Presence - Praxis Art Space 2020/21

Firstly, I would like to begin by thanking Gabi for including me in this show. Presence is a tenderly considered exhibition, I am very thankful to have been a part of it!

The work I set out to create for Presence was quite different to where it ended. With Gabi’s encouragement to create pieces that followed on from my honours work, each of the constructed spaces were intended to have people within them, beings sharing their own experiences, situated within spaces deemed as … However, COVID took hold of our reality and during my time of respectful isolation, these works, that were supposed to be looking out, became about looking within… these created spaces claimed introspection and sought to interrogate and make space for ‘self’, in a way that extends beyond gender and sexuality, in a way that led to an unfolding unknowing – a new lens through which to view my lived experience. Existing, for me, is and has always been to feel and to know vast internal worlds that converge and intersect with prickly, repeating external worlds.

Worlds within worlds, often full of details others don’t see… worlds full of light and colour and sound and texture and people and emotions. I forever exist in painfully, beautiful, overlapping and intersecting worlds- from the body to the mind and back again, from the internal to the
external, and of course, back again. For me, this is what it is to be Neurodivergent. This is what it is to be Autistic.

The surface of my main images, stand as portals… Portals to a world, seemingly nonsensical, overtly pretty and opposingly maximalist… Seeking to claim space for the other… These spaces are inviting you to come and play, they exist for you to consider another way of being… Outside and inside of a paired back, neutral and minimalist existence… They are offering an alternative… And for me a release… A release of neuronormative, gender normative expectations… They are a challenge to accept and see the magic in seemingly disparate ways of being… In life and in art.

Our world is created by diverse ways of being; stories within stories and worlds within worlds. These worlds co-exist connect and converge, or at times oppose, suppress or dominate. Neurodiversity (Walker, 2014) is a field of research that interrogates and seeks to understand the diverse ways human neurocognitive functioning shapes the world in which we exist. The rules that govern our over-culture are predicated on a dominant, or ‘typical’, neurological way of being, this extends out and into gender normative ideals. Research into Neurodiversity seeks to challenge these dominant, neuronomative expectations.

People who diverge from these ‘societal standards of “normal” ‘ (Walker, 2014), for example Autistic people, are referred to as being Neurodivergent. These two, disparate minds, often exist in opposition to one another with the dominate, Neuronomative, seeking to suppress or oppress the other, or indeed to render invisible the other. To actively resist this, is to be Neuroqueer. My works, each in their own ways, are an attempt to disrupt the construct and the confines of Neuronormative ways of being, they seek to resist expectations placed on personhood that exist prior to gender and sexuality…

I ‘AM’ no definable thing in terms of gender – I love ‘Enby’ and genderqueer but my new favourite and most appropriate is ‘Autigender’
My gender is not a fixed address. It is something I am constantly interrogating, expressing and exploring. Gender to me is the most ridiculous of social rules, spending a large chunk of my life trying to be a good Christian woman and then a sexy, strong woman, aided a loss of self and compounded a feeling of otherness and oppression.

Autigender is a phrase that speaks to the intersections of how Autism impacts a person’s experience of gender. There is a statistically high amount of Transgender and nonbinary people in the Autistic community. I identify so much with shared Trans and nonbinary experiences, in a way, I am moving through from one expression of my identity and gender to explore another. I often feel betrayed by my fat, curvy body and I long for a thin body that could pass as androgynously sexy and severe. But then I realise that neutral is still so often seen as the base, the core from which everything else extends from… this notion is inherently patriarchal and ‘masculine’. And so, I am trying to accept my fat queer flesh and elastic chest where it is at. Non-binary people can wear frills and bows and still be non-binary.

Expectations for a non-binary person to present as only something neutral and paired back is founded in patriarchal ideals of gender, space making for a single story of minimalist expressions and artmaking is founded in these same ideals and further perpetuates the idea of masculine or paired back minimalism as the centre.

Both stories and divergent ways of being and expressing can co-exist, we can create transversal connections between these seemingly disparate ways of being, reaching out or indeed reaching in to connect one to the other, to make space for, and support more than a single story of being. As we attempt to make space for more expressions of gender, we must, as a community, also constantly interrogate the aesthetic and stylistic expressions of that difference we allow, accept and support? In the words of Rosi Braidotti – The future, is in transversality.

Presence, and all the work it contains from each of these diverse artists, is a beautiful expression of transversal space making.
Within each of my images there exists analogue details and digital disruptions, they hold borders created by constructed environments- brick walls reclaimed by botanical interventions, serious spaces filled with playful nostalgia.

Each of the details held within these images’ points to the constructed nature of our current, contemporary reality. To claim something is a construct is not to say it is not real or valid- but it highlights that this reality, is one reality, one version of the truth, a truth that is fluid and forever changing, as history and difference among various communities and geographical locations proves… To claim, as I hope in part these images do, that reality is a construct is also to allow space to play within and without its borders…

My body of work, created for Presence, stands as a love letter to myself, and as a portal, from one world to the other and back again. They are an invitation, to interrogate your own reality and lived experience. They are a provocation to understand where your own borders exist and neuronormative expectations lie… 

Here, in the absence of you, we make spaces to forever unfurl and constantly bloom.