Image description: Sonia Boue is a white middle aged woman, wearing a black jumper and black rimmed glasses. She has short cropped hair and the photograph shows her using a brush and mirror set which has been collaged with photographs of her face.
So, somehow it’s June and I’ve just prerecorded my artist’s talk with the fabulous Jennifer Gilbert, founder of the Jennifer Lauren Gallery! Hosted by Disability Arts Online this talk will be streamed to celebrate World Autistic Pride Day on June 18th, with live Q&A to follow. It will have closed captions and BSL interpretation, and has also been a wonderfully affirming and accessible process. I felt completely supported by Jennifer in every aspect of organising and curating the the talk, high professional values really do equal access I often find. Working with known and trusted professionals is also vital.
In fact, this project has been an access dream, in large part due to the superb support of my longtime mentor Miranda Millward, whose collage work is also amazing and can be found @scissorspaperpaste on Instagram.
Together we designed the project around my specific needs, and as longtime collaborators we had a good bank of learning and knowledge to draw on. Using my innate autistic navigational methods, I’ve worked through each phase of my project intuitively. I’ve used no checklists, and not referred to my project activity plan, because my project is in my mind’s eye. My brain is just not wired for these more conventional methods of working through a plan, and unless the task absolutely requires fine detail, lists and written notes just get in the way. If my projects are well designed I can feel my way through. It’s been exactly as it should be. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work in this way and also to share my learning with others.
The way Arts Council England ask you to structure an activity plan can feel daunting when you have a brain like mine, but it is vitally important to interrogate a project ahead of submitting an application. I find the activity plan helps reveal the gaps in my thinking, so I understand it as a useful tool in preplanning the work. The trick is to find the format that works for you. I can’t think in a linear way, but I can think in metaphors and I can create mind maps. In this case, as soon as I imagined each task needing to hang on a calendar (like fruits on a tree) I could draw it. It helped me provide a sequence recognisable enough for linear brains. What seemed impossible became much simpler, and this task does get easier with practice.
I don’t work sequentially, I work circularly, and so each distinct phase of the project (on paper) is (in reality) more fluid, with a great deal of overlap. My project is all the richer for it, and my outcomes have already exceeded expectations. Unexpected events have occurred, and I’ve had the flexibility within my project design to work round them.
I’ve also been on an access journey in preparing my online exhibition Origin Story, making sure it has as many formats as possible for improved accessibility. An experiential learner, I found it important to think it all through and curate it myself, after consulting other examples. I now have a real sense about the ways in which making sound files and writing image descriptions (for example) add layers and texture to the work, and my exhibition feels like a more generous and richer offer because of the access features. I feel positively evangelical about this!
I’m extremely excited to share some of the fruits of the Neurophototherapy tree in this next phase of the project, which is all about disseminating the work to engender conversations. I do hope you can join us for the talk, and even pop in to my website to see the show!