Neurodiversity expresses an understanding of the world as being made of many different kinds of minds and different kinds of sensing and thinking that shape how we relate to the world and each other. Neurodivergent people are people whose sensing and thinking differs from what is perceived as “normal” or neurotypical within a given society. These terms first emerged within the autistic community as an alternative way of describing autistic experience that was not based within a medical model of deficit and mental disorder. They have more recently spread into wider public awareness to encompass a range of conditions such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and bipolar as well as becoming a form of self-identification for those who experience their sensory and cognitive processing as marginalized from the mainstream world.
The arts community has long been a home to many who might identify themselves as neurodivergent, yet working as a neurodivergent person within the arts today can be challenging and difficult. This series brings together a group of arts practitioners, writers and activists who all relate to neurodivergent identities in different ways. In a set of hosted discussions they will talk about their own work and explore topics such as neurodivergent arts practice and curation, neurodivergent intersectionalities and radical perspectives on what it is to live a neurodivergent life.
The series has been curated by Simon Yuill, an artist and researcher whose work includes the use of interviews, writing, film, custom software systems and textile works. Yuill has been a Research Resident and Visiting Fellow at the Piet Zwart Institute, Goldsmiths and the University of Warwick and was the inaugural winner of the Vilém Flusser Theory Award. www.simonyuill.info
Part 1: Enminded and embodied practice
Wednesday 1 November, 7 - 8:30pm, Online via Zoom
Embodied practice is well-established within contemporary visual and performance arts, the idea that the body and experience of living in a body expresses something more than the depiction of the body itself. Enminded practice foregrounds an awareness of different cognitive styles and processing, emotional modalities and sensory being that integrate with embodied experience. This talk brings three artists, Tzipporah Johnston, Sam Metz and Priya Mistry, who work across a broad range of disciplines, to discuss how their work responds to these practices from a neurodivergent perspective.
Tzipporah Johnston (she/her): Embroiderer, illustrator, and installation artist.
Tzipporah is a founder member of Neuk Collective, a collective for neurodivergent artists, and works on improving access to the arts for disabled people through Door in the Wall Arts Access CIC. www.tzipporahjohnston.com and www.neukcollective.co.uk
Sam Metz (they/them): Socially engaged and sculptural artist.
Sam’s work explores the idea of neuroqueering ecology, looking at how art making can offer space for new moralities that incorporate non-normative thinking and celebrate non-conformity with a particular focus on neurodivergent non-verbal modes of communication. They are the nominated recipient of the Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award 2022, and they received the CIRCA scholarship 2022 for Goldsmiths University MA Art and Ecology. www.sammetz.com
Priya Mistry (she/they/cher): Multidisciplinary artist, Socially Engaged Worker & Creative Producer-Curator, working under the pseudonym whatsthebigmistry. Their extensive body of works straddle visual, performance, digital and live art.
Mistry’s practice is underpinned by the deconstruction of language and exploration of sensory/non-word based vocabularies. Their work explores and generates discourse at the Intersection of Identities. It connects on the topics of invisible dis/ability/neurodiversity, BIPOC/Global Majority, Queer and Feminist politics; whilst investigating human bodies, functional and everyday objects as sculptural propositions, generating choreographies and arrangements between bodies, objects and space.
Mistry is an Associate/ Alumni Artist with Unlimited, DAO (Disability Arts Online) 2021- 2024, Artist Member Backlit Gallery, Chisenhale Dance Space, In Good Company Consortium, East Side Projects and ONYX Collective amongst others. Presently: Mistry is presenting a new moving image Commission The Empire’s Old Clothes, exhibiting in 24-2025 and working on new International Collaboration and Commissioning with Unlimited & the British Council. www.whatsthebigmistry.com
Part 2: Neurodivergent curating versus the curation of neurodiversity
Thursday 9 November, 7 - 8:30pm, Online via Zoom
Within the visual arts, neurodivergent people have conventionally been present either as subject matter (the enigmatic and eccentric outsider, the silent and unreachable child, etc.), client-recipients for art activities facilitated around neurotypical frameworks of therapy and social integration (often related to concepts of “worthwhile employment”), or as “outsider” artists for whom their neurodivergence is used by dealers and collectors to authenticate a brand. This process could be described as the curation of neurodiversity for the benefit of the neurotypical gaze. In this talk, three practitioners, Sonia Boué, Ashokkumar Mistry and Bruce Phillips, who work as artists, curators and critics, discuss how to counter that through the potentials of neurodivergent-led curation and critical practice.
Sonia Boué: Multiform artist, writer on autism and art, and a consultant for neurodiversity in the arts.
Sonia has a significant body of postmemory work and her current focus is neuro-inclusive practice-led research. Sonia has also developed a creative method called Neurophototherapy, which has been funded by Arts Council England, and will be published shortly. www.soniaboue.co.uk
Ashokkumar Mistry: Multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator.
Ashok’s writing encompasses direct research and personal experiences relating to neurodiversity with a view to sharing experiences and changing attitudes. He is currently a co-founder of the Disability in British Art (DIBA) research group within the British Art Network, and is an associate of DASH Arts’ Future Curators Programme. www.ashokdmistry.com
Bruce Phillips (he/him): Bruce is an Edinburgh-based independent art producer, writer and curator from Aotearoa New Zealand.
His practice is dedicated to working alongside others to seek out unrealised potential, overlooked histories or to confront social inequality. Bruce has worked for public galleries such as South London Gallery in the UK, and Te Tuhi Contemporary Art Trust and COCA in New Zealand. www.bruceephillips.com
Part 3: The practice of neurodivergent life
Tuesday 14 November, 3 - 4:30pm, Online via Zoom
Many of the medical models applied to those who identify as neurodivergent, such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Bipolar Disorder, are based upon the premiss that neurodivergent people are incapable of living a meaningful life on their own terms. In this talk, Fergus Murray and Amy Pearson, two researchers, writers and activists, discuss some of the key concepts and strategies through which neurodivergent communities have challenged such deficit-based doctrines and developed their own models of a meaningful and rich neurodivergent life.
Fergus Murray (they/them): Writer, activist, artist, science teacher and co-founder of the Autistic Mutual Aid Society Edinburgh (AMASE).
Fergus has been a key figure in the development of monotropism, a theory of neurodivergent thought process and engagement that challenges established medical models of neurodivergent behaviour. www.monotropism.org and www.amase.org.uk
Amy Pearson (she/her): Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sunderland with expertise in the field of Autism and Neurodiversity.
Amy's research focuses on understanding factors that impact on well-being among autistic people across the lifespan with specific interest in interpersonal relationships and victimisation, social identity and stigma. www.sunderland.ac.uk
This course is open to all artists, designers, craft makers and art workers based anywhere in Scotland, and you do not need to be a SAU member. It is funded by Scottish Union Learning and we need you to complete these two forms (below) in advance - please note you need to input the course name 'Neurodiversity in Arts Practice' and the reference number H040.
We will email you a Zoom meeting link one week prior to the 3 online sessions.
Access: we will provide a live transcription via Otter.AI and there is no requirement to have your camera on or speak during the sessions.
Please email [email protected] with any other enquiries.