A long-running collaboration between artist Jon Adams and scientist Simon Baron-Cohen has resulted in a new music performance exploring autism and artistic practice. Funded by the Wellcome Trust, Konfirm takes place this Friday at Arts Catalyst, London. The sound/visual piece uses a large analogue modular synthesiser to combine music, video and spoken word with digitally metamorphosed MRI noise.
The aim of the project is to explore and share with the wider public what neuroscientists do, and ultimately change neuroscientific thinking. “I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I want to show others with the condition that anything is possible,” explains Adams. “Statistics show that most people with Asperger’s are out of work, and sometimes society’s views and preconceived ideas are to blame. There needs to be more acceptance of our unique gifts and skills.”
Adams believes that his Asperger’s has actually made him a better artist. “I have an obsessiveness about doing things right. If I’m interested in something it will be 110%, if I’m not interested in something it will be -10%. Sometimes, I realise I’m getting too obsessed and fortunately I can do something about it. Some people can’t.”
Adams’ collaboration with scientist Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, helped push his practice in new directions. But it wasn’t just a one-way relationship.
“The project certainly had an impact on Simon’s way of thinking, too,” believes Adams. “Scientists have a ‘sense’ of honesty and a questioning of the world around us that I admire. It isn’t any different from artists. We both ask, we look, we find out and we share. Now I’m not sure whether I’m an artist interested in science or a scientist interested in art!”
What’s next for the project? “I have only skimmed the surface, which to someone with Asperger’s can be deeply unsatisfactory,” says Adams. “I would like to peel away the layers of MRI imaging, sound, testing – I think I’ve only touched 1000th of the potential of this project. We will certainly be applying for funding to develop it.”
Konfirm takes place on Friday 14 June, Arts Catalyst, London, 6.30pm. www.artscatalyst.org/projects
Read Jon Adams’Artists talking blog on a-n here.