dedication

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This blog is dedicated to:

My canine angel, Lucy Like-a-Charm.

My baby sister Althea, her wonderful hubby Robin, and her two furry boys Bizcuit & Tiny.

My loyal friends YS and Rick.

Without you, there would be no adventure, no narrative, no amazing tales to tell.

étude in Z

 

 

In 2015, I created and presented Sonata in Z, from which emerged my now signature concept, “Clement Space“, first installed as its own entity in 2017 at The BIG Anxiety Festival, Sydney, Australia. Thereafter, Clement Space has been installed in different sites and situations, its enduring and developing presence attests to the universal need for respite, especially in frenetic, chaotic cityscapes.

Since then, I’ve been conscious about finding my own pockets of Clement Space too. Most of them are small studies in the state of clemency and grace, little spontaneous moments that bring sparks of Autistic Joy, or miniature physical podlets of rest and restoration found and taken in the midst of fluttering, swirling and trundling through the day – not as large as a sonata, they are tiny études amidst daunting and domineering Wagnerian Symphonic Pulverisations. That chuckling shadow of Artaud does add liberal doses of vim and spice to my struggle with Wagner, but Clement Space – inspired by my beloved Lucy Like-a-Charm – is my antidote.

While helping mother locate a lost DC adaptor plug, digging around her drawers, I found some forgotten treasures that belonged to my late father, which mother kindly let me have.

A kidney shaped stainless steel tray containing various surgical and dental tools, and a minuscule pill-box sized leather case with two Chinese name seals inside.

There is a wealth of history behind each of these, but today is not the day to spin long stories. I am happy inside this mental clement space, this suspended moment in time and place, just from having found these objects which reach back into time, connecting me to the individual journeys that each item undertook while in my father’s possession. He is gone now, but a part of him – known and mysteriously unknown – is embedded within. And they are now mine, from Dr. Leong to Dr. Leong, captured inside this moment that I now call, “Étude in Z”.

face value

Clement resolution has been reached, after a hurried decrescendo from the screeching fortissimo so loudly blatant it still seems incredible that a cadence has been arrived at.

Nevertheless, clemency is clemency, and I generally take people and things at face value – which is different from trusting anyone, because trust is reserved for only those who have earned it, while face value is to allow myself and others to continue along on our journeys together or separately.

In case you’re wondering, I am waffling about the bizarre drama mentioned in my previous post – perfidy – in which I ranted on about a shockingly impudent contract that an arts company had asked me to sign in exchange for a piddly sum of money.

Well, the folks behind this theatrical farce have backed down, signed the contract I drafted and my first cheque has been cashed. I must give credit where credit is due. It takes a level of sincerity – that is, earnestly desiring to achieve whatever it was they set out to achieve and not allow any hiccups to hinder the attainment of original intent – to openly do an about turn, a very sharp and quick one too, I might add. And just like that, we have mended the contractual fence and are going ahead with the project. We both agree on one objective, and this is the important factor: the work we are doing together has value and adds to our separate and common vision. That is enough for me.

I appreciate promptness, efficiency, straight forward communication, no mincing around, no faffing and no cheesy platitudes. They offered none – although they did feebly try to say they had no idea, and those shockingly exploitative terms were a hand-me-down from previous administration – but they didn’t persist with this because I do suspect they know how ridiculous it sounds, no matter which way one looks at it.

Anyway… Usual social niceties do not impress me. Decisive action does. Either I am in, or I am out. I’m not here to make new friends. (I have enough friends, more than I can decently attend to, and I already feel quite terrible to be neglecting them because I just have not enough spoons left for being sociable.) I’m here to do work, and I want it to be good work, as good as I possibly can produce, and I expect the same from the people I am working alongside.

So… let’s do this thing now, then! Tally ho!

clement riffs

 

It is 6.40am as I start typing this. The churning, heaving, hurling and caterwauling, the uneasy prancing around Neuronormative plastic tulips, swimming against the tidal cacophony of insidious agenda and spiteful fear mongering, all while valiantly maintaining expert façade of sangfroid-with-edge. What a week it has been!

The highlight ‘achievements’ of the last seven days?

Rid myself of the Millstone of Inefficiency in a project I am working on – nothing personal, I am not here to make friends, I am here to work and I find it hard to tolerate hindrance.

Emerged from the miry bog Swimming with the Hogs, made a firm decision to take control and issued forth my Ultimate Ultimatum – it’s my terms or nothing at all, I’ve allowed them to snuffle in the mud for too long, time to move ahead or leave.

