I was invited to the Opening of the Children’s Biennale at the National Gallery today. My anxious mind of course required a two-day preparation for this, but I had been looking forward to it since the invitation arrived in my email’s Inbox. The build up was, of course, a gradual crescendo at first, and then a rapid stretto build up as the event drew nigh. Anxiety + hypersenses + attention to detail all jumbled together. Creating order from chaos is part of the reason behind all the careful planning that precedes every single occasion.
The National Gallery has now become my favourite art space in Singapore. I love old historical buildings, and this one is a grand one. There are many small little quiet nooks dotted around the huge expanse that one can duck into for some respite, if things get too overwhelming. There are some inaccessible spaces that wheelchair users would be unable to reach, unfortunately, due to the nature of the building, but they’ve done their best to make the exhibits as accessible as possible. I am truly bowled over by the National Gallery’s efforts towards access and inclusion, something I’ve not experienced to this extent in Singapore before. Lucy is welcome in this space, and they treated us like royalty the first time we came (which was a tad over the top, but I deeply appreciate the care they took of us, a stark contrast to always being stopped at the door with many a gruff, “NO DOG ALLOWED!”), but I left Lucy at home today because she wasn’t feeling very well.
We were shown around by Alicia, who so kindly and patiently helped to navigate through the crowds and keep me focused on the exhibits, so I was distracted enough not to go into decline. I used their pilot version of their new Access and Family Guide to familiarise myself with the various installations. Despite some small adjustments and tweaks still needed for improvement, I really like that they included sensory warnings and indications, which are too often overlooked.
I’m still recovering from the sensorial weight of it all, but I absolutely enjoyed myself today. Here are the photographs I took, sans descriptions – I hope you will make a trip there to experience it all for yourself if you happen to be in Singapore any time in the next six months. It is incredibly exciting that Singapore has an art space of this calibre! Thank you, everyone at National Gallery!
Seems as if I’ve been involved in quite a few “firsts” in Singapore lately. The most recent was the very first Autism/Neurodivergent-Led, Disabled-Led Art & Design residency, which was support by the National Library’s library@orchard branch, and yesterday saw the soft opening of Singapore’s first Neurodivergent immersive and interactive space – crafted by two autistic artists and two artists with Down syndrome, curated by Esther Joosa and Imran Mohamed for Playeum, a centre for children to discover creativity in multiple ways. Continue reading →
In a previous post, I mused about Disabled Leadership, the great divide between theory and practice that many disabled persons face, and suggested one fundamental element that is crucial to recognition of disabled participants in the conversation on disability: payment as a basic mark of respect. Now, in this brief ‘follow-up’ post, I’d like to provide some straight-forward concrete examples of its practice in the arts and film.
I’ve iterated and reiterated before, and now once more, I am no activist – I have an aversion for confrontational activity, but advocacy is something that most disabled professionals are forced to engage in (in some way or other) due to the dominating climate of ableism and stubborn ignorance surrounding the disabled practitioner. In other words, advocacy – sometimes quite vehement and insistent – is made necessary because disabled practitioners need to clear the debris-strewn paths, clogged channels, and polluted waterways so that we can proceed with our practice. Continue reading →
“For autistic artist-researcher Dawn-Joy Leong, spaces are vividly coloured by scent, sound, sight and touch — sometimes overwhelming, even disgusting, at other times relaxing, harmonious, or gloriously amplified. Leong explores her heightened sensory experiences of the world through her art and writing, encouraging her audiences to engage with their own sensoriums, at the same time opening up avenues of empathy and communication between ‘neurodiverse’ and ‘neurotypical’”
An excellent article by Katie Sutherland in The Conversation about Autism and the Arts. It is both a relief and a joy when non-autistic writers or producers etc write / make features that are respectful, inclusive and accurate when portraying or talking about Autism. Thank you, Katie Sutherland!
Featuring Snoosphere by Lull Studios, my two works, Clement Space and An Olfactory Map, and Thom & Anglemouse’s Rush Hour at Cloud Heaven. Please click on the link:
“Rancid perfume. Stinky babies. Sweaty clothes. Garlic hair. Human bodies putrefying and I think my own is beginning to smell,” declares artist and researcher Dawn-joy Leong in her installation, An Olfactory Map of Sydney, at Customs House in Circular Quay.
At times confronting, at times funny, Leong’s graphic description of the assault of odours while travelling by bus forms a series of video monologues about her sensitivities to smells, sounds, light, colour, tastes and movement.
Leong is autistic and regularly feels overwhelmed due to hyper-sensory perception. This can trigger extreme reactions such as nausea, headache, vertigo and sometimes excruciating pain. Through Leong’s work, the viewer gets a real sense of how exhausting having such a heightened awareness must be, particularly in a world designed for “neurotypicals” – people who are typically wired or non-autistic.
“Many autistics experience “body‑in‑space” challenges. The opening poem describes my own proprioceptive quirk: I can dance, but the simple task of walking along the pavement without tripping requires a conscious rhythmic pattern in my mind, usually in the form of a song or a tune. Other idiosyncrasies inherent to autism include extreme sensitivity to the visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile senses. Lights, colours, sounds, vibrations, smells, tastes and textures may separately or in complex confluence trigger extreme reactions like nausea, headache, vertigo and even excruciating pain. The mental propensity towards precision – that is, noticing things in greater detail, also heightens sensory reception and reaction. A common unifying theme in this richly woven, polyrhythmic and highly chromatic existence is that of anxiety. Coping with life in an environment not designed for and conflicting with native autistic modalities, the autistic person is constantly in a state of stress.”