nefelibata

Cloud walker.

Dreamer.

Othered.

Living on the peripherals, meandering in and out… falling up and rising down…

Damned human-centric consciousness… burnt out, imploding, imploring.

The price to pay is small, this detachment, I am not lonely, not even alone – because the universe holds such infinity in its richly textured, fragrant and abundantly threaded tapestry. Always connected, always embraced.

But this human shell… this navel-gazing, glazed, muffled, bleary-eyed sightedness.

What tyranny.

What irony.

Such exquisite pain. Excruciating beauty. Always just out of reach.

Incarcerated by my humanity.

Lowest of life forms – barbaric viciousness, swirling toxicity.

Our blood runs thick with evil.

Yet, she waits for me.

Patiently.

Unspoken wisdom of ancient sentience.

What manner of creature is this?

Such grandeur enwrapped gently in humility.

Angel in my bed.

Cloud walkers. Together.

inclement space

This has stuck in my mind for a long time. A bobbing piece of driftwood, overwhelmed by the rush of events immediately afterwards, meekly staying afloat in the COVID19 tsunami that hit us all. I wrote the below ‘memory note’ a month ago but never published it till now.

I met two friends today for a quick afternoon catch up at the National Gallery. Of course, I asked them to please check out my installation, Clement Space. We had coffee later at the Courtyard Cafe, where I made some notes from their reflections and opinions on Clement Space. My friends are psychologists, and it was valuable to hear their views. In this current clime of wariness between practitioners and actual autistic persons, I am glad to say I trust my friends as allies, and I will not hesitate to refer people seeking help and support for Autism-related issues.

After my friends left, I decided to pop back into Clement Space to do a bit of observation. A group of young people were occupying the beanbags, chatting and taking photographs. They weren’t rowdy, so I just hung around and did my own photography. After the young people left, an elderly couple in wheelchairs being pushed by two young ladies entered. I smiled and welcomed them inside. I began to explain the space, but the young ladies just parked the elderly couple in an awkward position – one in front of the other – and bounced off into the other side of the room for ‘selfies’ and ‘we-fies’, chattering animatedly. I tried to engage the elderly couple, but they looked uncomfortable and did not respond. They could not talk to each other because of the positions in which their wheelchairs were locked, so they just sat there, blank expressions like concrete slabs of porous vexation, their silence louder than the excited voices of their two helpers.

I could not bear the heaviness that had entered and filled the room. I had to leave behind that grating juxtaposition, the deliberate mental and physical detachment that played out before me: stoic discomfort against chirpy elation, helplessness contrasting starkly with the buzzing activity created by the two mobile phones and their owners. The intensity of the ableism and deliberate cruel exclusion was too much for my autistic elemental empathy to bear. My heart was already shredding.

Terribly sad. I am not yet sure how to process it all. It was not clement in my beloved Clement Space at all.

COVID19: social responsibility in the midst of a pandemic

Warning: this is going to be a very long read, way beyond the normal word count of anything you’ve read in Bunnyhopscotch.

broken-plug

The COVID19 situation is escalating.

Italy is in lock down. The USA is in various conflicting states of panic, fear, apprehension, alarm and denial, depending on who is saying what and where one is situated. In some countries, death tolls are rising because there are just not enough testing and hospital facilities to support the growing influx of infected people. Singapore is doing well only because the government had a good plan, was able to implement this plan with strong authority, and we have top-notch hospital facilities. Even so, a huge surge in cases will put great strain on the system. In the face of such a serious pandemic, there are people who – either due to sheer ignorance about the magnitude of the situation, or simply because of utter selfishness – still flout the rules. Some have lied during contact tracing, turned up at mass gatherings while sick, and many still persist with poor hygiene practices like littering public places with used tissues and clinical masks. Perhaps this heinous behaviour stems from the reassuring recovery rate thus far, and the fact that though a number remain in intensive care, nobody in Singapore has died as yet. But what about the elderly and medically vulnerable?

