Folio: Blood Relatives by Darien Taylor

In each issue, Broken Pencil asks an artist or curator to host Folio — a section bridging the printed page with unexpected media and materials. For this edition, activist and critic Darien Taylor hosted an afternoon of mask-making and play with people who have arrived into her life through the HIV/AIDS activism. The participants included Jessica Whitbread, Anthea Black, and Broken Pencil editor Jonathan Valelly, and Mikiki, who documented the process.

They say you don’t choose your family.

Well, this is the family AIDS gave me, or at least a part of it. There are quite a few of us, actually. We are all linked by blood — and by love.

With our limited access to the means of reproduction, we know that our lineage and our history can only be preserved through transmission. So, we constantly tell our stories with whatever tools are at hand. Sometimes our materials are very rich, and sometimes they are common, even impoverished. We never really know what will be offered for our use. We never know which transmission will take seed. Thus we find that it’s best to broadcast randomly and promiscuously.

But we must be on guard at the same time. We are outsiders. Many people don’t like it when they see us in the act of transmitting. They are afraid of us. They don’t like our stories. We are getting away with something. So we find that a mask or two, such as these, can be very useful.


Darien Taylor has been living with HIV for 30+ years, and has been active in the Toronto HIV community throughout this time. In the early 1990s, when little attention was being paid to HIV in women, she and Andrea Rudd co-edited Positive Women: Voices of Women Living with AIDS, an international anthology of original works by women living with HIV, published by Second Story Press. Taylor is also a maker and arts enthusiast, and regularly publishes critical writing for The Posi+ive Side Magazine and elsewhere. She continues to work with many AIDS service organizations, focusing on HIV treatment literacy and, more recently, on ending the epidemic and finding a cure for HIV.