The Neuroculture Collective
I am working with producer Elhum Shakerifar and the production company Hakawati to co-form and collaborate with The Neuroculture Collective, a group of autistic individuals who will bring creative input and skills to producing a feature length film, a multiscreen exhibition and VR artwork. We are exploring autism as a means to develop an alternative film language that is inclusive and derivative of the neurodiverse population.
Typically, cinema has depicted characters with autism from the outside, giving stereotypical and inaccurate descriptions, looking in with fascination at a high-functioning or magical character who throws out of joint the ‘neurotypical’ lives of those around them. Medical films have similarly treated the behaviour of autistic individuals as eccentric and obscure. A cinema opening onto neurodiverse experience is not common. This is because collaboration with the autistic community is rarely a part of the filmmaking process. Yet it has much to bring to our understandings of inner and outer life, ushering in novel ways of apprehending cognitive differences, suggesting new sensory and relational events on the screen. Is this a genre, films produced by psychiatrists, films about psychiatry?
These productions are a part of the Wellcome Trust funded Autism through Cinema, a major collaborative research project I am working on with Professor Janet Harbord. Working with an extensive range of collaborators and partners across and beyond the medical humanities, the research engages the history and practice of cinema as an unexplored framework through which autism can be contextualized as an evolving discourse of body language, and explored as a condition with benefits. The research examines the history of the autistic body in cinema through archival research and then works with moving image as a contemporary practice through which the conventions of a cinematic language of bodies and space may be examined, disrupted and reconfigured.
Visit the main project website here.
Read the feature article Cinemautism, in Brian Keith Bergen-Aurand (ed.), Screen Bodies (Berghahn, 2016)