Actually, herd immunity or protection can be much better achieved if, and only if, the normally healthy could behave responsibly with care and consideration for their immediate and wider communities. If people can find it in their understanding and will to just stay home when feeling unwell, practice social distancing, develop and maintain high standards of personal hygiene, then virulent and aggressive contagion can be more easily contained. A friend mentioned that some poorer Singaporeans simply cannot afford to self-isolate, due to crucial bread-and-butter challenges. Well, yes, all the more reason for those who can do so, to just do it! For the sake of those who cannot and for their own. It’s not rocket science, really, is it? This is how we may build a stronger ‘herd’, by offering other vulnerable people some measure of protection when we simply exercise social responsibility. But humans do not easily understand the conditions of others, do they? It isn’t really Autistic people who ‘lack empathy’, is it? Apart from the ignorant, some humans are simply inconsiderate. So, unfortunately, we cannot trust all humans to behave as they should in any emergency, and therein lies the problem. Continue reading

who’s a naughty girl?

Are you “naughty” or “nice”? I came across this post by Spectrumy today on Facebook.

Credit: Spectrumy

Image text reads:

“Can we talk about the trauma that comes from not being recognised as autistic or ADHD until you are 6, 9, 15, 40 – and spending all that time having your neurodivergent traits responded to as naughtiness or wilful difficulty?

Can we talk about the trauma that comes from continuing to be treated as naughty or difficult after your diagnosis, because the people around you are programmed by society to view particular neurodivergent traits as naughtiness?”

I heartily agree with the above. No matter what we do, society seems not to embrace what they do not understand, especially traits that appear to run contrary to their collective consciousness. That is why mere “awareness” is useless, and even “acceptance” can be rather powerless. Society needs to embrace difference, and assimilate.

My thoughts upon seeing the above poster is that this particular kind of trauma is not as linear. When a person with trauma is treated disrespectfully because of that trauma, the societal accusation is not always as clear as the binary, “naughty” or “nice”.

In some cases – as in my own – a completely new set of challenges may arise when we begin to embrace our own embodiment in every area of our existence. Continue reading

preparing Clement Space

It has been awhile since I’ve last visited Bunnyhopscotch. Lucy and I have been busy.

Our latest commission by the National Gallery Singapore to create a new iteration of Clement Space has been an exciting, exhilarating and challenging adventure.

Here’s something that most people will not know or see, a peep behind the scenes.

Setting up is always very hard work for an installation artist. Each time I do so, I half jokingly ask myself, “Why oh why didn’t I become a painter instead?” But paintings on the wall are different from what I set out to create in the very first place. I’ve always imagined a space in which I could engage with all the elements, experiencing not only the superficial sensory stimuli, but that deeper, elemental connectivity that speaks directly to my intrinsic autistic modality. So, here I am, in this strange, bizarre and dichotomous interstice as a musician-and-installation-artist.

I am blessed once again to have a great team to help me set up, three friends who worked extremely hard without complaint. With an exercise such as this, if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, especially since the spectres of Artaud and Wagner seem to plague me whenever I am faced with this kind of task or situation. One of our team had made arrangements for a man with a small lorry (truck) to pick up our installation components, and had sent the man a photograph of the carpark entrance stating very clearly the clearance height. The man with the lorry said his vehicle was able to enter without problems.

Height-Clearance

Maximum height clearance 2.1metres!

Well, not so. At the very last minute, upon arrival, the lorry guy rang me and told me his lorry was too tall! We ended up walking back and forth and back and forth umpteen times, lugging the various rather heavy and/or bulky items from the lobby to the lorry (which had to be parked just outside the carpark). Exhausted and drenched in perspiration, we then made our way to the National Gallery, where yet another arduous adventure awaited us. The lorry parked at the designated loading bay, but we had to lug every component, bit by bit, to and through a passageway several metres away. More to-ing and fro-ing heave-ho-ing. By the time we managed to schlep every bit of my ‘treasure’ to the site, we were at breaking point, both physically and mentally. No rest for the weary or the wicked, though, and so, my amazing team proceeded to lay the blue carpet out. Midway, we ran out of carpet tape, so we decided to call it a day. Phew!

Set-Up

Not very clement-looking is it?

Back the next morning with a new roll of carpet tape, the rest of the blue flooring was laid out. Then began an entire morning of setting up the shelving system.

Setting-Up-Shelves

Blood, sweat & toil!

Those who think that the life of an installation artist is all fun and games, think again. How did all the components get into and come together inside that space that you are now enjoying and exploring? Not via a dainty wave of some magic wand, mind you, but by hefty lifting and much sweat (with blood and tears mixed in too), not to mention the necessary filling in of many forms required by the venue for permission to do this and that.

Kudos to my team, who never once grumbled about the unexpected workload.

