My blog posts used to be about my work. I know they will be again, but right now I’m processing something major to do with identity and this takes time. You don’t just get a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome and carry on as before.
I know that my Spanish Abuela (grandmother) – original owner of the blog bag and my inspiration for all my work – would wish me to speak out.
The other day I posted a poem on my neuro-blog, The Other Side. The writing flowed from a specific experience of alienation. A minor thing – seen from a neurotypical perspective. This experience entailed a contortion on my part. I had to reign in and reshape my natural brain functions for several hours at a time. I had to work at a pace that was agonisingly slow and be “accurate” in using instruments of measurement when I can instinctively gauge accurate measurements by feel and by eye. I suppose this could be like being made to write right-handed for a left-hander? I don’t know. What I do know is that it was intensely demoralising and uncomfortable for me.
Writing is often processing – and in writing the poem I began to see how this seemingly minor event could be crushing in it’s effect. It was all my school days, my recent experiences with the ACE application through the new portal Grantium, and a lifetime of contortion weighing down on me.
I have a lot to work out I realise.
And I want to write about it because this is what neurotypical systems do to brains that are wired differently. We must contort constantly to formats that don’t fit us – we must perform neurotypicality in order to pass, qualify and gain basic rights. And this is not just to be accepted socially – it is true of task based requirements too (for many of us.)
This will be hard for me to describe other than in poetry (perhaps prose) or through visual art. Others are working on these ideas through political theory and these are without doubt rights based issues.
I have an idea to write quite extensively about my experience with Grantium and the application process as a wider issue. The portal alone is not the problem, although it is certainly an obstacle.
If neurodiverse artists must contort themselves thus to conform to basic requirements for funding applications (among the entire gamut of vital tasks for the arts professional) we face a complex set of hurdles.
In order: we must contort successfully (we must know the shape we have to fit) and we must do so consistently throughout a long a complex form. This is called passing. We must sustain such efforts over time – our processing is often affected by ND (or just different/slower because we are working against ourselves). We risk psychological pain (due to re-living trauma of past contortions). We risk physical effects of contortion (I have anecdotal evidence that ND artists can become unwell through the process of application) such is the strain on us.
Last week I received news of an unsuccessful application to ACE by an ND artist. This application was a year in preparation and was failed on public engagement. Public engagement was strong in the project but not expressed in terms that were recognised as such by the panel on the day. This is an issue of passing in more than one sense.
ND artists must contort successfully at present, but we mustn’t continue so. Not only because it is bad for us body and soul, but because we risk failing to pass through psychological pain, exhaustion or faulty translation. Many won’t even try.
I liken this process to an uncomfortable performance and not one of our choosing. We must perform neurotypicality, and this in my mind conjures a somewhat frantic performing monkey.
This is pioneering work, these systems (in fairness) have been created in ignorance of the true implications of brain diversity. Access help is available, but of limited use to artists who need to be able to show their thinking in alternative ways rather than engage in prolonged and damaging contortions. The system as it stands needs careful unpicking in order to be truly equitable for all.