Not melting down while dealing with Belligerent Entities must of course count as the highest accomplishment of the week. Very proud of this Autistic Bunny. (But of course, I had help from my Canine Angel.)

Now, for some clear lines, like fluid aromatic ink on smooth silk, here’s Chick Corea and Bobby McFerrin with a song I love (I learned to play the Autumn Leaves by ear as a wee lass of seven and it is still one of my favourites). Sitting with my Beloved, watching the light slowly seep into the dark sky as a new day asserts itself upon our consciousness.

I am so glad I took the good advice of my Fine Arts Professor (who has now become a well loved friend) during my undergraduate days and chose music as my major. Now that I have made the transition into art, music is still a Clement Space that I return to for sustenance and strength.

A Clement Sunday to Every Bunny!

perfidy

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Frightening mephitic essence of blatant tyranny oozing from every pore. Maleficent, flagitious, mockery of the Sacred.

I am contacted by representative of arts company to re-create my Clement Space installation in one of their rooms, an immersive, interactive exhibition that will run for 12 months. Two overly long meetings. A deluge of talk, talk, talk. Bubbly enthusiasm. Then, one month of anxiety-laden delay. Broken trust. Agreements ignored. And finally, The Contract.

  1. The company demands to co-own (in perpetuity) my Clement Space – intellectual property that has existed for three years as an established signature concept and creative work belonging solely to me, the Artist.
  2. The company demands to literally take possession of the Artist – body, mind and soul – for a period of 12 months, during which the Artist is not allowed to engage in any other creative work, unless the Artist applies in writing for permission from the company.

The payment: $3,500. Read it again. $3,500. No, not even $3,500 per month, which is an insult enough for an artist with a PhD and international experience. It is $3,500 for the entire year. Yes. For $3,500 they want to commandeer a piece of valuable property that does not and will never rightfully belong to them; and they want to play colonial master to the Artist subaltern for an entire year.

An exclamation mark at the end of the sentence fails miserably to represent the shocking impudence and preposterously brazen, flagrant attempt to contriturate the artistic soul.

Hence, I did not put one in.

What manner of heinousness is this? What goes on inside the bowels of these persons’ consciousness? How could they even have conceived of such terms and demands, such high-handed, ludicrous and impudent expropriation? And what kind of arrogance propelled them to put these thoughts into words – an official, legally binding document, no less?

And no, I am not ‘overreacting’ – my lawyer has had a look at it. A serious travesty, no laughing matter.

Of course, I asked for the clauses to be removed. I asked most politely too. Their response was a casual WhatsApp message:

“Good morning, thank you for your feedback and thoughts on the contract- they’re definitely justified, will revert back to you once we’ve deliberated. You have a good day.”

That was Monday. It is now Saturday. Not a hint of an apology. No admission of solecism. And no redrawn, revised, respectful and mutually beneficial contract. Does it really take a whole week to “deliberate” on how to be respectful and fair in your dealings? As if decency and fairness even need to be deliberated on? And how long does it take to strike out two outrageous sections from a contract? Very telling. And most disconcertingly so.

Artists are among the most oppressed and undervalued professionals. The arts scene can be spiteful, exclusive, elitist and ableist, and most artists are underpaid and overworked.

Disabled persons are also among the most maltreated and disrespected people in an ableist, elitist societal culture.

Put the two together, and we have Disabled Artists who are trying to survive under immense odds – compounded. We are asked to work for free, in exchange for “exposure”. Our needs for accommodation and support are brushed off and often even derided. Our requests and protests are delegated to the “Too Hard” tray, while large corporations and organisations milk the “Disability Inclusion” machinery, churning out facetious, spurious terminology like “Diffable”, “Differently Abled” and “Inspirational” – all entrenched in ableist ideology.

Disabled artists in Singapore deserve the basic, fundamental human right to protection against contumelious exploitation and audacious bullying. Enough is enough.

THIS is why we need a Disabled-Led Artists Collective. This is why I have committed my precious time, limited physical energy and scarce resources to leading Singapore’s first, with the support of the Disabled People’s Association (DPA) Singapore. This is why, if you are a disabled artist, I’d like to invite you to sign up to join our collective.

To find out more, please email me: dr.dawnjoyleong@gmail.com / dawnjoy@dpa.org.sg

Disabled-Led Artists Collective – call out

 

event call out banner

Dear folks in Singapore interested in disability practice and study,

I am representing the Disabled People’s Association to lead a new initiative to form a Disability-Led Arts Practice Collective consisting of artists with disability.

