object-thing

Autistic pursuits and objects of passion: lavish indulgence or crucial intervention?

Autism advocacy can be devastating savagery to the Autistic Artist’s soul. Relentless and aggressive, the crass normative dominance chaffing against autistic fragility, valiantly struggling to be heard amidst Daedalian gyrations, asphyxiating gas-lighting and gelid silence, is crippling.

The Artist needs to recover Sense of Soul, that Clement Space within which emanates forth, once revived and strengthened, as vibrant virtuosity and vitality. Spiritual Sustenance.

And this Autistic Artist has been slowly mending, resuscitating, rearranging, invigorating and awakening Clement Space, Autistic Joy.

An ongoing exercise that is critical to Beingness, that marks the difference between bleak existence and dynamic Life.

This morning, I unearthed an important Object that performs a key role in this unfolding and unpacking. It is non-functional in the mundane utilitarian sense – a pair of old Ferragamo wedge shoes transformed with rocks, cheap plastic baubles and paint. It cannot be worn, it does not fit into the category of High Art, whatever that is spun out to mean, it is not aesthetically pleasing in a general sense, and it has no monetary value. Yet, it is functional because it serves a completely different purpose, sublime yet forcefully tangible to the ones who are able to perceive its potency. For this Autistic Artist, who created this object-thing, it and the act of bringing it out of its storage space, of un-hiding, un-masking, marks another hidden, intimate junction of reflection and compulsion towards healing and growth.

Eyes of Pulchritude

When interacting with an autistic person, it is best to speak with clarity, and be honest. Blunt honesty is valued in our autistic social system. We prize the truth, and we admire those with the courage to speak it and stand by it. Cards on table, nothing hidden.

If you think Gas Lighting is insidious, wait till you are caught in the midst of ‘Asian-style’ subterfuge. You’d be made to doubt your own name after awhile, and discredited using your autism diagnosis, with its plethora of ‘deficits,’ against you.

There is an old Cantonese saying that aptly describes the kind of spurious babbling that usually follows when petty trickery is uncovered and the truth is laid bare as a baby’s bottom on a damp monsoon day:

“Fallen flat on your face and still trying to claim you were just collecting sand.”

Autistic people get that ‘sand box’ sophism all the time from the neuronormative, and we are expected – demanded – to accept it. Or be damned. But that is just the lower-level type of social gyrating, the kind that people with big hearts and large vision may choose to just laugh off.

Pardon me, please? Could you please kindly say that again?

Bitte wiederholen Sie?

Ah, mais non. There is a higher-order that is far more treacherous, the exquisitely Machiavellian type reserved for the Grand Masters of Perfidy.

臥虎藏龍 – The Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons are the highest order of complex social-political manoeuvrings that utterly confound Autistic Honesty. Next to these, we are well and truly “socially impaired”.

What should the Exhausted Autistic Entity do in such situations? There may be many suggestions and tactics advised by wiser souls than I. For me, it is time to just walk away – redirect and go along my way with my soul still intact. Leave the Magnificent Ostentatious Stage of Good Deeding. My old friends Artaud and Wagner are no match for these Maestros. We shall attend to lesser matters of Autistic Joy and Autistic Beauty.

Clement Space awaits, and there is Lucy, silently watching and anticipating with her eyes of pulchritude.

Empowering Beauty

In an ugly world, attempting Empowerment of Beauty can be a dreadful struggle, one which goes against the fundamental nature of Beauty itself. But we need to keep going, believing, hoping, lest darkness engulfs & destroys.

Imagine a world in which different kinds of minds contribute from diverse platforms to form a dynamic, cohesive, global whole.

Imagine safer, gentler and stronger communities in which eclectic ways of thinking may thrive within a Neurocosmopolitan culture of resonant, empathic vibrancy.

It is not my purpose to ‘fix’ what I ‘broken’, but to empower Beauty in the vulnerable and unnoticed.

Children’s Biennale @ National Gallery

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.

Continue reading

Reluctant Advocate

I am not an “Autism Activist” – far from it – so, please do not call me that. Thank you. I do support the work of activists, it is a necessary force when things are woefully wrong and a great deal of vim and vigour is needed to create change for the better. It is just that my natural constitution does not fit well with the vivacity required for effective activism. Sometimes, though, I do engage in advocacy. Well, all right, quite often especially of late, but this is not what I deliberately set out to do. I am, first and foremost, an autistic researcher and multi-artist. Unpacking this further, my research interests include (but are not confined to) autism, autistic sensory idiosyncrasies, alternative and elemental empathic resonance, clement spaces of mind and body, and my material practice reflects this research, employing multiple artistic disciplines. I love my research and multi-art practice, and I adore my beloved Lucy Like-a-Charm, the two represent mental, emotional and physical wellbeing and equilibrium to me. Continue reading

bloviation & the sacrificial lamb

My recent casual blog post, musing on Arts and Disability, and the devastating effects of non-disabled colonisation of the disability conversation, theory and practice in any field, with a focus on the arts, simply because this is my field of research and praxis.

“Perhaps it is time to take the entire conversation back and situate it on our own platform – the Actually Autistic / Actually Disabled stage. One that we choose for ourselves, not that which is designed and built by the non-disabled colonising forces. One in which there is no prerequisite social-political posturing of ambiguous, veiled or hushed up mumblings, no copious mists of gas lighting, and no contemptuous slime of condescension. Just honest truth and a light shining onto a path ahead clear of the debris of gurgling bloviation. Is this even a possibility, I wonder?”

defragmenting

Scattered pieces. Little chips, broken off a brittle whole. Windblown. Each one a part of entity, identity and embodied Beingness. Sensory assault. Social weariness. Harsh terrains of normative colonial tyranny, treading through landscapes only the very bravest dare to traverse, yet with such naiveté.

