October 2, 2017 § 7 Comments
I am not Catalan but I feel the recent events in Spain very deeply. I am an Anglo-British daughter of a Spanish Republican exile born in Madrid. My grandfather was from Galicia and my grandmother from Southern Spain, but they returned from their exile in France in 1941 to live in Barcelona. This place was my home from home as I grew up. Barcelona was my long Summers’ idyl, the city of all my high days and holidays, and my absolute love.
I have written often in my art blog about the long erasure of the Spanish exiles from the history books of Spain, and how my father and my grandparents never spoke of their internment in the French camps of Argelès sur Mer and Barcarès. I didn’t know or question why I lived in two places, or why my grandmother wept so bitterly in her kitchen each time we returned to England.
This is what violent political repression does – it silences you. Not just in the streets with batons. No. The erasure of memory and the taping of tongues creeps deeply into the everyday fabric of our lives. In many ways the invisible brutality of a dictatorship is at the heart of my recent cycle of paintings called simply, Buenos Días Dictador.
The dictator is everywhere and nowhere. The dictator follows you wherever you go.
The Catalan question itself is too complex for me to write about. I am an artist, not a historian or political analyst. But I know about living with exile. I know about suppression. And I know what’s more that these wounds run so deep in Spain that even 81 years on from the start of that Civil War it is hard to talk about Spain. Mine is a postmemory experience. My contact with the history is indirect, but my fear is present and real.
I have changed my social media settings to share this blog post.
The Catalan question can be hard to grasp, but you can recognise state suppression when you see it. All the hallmarks are there – and it’s impossible to argue with the statement by Barcelona’s mayor Ada Colau. A line has been crossed and Rajoy is not fit to serve. Like so many bullies before him he is a coward, one who has set armed police against an unarmed citizenry.
There have been many opportunities to negotiate, which is what democracies are made for. Democracy is talking. Democracy can never be throwing citizens around like rag dolls, breaking their fingers, kicking and batting them with truncheons. Someone has died I believe, and more than 800 injured.
Most sickeningly there have been statements by Rajoy and his deputy claiming a proportionate response. But, no. This is not ‘normal’ or right.
With my art practice I witness. It’s all I can do.
May 28, 2017 § 2 Comments
I’m tempted to leave this video right here without any words.
Who needs words when embodiment is so infinitely more expressive? It’s at such moments that I remind myself that words can only translate experience.
Yet the need to translate is there. Even for myself. I need to process what this powerful embodiment means. Writing helps. But I am minded that my words will exclude some friends and colleagues, while my video does not. I’m increasingly aware of mutism and people who can’t access literacy, as I move forward in my professional life. This matters greatly to me. The arts should not be for verbal and text based cultures alone.
As my Arts Council funded research progresses I’m going deeper into my practice roots, and I’m beyond fortunate to be invited to participate in some research group meetings in the US with my autistic colleagues at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley.
This is a joyful connection of parallel and intertwined experience, and a stepping in (via the magic of FaceTime) to a space where all is shared and understood without the need for translations. We get it. We get each other. This is nothing like inhabiting neurotypical spaces.
I even love autistic group FaceTime in this space, unlike my experience of group Skype calls with neurotypical colleagues which felt more like communicating through a tunnel. There is much food for thought in how to approach such professional meetings with my team in future.
One point of comparison is the way in which neurotypical culture seems to demand a more choreographed approach to connection, which is stressful because you have to follow, keep track and co-ordinate responses. This is all about timings.
Imagine something more free flow in the autistic equivalent – where a gentle game of tag allows each participant to follow their own train of thought aloud, to find out where we intersect. This in turn allows a vantage point on the whole (a totality of shared experience) from which our combined pattern recognition skills can happily forage and fruitfully explode. Such beneficial explosions are what make our programmes and our projects function – they fire our understanding and create new pathways for us.
Nothing could be more exciting.