I would like to invite anyone here who identifies as disabled and is an arts practitioner or is interested in becoming professional or semi-professional some day. If you are disabled and you do some form of art – visual art, music, literature, dance, theatre etc – please register to attend our very first disabled people only meeting this Friday, 7pm at DPA in Jurong Point – please visit this link to DPA’s website where you can find address and instructions on how to get there.

Even if you are not sure whether you may be interested to turn professional or semi-professional as long as you are disabled and practise some form of art as a serious hobby, you are also welcome to register to find out what we are doing. It is a first in Singapore!

Looking forward to seeing you on Friday!

Dawn-joy Leong.

To join us at our first session, please sign up at this link: Registration

magic mushrooms

Quackery and snake oil are very much alive and thriving, gyrating wildly, grinning widely with grotesquely shiny oversized teeth in small twisted jaws, snapping the whip with aplomb and slick, well rehearsed movements, shouting salvation to the ‘lost’ with crafted jargon like pork rolls dipped in oil. The Grand Circus of Easy Fixes. Most appealing to the desperate – and the lazy. Yes, the lazy parents who would rather fork out money – sometimes a lot of the stuff – for a facile promise, a quick job, than to engage in thorough research, spend time to learn how to understand their children, open their minds to eclectic paradigms, and listen to adults who have walked the journey and have wisdom to impart.

Autism. ADHD. Dyslexia. Learning disability. Complex needs. High support. ‘Aberrant’ behaviour. Cure it all. Shed it all (like snake skin?). Recover from it. Overcome it. Reverse it. The EASY WAY.

Thanks to the Medical Model – they created monsters that they could not fix, leaving a huge void that is now being filled by quacks and snake oil pushers.

It is a wearying and soul crushing thing, this advocacy stuff. Trying to teach people to think, hoping to educate, change hearts and minds. On one side are the Medical Model tyrants bearing down with pompous disdain. On the other the clever charlatans. Everything About Us Excluding Us. Round and round and round in the miry seething heaving swirl.

Maybe… I should… try… some… magic mushrooms ?

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lo-hei !

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(Online Exclusive – click here.)

lo-hei” – A toss for Happiness, Blessing, Abundance, and, well, all things good! This is the Cantonese term that describes a tradition begun in Singapore of sharing a large salad and raw fish / seafood dish called yusheng“, usually during the Lunar New Year. Everyone joins in with gusto, quite a bit of vim and vigour, to stir and toss the salad into a blended mix. The dish is delicious, a delightfully composed orchestration of lightly piquant, sweet, savoury and ‘umami’, the dish often includes ‘auspicious’ sounding fresh vegetables, pickles, raw fish, highly prized seafood, such as abalone, crab, shrimp/prawn, bound together with a sweet-sour sauce.

This Autistic Bunny is a foodie, and how absolutely, fabulously fortuitous to have a brother-in-law who was a top professional chef and now a food scientist. Never a dull meal when we’re with this chap. Always happy tummies too! Well, folks, the Lunar New Year is almost upon us, so it’s time for food-tasting, reviewing and just enjoying the goodies galore. Some of the dishes are new concoctions and others are variations on a traditional theme. This year, my brother-in-law has developed a new and superbly tasty variation of the traditional “yusheng” salad dish, and we’ve had the good fortune of several previews, in the quest to make it just perfect. Continue reading

Show me the money! Autistic speakers and speaking gigs 

Important, key fundamentals from Jeanette Purkis.

My own experience since returning to Singapore has been a mixed bag of outright exploitation and subtle disrespect. There’ve been people demanding I speak for free at their terribly named ‘Autism exposing’ events because it will give me “exposure” (as if I needed to pay out of my own pocket for any exposure in their tiny weeny blatantly exploitative event), people writing books and asking me to contribute a chapter but refusing to either pay an honorarium or a percentage of royalties just as gestures of respect (I actually told them frankly that they ought to offer some respectful gesture, but “I don’t make much from it” was their paltry and stolidly unmoved excuse), and organisations using an autistic person with a PhD as a token mascot, always polite and always ‘nice’ but no pay whatsoever, not even reimbursement for transport.

There also have been organisations asking me to speak and offering one-tenth of market rate because of ‘budgeting issues’.

