existed."
Show Me Your Life's first student was Moise; an eleven year old boy living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His SMYL peer-mentors were from France and Russia and USA. **Many of Moise's videos were lost when BlipTV deleted our account. This was the second time we have lost a significant body of witness art and poetry; the first being when Facebook abruptly closed many of the SMYL guides, peer-mentors and students accounts, and refused to return the work despite many requests from our international friends.
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