Illumination

Here is such an exquisite review by my friend, Autistic artist, Sonia Boué, of the beautiful film by Project Artworks, “Illuminating The Wilderness.”

Sonia has an amazing way with words. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy piece, in fact, her words are so lithe and fluid, yet exquisitely penetrating and precise, that I am left catching my breath at the sharp, deft unlocking of a wealth of unspoken, unworded meaning. And, in an uncanny way, each and every time I am incapable of bringing into the tangible realm what I wish to express, somehow, Sonia’s words will give strong yet delicate voice to the rhythmic humming resonating in my being.

“How rare it is to see people with complex needs just being. Humming is natural, and nothing is dressed-up; this isn’t ‘special needs’ for consumption. There’s no attempt to exoticise or glamorise our being. The camera captures ordinary moments valuing autistic language and expression on our terms.”

This is exactly what first hit me right there at my core, when I first watched the film. It unpacks our meanings, our world, on our terms.

Actually, I watched it three times, each time catching different details and sensory echoes. In fact, I’ve also run it over and over again in the background, allowing different aspects of it to weave in and out of my consciousness, meandering and winding around caverns of sensory subconscious as I engage in different light tasks. I love the clattering sounds, the staccato, the ripples, the appoggiatura and trills, the sudden drop in levels, the pitter patter of rain like crisps dancing inside a foil coated box…

And then, Sonia says this:

“It suddenly strikes me that this film feels like home to me because this is where I began. There’s a circularity in writing this piece for Project Art Works, which underlines its immense importance as an artwork. As a young art therapist, I was employed in a residential setting for adults with complex needs; not knowing that I was myself autistic until very many years later. Since then, I’ve come to recognise aspects of myself in those with more complex needs than my own, but as a younger person I had no way of understanding why I was so drawn to this world. Years of my life have been wasted and lost.”

Wasted and lost! Wasted AND lost! WASTED and lost! Wasted and LOST! These words sound like bells, whose echoes and reverberations fill my chest cavity, pounding against my rib cage. I think of the bells inside Magdelen College Tower on the first of May.

Everything is there, embedded in Sonia’s three words. This world that is so simply presented in the film, a realm so full, so abundant with wonderment.

When I first read Searle’s review, pronouncing it “problematic” without any further explanation, a searing hot rage shot through my core. I was shaking with fury, yet hurt, it brought back horrific wound trauma, I know that kind of dismissal too well, flicking away the rich tapestry of my multi-textured world like crumbs off a table, that neuronormative gesture of disdain so ponderous, so callous, so crude in its garish ignorance.

But then, after the film had played umpteen times like a comforting echo in my senses, I now feel sad. Sad for Searle and those like him, who are unable to access and luxuriate in our world, who stand outside and sweep at crumbs on neuronormative cafe tables, never noticing the flow, the undulating rhythm, the shuddering patterns, and the tiny clicking, chirping sounds the specks make as they fall, fall, fall to the groaning, giggling ground. A tragedy, to me, not to be able to resonate with the richness that is our multidimensional universe. This is the true loss. Yet, do they know of this loss?

Sonia’s words again, in her other article responding to Searle’s review:

“This film speaks to me in my language. This is mysensory world. For me, Illuminating the Wilderness is a rare and beautiful thing, and I feel sorry for those who can’t see it. Our immersive connection to the sensory world can feel vast and expansive – it is beyond words. This is supremely exciting to us, and joyfully fulfilling. It’s why we don’t need to people so much – we have this!”

Yes, we do indeed, and what a wonderful world it is!

neurodivergent world

Clement Space @ Playeum 2019 – Dawn-joy Leong

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

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?”

bunnyhopscotch

20180512-bunnyhopscotch-bloviation bloviating babble bubbles

I learned this new word from my friend Rick. I like it. It has a robust movement to its physical form, flow and force. It sounds and feels like thick copious slimy globules arising from a pit of bubbling sludge. This word has a sensorial constitution that matches its meaning. Thank you, Rick!

“Bloviation” – such a proliferate and aggressively dominating activity in the field of Autism and Neurodiversity. Autism is a trendy topic these days, isn’t it? Everyone – from the housewife ‘AutismMom’ to the Professor in Psychiatry, and the outright quacks touting ‘cures’ and ‘healing touches’ mushrooming like unbridled viruses in between – seems to be dancing vigorously around the jolly campfire of Autism.The word makes me think of the many (I have lost count now, it is a long and wearying list) instances of having to silently endure protracted lectures, workshops, conversations, discussions, seminars…

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Autism & Mental Wellbeing

Back in Singapore! Hit the ground running. Two more lectures upon my return from Hong Kong.

“Autism & Neurodiversity – lived-experience & the way forward” – NUS Psychology. Thank you, Dr. Iliana Magiati, for the invitation to address your class of future psychologists on neurodiversity and actual autistic insights into autism.

 

“Autism, Mental Wellbeing & Higher Education” – NUS Office of Student Affairs. An important topic. Autistic students in universities have to navigate a minefield of sensory, social, political & executive function complexities. Specific considerations and supports / accommodations are necessary. First, let’s look at autism from the viewpoint of Neurodiversity, ditch that pathological model, it doesn’t help at all!

(For enquiries on talks / workshops / training sessions, please email me at dr.dawnjoyleong@gmail.com)

Autism & Neurodiversity in Hong Kong

HKU-CGED-Talk

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I was in Hong Kong recently, speaking on Autism and Neurodiversity. An amazing week. Hope to see you again soon, Hong Kong!

(For enquiries on speaking engagements, please email: dawnjoy@mac.com)

Acknowledgements

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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.

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!

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