As outlined by Jeanette, there are the obvious ones to avoid, but also many less obvious ones that perhaps genuinely cannot afford market rate – or perhaps their bosses do not want to sign the cheques for something deemed of lower value. The spirit of neuro-colonialism is dominant here in Singapore. Autistics are deemed unfit to work in certain professions, no matter how qualified or experienced (where experience is garnered overseas). And in general, an autistic person with a PhD is in their eyes worth only one-tenth of a non-autistic person with a PhD.

Change is needed. But it is no easy task to unravel all the knotted threads of entrenched discrimination and disrespect. Autistic adults and professionals need to practice what we preach, but we also need to have a joint vision for the future supported by non-autistic allies, especially parents of autistic children. Is this marginalising status quo what you parents wish for your autistic children to face when they grow up, or do you want something better? Time to wake up, stand up, eschew all the inspirational porn videos being churned out to make you all feel so gooooood, and start asking for equity and respect. For us now, and most of all for your children’s future.

YennPurkis

I recently posted on social media about how I feel people delivering a service as a public speaker should be paid for it, regardless of whether the person is autistic or allistic. I understand that there are a number of considerations around being paid and maybe it isn’t always as simple as ‘pay me,’ so I thought a post unpacking some of the issues was in order. 

In some instances there is a really clear case of injustice and exploitation. I remember being invited to speak at a conference some years ago. When I asked about my fee the organisation said they couldn’t pay, so I asked about having my flights and accommodation paid for and they apologised once more before telling me that the non-autistic expert speaker was charging several thousand dollars for their appearance and they had no money to pay other, autistic speakers. Needless to say…

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reflets dans l’eau

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stille nacht

2018 was unexpectedly obstreperous and brutal. A vast, swirling, seething, somewhat inebriated ominous monstrosity ingurgitating every attempt at hopeful rejuvenation, each ounce of vim and vigour slowly inhaled into its impenetrable mucilaginous dark cavern, leaving limp, brittle skeletal remains crackling in the sizzling heat of unrepentant tyranny, unrecognisable construal of once fierce passionate and spirited determination.

Advocacy has extracted its ponderous price. What irony, for one who never set out to be an advocate anyway. It is too arduous and violent for gossamer wings, too loud for tender ears, too rough for quivering fingertips.

Yet, where there is life, there remains slithers of flickering hope. And my life is not yet over, albeit saved time and time again by a Canine Angel whose existence beside me surpasses all reason, all logical apologia.

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whispering hope

My minuscule whisper to the grand cosmic gyration for 2019? Time to reflect, rest, and retreat gracefully into Clement Space: art-making, embracing pulchritude, tasting each nuanced fluttering of time moving rhythmically through wordless interstices.

Myths that help keep the autism indu$try in bu$yne$$

Reblogging an excellent article about the harmful perpetuation of myths about autism and autistics.

Since returning to Singapore, I have myself come face to face with so much ignorance and lack of progressive understanding about autism, and blatant exploitation – I call it the Autism Grand Circus Industry – with non-autistics ranging from superbly brilliant to the crass and loud all frenetically peddling a range of autism cures (CD water, ASEA water etc), myriad programmes aimed at ‘normalising’ autistics, and events claiming to “Expose” Autism, all without real autistic professional consultation. This of course leads to a stubborn ableist culture where many non-autistic parents are either making money or getting high on publicity for claiming expertise in autism based on their third-party observation of their one or two autistic children which they may or may not truly understand anyway, or parents more happy to be fleeced (some programmes cost up to $20K!) by unscrupulous promises of ‘recovery’, ‘healing’, ‘overcoming’, and of course, ‘cure’, than to pay to consult actual qualified Autistic Autism Professionals who offer concrete help to better understand autism and better support autistic people of all ages and all needs that are respectful of the actual autistic paradigm.

Autism is a very serious money-spinning industry. All over the world. And the people profiting are not the autistics.

Autistic Collaboration

Currently the most visible way in which autism contributes to the economy is by providing a substrate from which a growing autism industry can extract profit.

What CAN be misunderstood WILL be misunderstood. Unless you are autistic there is no difference between “cure” and cure. Sadly, there is no shortage of “autism professional advice” and “cures” that amount to a sarcophagus for autistic individuals. The result is a bullet proof technique for creating mental health problems and selling further “treatments”. The first step towards progress could not be simpler:

Let the set of cures remain empty, and reduce the set of “cures” to the empty set.

To identify the “cures” it is important to understand the myths that are still perpetuated by the autism industry or by individual “autism professionals”.

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Myth 1: Autists lack empathy

Reality: There is a double empathy challenge.

It is not only the…

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