And Suddenly…

And Suddenly

Cast Photo by Victor Kuansong Zhuang. Thank you for permission to use.

Yesterday, I attended the final performance – a matinee – of “And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues“. My friend, Alvan, has written a brief review of the show here. I like some of his views on it, and I highly recommend a quick visit to his blog post.

This isn’t a review of the play, really, it is more a sensory recollection.

An incident occurred prior to the show has left me chewing on the tangled cud of emotional-sensorial-mental discombobulation mixed with shock, sadness and other slivers of unidentifiable, nebulous discomfitures. As a result, I entered the physical confines of the theatre in a bizarre state: sharp, heightened vigilance juxtaposed against torpefied somnambulism. My body felt like it had turned into a quivering blubbery mucilaginous mass, muscles twitching involuntarily like small invisible electrical circuits going awry, and throbbing, pounding pain that felt somehow distant, as if experienced through a separate, second embodiment. I could feel the delicate mucosa in my mouth literally breaking apart as deep, searing hot ulcerations began to surface, going pop, pop, pop all over the tongue, throat, inner cheek and lips. A buzzing low frequency began to sound, the signal of fever creeping up from mysterious nether regions. I shuddered as I sat in my seat, only half aware of the kind young person who was showing me to my seat and the words she was conveying to me.

I am unable to give a coherent, intellectual account or critical analysis of the play and performance, but I can remember the sensory-spiritual impressions, which, to me, are more important at this point.

I loved the soundscape, it was gentle, yet never ever bland. The polyrhythmic nature of instrumental and vocal blending, melding, ebbing and flowing in animated soft exchanges of silence and stirring was superb. My hyper senses are attracted to such clear, clean mellifluous lines, they are like silken threads of multiple colours and hues, elegantly intertwining. The messages of disability, parallel embodiment and identity unfolded gracefully yet with authority, and I noticed the excellent blending of captioning, sign language, audio description, music and sound, with the spoken narrative, in intricate fluid contrapuntal movement. Ah, that sensation again, silken threads… For my senses, a J.S. Bach fugue, at times even a toccata, zephyr-like but never cheap muzak, its intrinsic force lay in the embedded message and the cogent energy emanating from each of the performers.

Such a pulchritudinous composition and execution of exquisite artistry, and a powerful example of Disabled Leadership. Not every performer is disabled, but the spirit of Disability orchestrated and pervaded the work with unmistakable vitality.

There were stabs of extraneous disturbance: painful olfactory dissonance interrupting my enjoyment, I could smell the breaths of the people sitting next to me, and each time they exhaled forcefully, my gag reflex would kick in. Some noisy interjections – people zipping and unzipping their backpacks, rustling of paper and plastic, hoarse whispers, and shaking vibrations travelling from their chairs to mine – served as minor irritations. Yet, these failed to dampen the potency of the work unfurling before me, enveloping me in its caress, wave upon wave.

Spellbinding.

Thank you, my friends and fellow arts warriors. I have been vehemently waving my fists and waffling on and on about Disabled Leadership in theory and practice, while slowly becoming exhausted and discouraged at the blank walls facing me, the condescension mixed with anxiety that is thrown at me, and the evasive humming that lead nowhere. “And Suddenly I Disappear: The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues” has restored my hope and passionate belief that this can be achieved right here in Singapore. We are ready.

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Disabled Leadership in practice

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.

A non-disabled friend asked me a question that inspired this post: Can you give me some concrete examples of Disabled Led Practice? I am an artist-researcher, my main focus of interest, therefore, is in the arts, and so I shall address this topic from this perspective.

What is Disabled Leadership and what is Disabled Led Art?

This.

Deej, a movie / documentary that has recently burst into the scene with astounding and well-deserved success and accolades, is about the life of DJ Savarese, a non-speaking autistic person. “Not just another film about autism!?”, the jaded may well ask. No. Not at all. This one is about DJ, but it is also by DJ. About Us With Us. I urge everyone to visit the film’s website to understand more. Continue reading

Snoösphere 2017 – call out!

Upcoming project: Call Out!

snoosphere

Snoösphere, 2017

Snoösphere 2017 – a multisensory experience with a focus on autism, featuring autistic creative partnership.

Lull Studios and UNSW would like to invite autistic persons of all ages to join us as creative advisors in designing a gallery-based art installation.

Snoösphere is a space made up of interactive sound, vision, aroma, and touch-controlled elements, in which people can roam and explore. It is an immersive space for promoting discovery, empathy and understanding of the spectrum of neurodiversity.

Named for the noösphere, which is the phase in the Earth’s evolution after the biosphere – a future planetary sphere of mind – the Snoösphere promotes embodied consciousness of the sensory and energetic properties and performance of physical space.

We see this as the especial province of autistic artists. Instead of being passive end-users, autistic participants are an influential part of developing Snoösphere, putting into practice the ethos “Nothing About Us Without Us.”

Dr. Dawn-joy Leong is the autism consultant for Snoösphere, personally facilitating the interesting and fun autism-friendly sessions.

Participants will experience creative engagement and learn about the process of building a multisensory interactive environment aimed at supporting the sensory needs of autistics. Contributions from our autistic advisors will be duly acknowledged in the final production.

Introductory consultation sessions and workshops for small groups and individuals (completely free) will be held 17-20 November 2016, at UNSW Art & Design, Paddington.

Please feel free to contact Dawn-joy for more detailed information, or to register your interest in becoming part of our project. Dawn will reply to emails promptly and no question is too trivial.

Email: dawnjoy@mac.com

Phone: 0477424585

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.

Sonata in Z

Dawn-joy Leong and Lucy present

Sonata in Z

10-14 November 2015 | 10am-5pm

Nick Waterlow Gallery, UNSW Galleries

UNSW Art & Design, Paddington, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

An autistic human,
A greyhound dog.
Parallel Embodiments,
A journey of Being.
Endeavour of empathy,
Spaces of mind.
Sonorous communion,
Wordless interlocutions.
Enter barefoot
Scheherazade’s Sea:
Dancing
Awake
Inside dreams

Sonata in Z is a ‘gentle space’, inspired by my autistic hyper sensory quest for sanctuary, and my Greyhound Lucy’s natural ability to seek out and create oases of comfort. Unfolding like a musical sonata, visual images of Lucy in sonorous repose introduce the theme of rest. Please leave your shoes at the threshold as you enter, symbolically shedding conventional notions of social communication. Once inside, we shall not speak in words, but the tranquility is neither silent nor empty, because our senses will lead the way into a different social ecosystem of softly undulating rhythms, patterns, sounds, movements, gestures, textures, smells, tastes and visual conversations. This is our refuge, an alternative empathic resonance, a nonverbal sensory equilibrium – and Lucy and I would like to share our clement space with you.

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Limited edition photograph posters available for order. Professionally printed on fome-cor or gatorboard. For information on size, print and price details, please contact Dawn-joy at scheherazadessea@gmail.com Continue reading

Scheherazade’s Sea – autistic parallel embodiment and elemental empathy

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

——

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

Art in a Hidden World – creative process and invisible anomaly

Paper presented in The Arts in Society 2012 conference

Published by The International Journal of the Arts in Society: Annual Review, Volume 7 (2013), p. 29-39; and in the process of publication in The International Journal of Arts Theory and History, (Common Ground Publishing).

Art in a Hidden World – creative process and invisible anomaly. 

Dawn-joy Leong, 2012. Continue reading