Art of Autism artists recently participated in a project with the University of Exeter and the production company Calling the Shots as part of a larger research by University of Exeter Exploring Diagnosis. Participating artists were Angela Weddle from Texas, Eddie Callis from the U.K., J.A. Tan from Vancouver, Canada, and James Frye from Washington. Each of the artists were paid for their participation and received both technical support from Calling the Shots and technology to assist them in creating the films.
The films highlight adults’ thoughts about their autism diagnoses, and neurodiversity, the idea that autistic brains are not ‘disordered’ but should be considered a normal part of human variation. The advantages autism may bring were highlighted in a recent article by the Exeter team in the journal Autism in Adulthood.
The State of Being Different
The State of Being Different and Sometimes I Think I’m Better feature the voices of autistic adults – who are aged in their 20s up to their 70s and from around the UK. Their commentary is accompanied by drawings and animations. The third film, In My Head and Heart, provides a glimpse of the artists’ working lives and their understanding of themselves and their craft.
Sometimes I think I’m Better
The films were premiered at an event at the University on World Autism Awareness Day, 2nd April and also shown at subsequent events in London, San Diego and Bristol.
In My Head and My Heart
Ginny Russell, who is leading the project, said: “We wanted to explore what happens to a person when they are diagnosed with autism. These films illustrate the impact on their life and their family and friends, and we hope it will be enlightening for doctors and other clinicians to watch.”
“For some diagnosis improved their lives, for others their reaction is more complex and not always positive, and we hope the films will raise awareness of this.”
For one contributor, it raised the question of the perception of autism, “It’s often talked about like an ‘add-on’ to your personality, sort of like a little wart or something, I think it’s an integral part of who you are”.
Angela Weddle one of the artists featured in the films: said: “This has been a wonderful and engaging experience. The process of learning animation by doing it, essentially jumping right in, may seem overwhelming to some but as an artist with autism and other neurodiverse conditions, it is helpful as it circumvents overthinking and some executive functioning issues that can arise with too much planning.
“It has been a great opportunity to not only tell my story and those of others, but to expand my own artistic practice and see new possibilities for communication, expression, and art making.”
We at the Art of Autism were thrilled to see the films on a big screen as part of the Mainly Mozart Mozart & The Mind symposium in June.