Anxiety is a behemoth so nebulous, insidious and misconstrued. Woven tightly into thick existential tapestries, in myriad hues, flavours, scents, rhythms, patterns and textures.

The artist pursues relentlessly the life of the work. The autistic artist often risking much harm and desecration of Self, in order to bring forth symbolic gestures translated into the normative realms of understanding.

This autistic artist is multi-tasking, an activity autistic persons are often (most ironically) said to be profoundly impaired at doing. The anxiety levels are at head-pounding dynamic levels, a siren screeching, so high-pitched it is not heard by the human ear.

Lucy is not human. She hears. Her presence brings elemental equilibrium that no human intervention can mimic. The show must go on. Perhaps, even this, she understands in her parallel embodied knowingness?

The autistic artist grapples with mental exhaustion, physical pain and emotional weariness. Dealing with the complexities and follies of human interactivity – whether normative or autistic or neurodivergent – is exhausting. And hope-defying.

This weekend, we are working on the installations for Clement Space in the City (2017).

Lucy and her two little canine cousins are helping. Engaging with material and canine angels is clemency in itself… Defragmenting… Realigning… inside Clement Space.

The autistic artist presses ever onwards.

See you all at #thebiganxiety in Sydney!


Clement Space in the City (2017) is part of Neurodiverse-city, presented by The BIG Anxiety 2017 festival. At the Customs House, Sydney. Opens 20 September 2017.

Acknowledgements

2015-Sonata---Lucy-Sonorous-Repose

Sonorous Repose – Lucy Like-a-Charm 2015 by Dawn-joy Leong     (please do not reuse without seeking prior permission)

Dear Friends and Supporters,

We have made it! The PhD has passed muster and now it’s time for acknowledgements.

 —-

Scheherazade’s Sea – autism, parallel embodiment and elemental empathy.

 Dawn-joy Sau Mun Leong, UNSW Art & Design, April 2016

Dedication:

To my father, Dr. Leong Vie-Ying (1930-2007).

Acknowledgements:

This work would not have been possible without the following:

Deepest gratitude to my supervisors,

Professor Jill Bennett and Dr. Petra Gemeinboeck,

for your patience, guidance, advice, support, and for believing.

Thank you, Dr. Sally Clark, for your advice, encouragement and support.

My Lucy Like-a-Charm

My family:

Thank you, mother, Molly Chye Gek Ong, for your care and fortification.

My beloved baby-sister and faithful champion, Althea Leong,

thank you for always being here, there, and everywhere for me.

Dear brother-in-law, Robin Sing,

thank you for your patience, sustenance and unquestioning support.

My canine nephews, Bizcuit and Tiny Sing

Thank you, my friends who have played important roles in my journey:

Yee Sang, Ho

Rick Feedtime

Minh Vuong

Kateryna Fury

Colin G. Marshall and Misty Marshall

Shan Patterson and Sally Patterson

C.J. Wan Ling, Wee

Margie Anne Edmonds

Brad Beadel

Gavin Koh

Boon Ling, Yee

Shane Fenton

Andrea Kingan

Rosemary Wilkinson

and

Everyone who has walked a part of our journey alongside us, however briefly, every single moment has mattered.

Reciprocating Self and Other – lessons from autism.

Reciprocating Self and Other – lessons from autism by Dawn-joy Leong

Conference paper presented at the Inter-Disciplinary.Net conference,

Strangers, Aliens and Foreigners

Thursday 5th September – Saturday 7th September 2013

Mansfield College, Oxford, United Kingdom.

(This paper was first published in the ebook, “Experiencing Otherness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives”.)

Abstract.

Culture is the agglomeration of values, customs, and communication systems identifying groups of people, where demarcations can be geographic, economic, intellectual, or even neurological predisposition. In this paper, I shall discuss Autism Spectrum Condition as a mental culture, and investigate Self-Other identities from the perspective of a researcher-artist with Asperger’s Syndrome. Autism is widely portrayed by the general media as stereotypes exhibiting bizarre behaviour. Why is autism considered an aberrant existence? In reality, autistic individuals grapple daily with the complexities of Self and Other. Assimilation and communication is very much based on the autistic individual’s ability to grasp and ‘perform’ alien systems and realities. How much should we conform to the cultural tenets of Other at the expense of Self for the purpose of convivial integration, and how much to attend to Self for the sake of intrinsic preservation and need?

In the push for a more enlightened co-existence, some questions require address. When is co-existence considered cultural migration and when imposition? We are often strangers even in our own ‘homes,’ perennial actors and performers of Other, and thereby losing understanding and appreciation of Self. Should it be a compliment or insult when someone declares, “But you can’t be autistic, you don’t look or behave autistic?”

Perhaps a transdisciplinary approach to this conundrum is in order – one that will facilitate understanding and reciprocity between Self and Other. Continue reading

A Thin Fine Line

This is a musing about invasion of privacy and the thin fine line between funny and sinister.

When one has been accorded much care, consideration and respectful support from a great number of people, one may become not only quite overwhelmed, but also lulled into a feeling of security, such that when this sense of ‘safeness’ is challenged, one becomes suddenly unsure how to react. One incident was highlighted in my previous post, “Confronting the Invisible.”

Recently, I have been encountering a series of little events, each one so minute in isolation that only the very observant or meticulously private person would react to, let alone notice at all. I have tried hard, in deference to the more prevalent “hey, relax!” laissez-faire social perception of the majority, to downplay in my own mind, each of these events which nevertheless irked me greatly. However, now that I am faced with an escalating rate of recurrence of these ‘small things,’ and the accumulation of which are forming a disturbing but as yet nebulous denouement with an accompanying mixture of utter weariness and foreboding, I am finding harder and harder to brush them all off. Continue reading