The Big Anxiety Project

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The Big Anxiety Project

The BIG Anxiety Project is an innovative citizen science venture developing creative approaches to health research and data visualization.”

Lucy and I are honoured to be a small part of this amazing project, which kicks-off on 5 June 2016, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 3-6pm, level 6, with this interactive talk-cum-discussion session.

Friends in Sydney, if you will brave the weekend’s wet and wild weather, please do join us at this interactive event.

If you are not in Sydney or unable to attend the above event, please take part in the Big Anxiety Project’s survey on anxiety at the Black Dog Institute: click here!

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Autism and me: a lifelong quest for Beingness and Clemency of Being

Autism and me: a lifelong quest for Beingness and clemency of Being.

Guest lecture, 27 August 2015, School of Education, UNSW, Australia.

Thank you, Dr. Iva Strnadova, for inviting me to deliver this guest lecture since 2012. It has become an annual event I look forward to greatly.

I promised Iva I’ll tell as many personal stories as possible within the time limit, and so I shall. But before I launch into the dramatics, I’d like to begin with some basic terminology.

When I first began on my research journey, I adopted the prevalent deficits-focused, pathological perspectives and terminologies, because that was all I knew at the time. However, I henceforth prefer to use the term “Autism Spectrum Condition” instead of “disorder,” because this better describes the neurological culture that autism actually is. I also no longer use functioning labels – “high” or “low” functioning – as they are not only insulting to autistic persons, but more importantly they are based on a system of measurements that does not properly respect the innate autistic functional modalities and paradigms.

Now for my fabulous stories. Continue reading

Scheherazade’s Sea – autistic parallel embodiment and elemental empathy

Paper presented at UNSW Art & Design Postgraduate Conference, 17-19 June 2015.

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My Ph.D dissertation, tentatively entitled, Scheherazade’s Sea – autistic parallel embodiment and elemental empathy, is part of a protracted journey in search for Being: a detailed study of Self and Other, and examination of multidimensional interstices of dynamic, interactive reciprocities.

This research and practice rests upon three fundamental concepts:

  1. Parallel Embodiment,
  2. Endeavour of Empathy, and
  3. Space of Mind, from which emanates Elemental Empathy.

The theoretical foundation for this work is constructed from documented studies in neuroscience, anthropology, the arts and humanities, and personal anecdotal evidence from autistic individuals. At the same time, my artistic practice acts as concretising agency by creating experimental ‘sharable’ spaces that serve not merely to display autism but to invite dynamic, personified communion; connecting individuals across neuro-functional divides. Continue reading

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

Confronting the Invisible

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Guardian Angel

This is a musing about confronting, and the confrontation of invisible disability.

What happens when the invisible is confronted in a stark and abrupt instant?

A recent encounter inside the lift on my way up to my art studio brought me once more, eyeball to uncomfortable eyeball, with the conundrum of ‘framing’ an invisible neurological difference. In my case, it is autism – and this is an issue that autistics living in the normative realms are constantly faced with, because we exist and function in the midst of, and juxtaposed with, the ‘normalcy’ of neurotypical constructs and systems. Continue reading

Thinking Through The Body – a multimodal approach from autism

Paper presented at the International Conference for Research Creativity: Praxis, Baptist University of Hong Kong, 21-23 November 2012.

 

ABSTRACT

How should the artist approach practice and research without becoming so overly abstract that the grounded, proprioceptive concreteness of art becomes mired inside oppressive, draconian intellectualism? The reciprocal processes of researching artistic practice and practicing artistic research require actively synergetic, symbiotic sensory and cognitive engagement, the interaction and inter-reaction of the bodily senses with theoretical, philosophical insight and invention.

Sensorial contemplation, that is, “thinking through the body,” is an inherent trait of Autism Spectrum Condition. How do autistic sensory, proprioceptive and cognitive idiosyncrasies affect creative motivation and process? May the model of autism inspire a fresh perspective for research and praxis? As an artist with Autism Spectrum Condition, the aims of my paper are to provide an ‘insider’ view of how sensory and cognitive idiosyncrasy shape my creativity, and using the autistic body-mind model, suggest an alternative milieu for creating visionary collaborative research, and mutually empathic platforms. Continue reading