This has prompted me to dig deep into my back catalogue of video work, and hook up some of my earlier neurological explorations. These early experiments are now emerging as the valuable research material I need to help me conceptualise and express my autistic professional methodologies.
I did not know then that I was laying down the foundations for future professional development. The autistic psyche is wise – but can only be allowed to be so when given free range. This is my learning. This is what I most want to share.
May 6, 2016 § 7 Comments
My last post was about waiting for Arts Council England (ACE) to make a decision on my project. Funding from public money in the arts is limited and brings a great responsibility to the recipient. So I feel incredibly fortunate to have been awarded funding under the Grants for the Arts scheme, and will give my all to this work. The ability to maintain a sustained focus and perfectionism are real assets in my job. They are also what enabled me to put three months into the project development and application – though I could not have made it through without my network of helping hands. Trusted neurotypicals, who were willing to share their insights and skills with me to navigate the NT world.
Autistic artists face multiple barriers in applying for this kind of award. These became apparent to me during the application process, and I have begun to write some survival notes for other artists in my art blog. Yesterday this particular blog post was shared on Twitter by the Arts Council itself – it feels as though my message about the inequities faced by neurodiverse artists is beginning to filter through.
ACE have a wonderful helpline for those who can access the telephone and you can also email. There are generous access measures in place if you can find them and they happen to take the form you can get along with. I felt encouraged at every turn by the people interface at ACE. But difficulties remain in accessing the access for many of us (a frustrating tautology), and further barriers created by the clunky new online portal called Grantium. A more detailed analysis of what is so very wrong with this template for neurodiverse artists will be a longer and more technical matter than befits a blog post – and possibly the work of consultation with ACE if they’re willing.
These are major issues for neurodiverse artists, but could be improved without great difficulty I feel. From my days of social policy study I reckon these to be “at a stroke” changes, meaning that they require only policy shifts and administrative nods to implement. SO it is important to bring them home to source, as I’m certain ACE are committed to access and equality and that these obstacles are systemic and unwitting.
The larger more insidious inequities are those of the social world which are embedded in arts opportunity on every scale and form. This will take a great deal of unpicking to arrive at an adequate description of what is so very disadvantageous for autistic artists in particular. I’m ready for the long haul.
April 19, 2016 § 2 Comments
My process of application to Art Council England (ACE) is coming to a close and I will be documenting it in the final two weeks. Even though it is statistically more probable that I won’t be successful I want the decision to be visible.
I have some serious questions about the process, having gone through it. How many autistic artists are failed by unwieldy bureaucratic stipulations and the new inaccessible online portal? Even prior to this hurdle we risk failing to meet criteria due to the embedded and hidden social agendas that dominate preferred professional practices.
Fundamental to the application is the understanding of neurotypical professional advancement in all it’s complexity – I am willing to bet that the majority of us don’t conceive of our professional practices in this way. This is but one area of hidden code. I could name many more but that will be for another much longer blog post.
Research is needed into how many autistic artists apply to ACE for their own work, and are successful. I’m not talking about autistics as subjects or clients – but rather as artists in their own right.
April 14, 2016 § 2 Comments
New video work about presenting my authentic autistic self in my art practice. I explore NOT performing neurotypicality, in my studio, and through my own video explorations.
March 2, 2016 § Leave a comment
This video was made in the throes of my application to Arts Council England and as part of a more serious conversation about the difficulties of access for neurodivergent artists. I felt it was time to let off a bit of steam. Feedback so far is that it is hilarious.
“51 second of joy” Brent White.
Also part of a conversation about how neurodivergent people reclaim spaces in a neuro-normative culture.
NB. Not for those who find eye contact difficult.
February 14, 2016 § 1 Comment
Photographs taken in the porch of a church at dusk. Playing with character and atmosphere. Finding myself alone in the location with an iPhone for a set period of time it became a mini film set/studio. The top image feels to me like a character in a TV show – “I’m leaving you Ronaldo….” my eyes seem to say.