I was honored to be invited to speak on autism and art as a panel member for UNWAAD this year, April 2, 2023. Organizers gave us 6 questions in advance to ensure our comfort for recording.
Preparing for this panel made me look deep. I discovered how important the experience of autistic art was to me. I suspect no professional video could find time for all my ramblings…
So I thought I’d share my speaking script with you… and get your thoughts.
🚨Content note: strong emotion, mild profanity, opinionated, mental illness, implicaton of suicidaltiy…
NOTE: Some autistic & ADHD folks process reading better, some listening… some both at once. So I include a transcript, podcast, and “pretty” captioned video below. #InclusionMatters.
Podcast (to come)
Videocast (to come)
Full presentation: https://youtu.be/XWuyHPc74W4
Q1 Please introduce yourself and your special contribution to your art form.
I’m Johnny Profane. At 70, I’m still a recovering class clown.
I bring this up cuz, there are dozens of teachers who confidently assured me I had no talent for topic sentences. Much less any sketching skills…
And that I would certainly never be sitting… nervously… on a UN panel discussing autism & art.
So my special contribution is my life story. Decades of crashing and burning… til a pro diagnosed me autistic at 63.
That shock… and the understanding, exploration and, ya know, relief?
Unleashed a tidal wave of joy and creativity in me… I’m still recovering from.
People like to hear that story… Especially autistic people… and, ya know, their parents.
Q2 How has your art influenced your life?
I guess I should elaborate. Two things… and I’m usually pretty literal… it’s an autistic thing…
Some Swedish study said the average age of lifespan ofautistic males is 53. At 70 I’m living on borrowed time… I guess.
Two things kept me alive when I hit 58. Finding my wife…the only human who’s cherished my difference”s. And the permission she gave me to rediscover my creativity…
Without my writing, my art, my performance…and behind that the respect of my wife…
Well, someone else would be talking to you I imagine.
Or looked at differently…I’m a process, not a results-oriented guy.
The intense high of searching for ideas, trying out alternatives, the dopamine rush when just the right word or color splashes on the screen…and snaps into place…
That gets me up in the morning. Every morning. Whether anyone clicks on it or not.
Q3 How does your art impact the world around you?
Hey, I’m a ridiculously immature artist.
One moment I’m convinced I’m striking a blow for free, authentic autistic minds everywhere.
The next? “Nobody loves me.”
I think there exists a small subset of English-reading autists, parents of autistis, and folks who aren’t sure… but THINK they might belong to at least ONE of those groups…
Who share my difficulties with authority, struggles to be understood, disbelief at the surreal messes of their autistic lives…
Basically crazy enough to actually enjoy stories from my life. Probably giggle at my clueless mistakes. Maybe learn a bit about their kids… gasp, themselves.
Honestly, I just hope to be a gateway drug for them… to, ya know, serious scholars, writers…
Q4 How does being autistic influence your art and your artistic expression?
Hey, Dear Gold Fish,
How does swimming in that water affect your life?
You know, it’s pretty hard to see from inside this bowl. I AM autistic. It’s who I am.
But, at a guess? I’m an outsider. Outsider artists… untrained, wild weeds… open up new doors. They don’t see through the windows of training. They knock down walls…in their frustration to see.
But deeper? I’m an autist. I can’t be sure…but it seems I see, think, express myself differently.
I have a cinematic mind. My ideas & memories are scenes before they are words… settings, characters, what we wore, the sunlight thru the trees…
I live or relive them… in the moment… before I speak or write words.
And I don’t know stories as beginning, middles and ends. But moments… with some connection… that only start to become a whole the moment AFTER you close the book.
Pretty sure that comes thru in my run-on sentences and over-saturated images.
Q6 How might we increase the visibility of autistic artists and their art forms?
Damn fine question…
Folks can like and share. Critics can educate themselves and seek out ALL diverse artists. Can’t hurt to throw an artist a few bucks in the hat. We’re ALL starving…
But honestly? I want more. All that can just be moral checkboxing… a fig leaf of diversity. Makes everybody feel good. Doesn’t change much.
I want you to come inside my world. Our autistic world. Understand it. Admire it. Respect it.
There’s joy and horror in here. New worlds to discover…
Learn our language, our native tongue. Dare to feel what we feel.
Humanity doesn’t have to travel to the stars to learn from alien knowledge.
We’re already here.
When the press finally gets hip to that, we won’t need to hire press agents to make us “visible.”
Learn to know us. You will love us.
To register for the full 3 hour event, including the full panels on Home, Policy & Art, click here.
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Authentic Autistic Life: 4 Short Stories Fearless, Joyful and Chaotic, s3e2 – #AutisticAF Out Loud
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