Collaboration, The Artistic Process and Scattering Relational Orientations:
This is an essay in process…
This dissertation project is our life in process: art as life and life as art. This website, in part, shows a process that took over two years. It consists of finding time and space to attune to neurodiversity in movement and interest and understand what is mutual in the collaboration process. Artistic practices can tend to point to facilitation in a hierarchical sense - as in a non-autistic person facilitating an autistic person as an example. In a more ecological approach to perception and relation, we understand that there is more ways of being and becoming in the world and we ask how this shapes us as The A Collective. We are all mutually influencing and attuning to the environment and the affective within that environment. Understanding human/non-human support, or object-relations, or, what Arseli Doumaci names “microactivist affordances” (2019), Adam brings us to alternative ways of thinking about perception, orientation, and object-use: “Orientations are about following straight lines, and at the same time making lines even straighter” (Doumaci, 2019, 499). However, this is more than being just about functionality which is perhaps is thinking “too straight.” We don’t think in terms of (mal)adaptative movement that reinforces the dis/abled, dis/ordered binary. In his poem “I am able to scatter,” Adam writes about the way in which he uses sticks, as an example, to “think” and “move,” within the affective field that some write as synesthetic or as “sensory overwhelm” or what Adam writes as “seeing the blast of the whole.” This immersion within the detailed affective field of perception “scatters” our neurotypical thoughts on orientation. It scatters notions of not only that we should proclaim our orientations, our locations as “independent individuals,” but that orientations are always mobile-relational, and always shifting. It does more that “dis”-orient - it scatters all assumptions about how we perceive and feel - not as disordered but as an immersive multiple perceputal fielding. This is more than Sara Ahmed’s sideling orientation in relation to one horizon. This is the multiple-planar where the black chalkboard is a “landing” to reduce the busyness, as Adam writes, the visual field (hence the decision to paint sticks with blackboard paint); “I want to think with sticks…the stick is the slanting space that the sight does thinking for” (Adam). So many shifting perceptual planes! A fielding is a thinkingfeeling, a bodying, a pacing-with - always a relation and what we name the intrarelational. Adam writes in non-reductionist ways about the stick, the toy, the perceptual fielding. When he writes “I base my pace on you,” he also paces with the field - to other planes, surfaces, objects, taps, flaps, flicks and tics.
We are not romanticizing this way of perception but are calling attention to a diversity that few take the time to orient towards; where neurotypicality becomes a uni-directional way of thinking of form, perception, orientation. It can be difficult to field in the sensory-speed barrage of the city; the demands of school, the navigation in heavy traffic. “I can’t keep the same rhythm as others, but I try,” Adam writes. “I am boy of desire to join.” The question is how do we join with Adam, with neurodiversity, without imposing a method or form? How does this work emerge from a process that allows for time, space and with an understanding of ablelist assumptions about how bodies should be (and produce)? How do we invent with neurodiversity while being attentive to our own biases, thus letting Adam lead? Our assumptions about how work should take form is present also within and among diverse communities where speaking, writing, and a “proper” way of sitting and participating is privileged. But there’s always more “inside thinking… inside words” (Adam). Poetry, filmmaking, movement, art-making, water-flicking, toy-tapping, stick-waving are ways of this processual improvisational work that stims to the fore as a way of invention and creation.
Supporting, assisting, learning, facilitating needs time and space for Adam, for neurodiversity (or neurodivergence) to take the lead. In other art-making practices as an example, it is common for artists to hire assistants to help complete the vision be it for disability reasons or to manifest a vision with a skill-set that one does not necessarily possess. We are not filmmakers but seek the assistance of someone who knows how to film and this is a way of collaboration and learning and understanding across mediums. To provide a brief summation of this process, we directed the film through a long process of discussion, watching, editing. This has to occur in different timeframes, speeds, methods. We wanted to film the process of movement in studio with just walking with sticks and toys and other materials (and people) in studio. Filming those sessions arose from a previous year of working in the studio, learning from other artists, studying, experimenting with materials, sharing thoughts and movements. After that year, we thought that film might be able to capture certain affects that can be otherwise overlooked. After Adam and I assembled the film, it became obvious that his poetry had to be included. This writing co-occurred during the year of art-making and filming, but we hadn’t yet thought of adding it to the film.
Many people have mentored Adam and I throughout this process, but it is also apparent that Adam is a mentor. Assistance or facilitation is thus always mutual. Human or non-human support is about being what Adam says “more than what it is,” and we must think beyond dis-abled binaries when we are thinking about care, support, collaboration. We have to attend to the multiple affective cues that support us (or that make it impossible for us to participate). Sometimes, a timeline, a certain space, or a goal won’t allow for creation and invention. We never began with a goal to produce art-objects. We didn’t know what would come of this, but we knew we most of all wanted to be together and study together in ways that worked for us.
We have thus made many things as a result of our process, without initially intending to make them. This entails Adam’s chapbooks of poetry, our film, and an exhibition installation with sticks and rubber bath toys. We moved the way we needed, and this is what happened. It has already passed and we are moving on as it continues to grow.
Who knows what will come next but remember, the objects are not as important as the process of improvisation in relation.
Sara Ahmed. Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. Duke University Press, 2006.
Arseli Dokumaci. A Theory of Microactivist Affordances: Disability, Disorientations, and Improvisations. Disorienting Disability. The South Atlantic Quarterly. July 2019.. pp.483-519.