And… it is up and running! Clement Space is open from 10 January to 1 March 2020. Come and visit!

IMG_6304-cs

Clement Space @ National Gallery Singapore

For more photos and musings, click this link, which would lead you to my official website.

Media videos:

From the National Gallery: please visit in Youtube and hit us a thumbs-up if you like what you see!

 

From Channel News Asia: Singapore Tonight live interview 8 Jan 2020

making clemency

How does this Autistic Bunny deal with autistic burnout from too much to-ing and fro-ing in the Grand Autism Circus?

I cut, tear, rip, shake, turn, flip, shred and poke many many holes. Sounds violent? Actually the opposite. These are necessary actions in the process of making clemency.

Recycling and repurposing is an activity that has followed me since childhood – both my parents were creatives in their own fields, with fascinating hobbies. I owe a lot of my own artistic approaches to my parents.

This one took me a day. Its still amazing to me, even though I’ve been at it for five decades already, that an old pair of jeans, some old scraps of fabric, trimmings, buttons, yarn and silk flowers can give me so much comfort and joy. The best part of it all? I have Lucy by my side. I don’t want or need a circus. I have Clement Space and a Canine Angel.

savouring pulchritude

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Spending time with Lucy, just us both, nobody else, is both precious and renewing. What she gives me is more than I deserve, really. How can I not place her right up high on top, in my list of priorities? My life is so busy with this and that, but I am all she has. The inequality between Canine Angel and Mere Human is absurd. So much Beauty in the hands of a weak, confused, distracted and faltering human.

It was hot and steamy – not the kind of weather we like for walking – but we both love the Botanical Gardens. There is always something new to discover, yet so much that is comfortable and familiar.

No rain for awhile, and the grass was losing its deep green colour. There wasn’t any cooling breeze this time, I felt my body cutting through the thick moisture in the air, and I could literally sense the droplets cooking in the heat, my skin tingling with the subtle minuscule movements.

I was once told by a forestry expert that there were some really old tropical hard wood trees in the gardens. What I do know is that this place is very well cared for, the rangers, cleaners etc are very kind and friendly, and dogs are welcome here, though they must be on leash. It makes sense to have dogs on leash here, because there is vulnerable wildlife, and to keep the dogs safe from snakes. Yes, we have cobras here in Singapore.

We were too hot – I was drenched in perspiration and Lucy was panting heavily – and so we headed to the cafe for respite. I had a coffee, which I mixed with my iced milo in the bottle I brought with me. I settled Lucy on her mat with her water bowl and a huge length of Chewy Roo from our favourite Loyalty Pet Treats, which we order direct from Australia. The owners are wonderful folk, and we’ve become friends through the years. We’re lucky to have good friends, though I think it is Lucy who attracts the good people to us. I have her to thank for this.

The Princess was remarkably calm and collected, even when the chickens came to check her out! And there I was, feeling nervous about them chooks coming too close. Silly me.

We spent just over two hours at the gardens. It wasn’t a big day out, only a slice of the morning, but these little moments means so much to me, and I hope to Lucy too.

leaving & returning

Breakfast is my first meal of the day. I am a Foodie, that means food and all its accompanying sensory input, is important to me. If breakfast is somehow not ‘right’ to my senses, I am thrown off kilter for the entire day. This morning, while tucking in to my Nutella on Toast breakfast, I felt a sense of excited tranquility seeping in and slowly filling me – for those who understand what I call “elemental empathy” (i.e. the way some autistics relate and communicate with the material world around us), this was one of those connected full-body moments. A sense of relief followed the first thrillingly refreshing wave.

I am leaving the fierce, aggressive and thankless (for me) arena of focused autism advocacy here in Singapore. I jumped into the fray with a great deal of trepidation, and it was just as I expected it to be every step of the way. It did not disappoint my anxious predictions, but I am glad I did it. With the help of strong allies, the heavy door into the mainstream autism platform was held open just enough for other hopeful and enthusiastic autistic adults to step through. Whether they are ‘ready’ or not for this, it is not my place to critique or assess. It is now all up to those who wish to step into the limelight of advocacy.

Continue reading

deliciate

Deliciate: to delight oneself; to indulge (in feasting or other revels)

Old words fascinate me. And this one is a timely balm to a fractured, frayed and frazzled soul. (Yes, I also love alliteration. Part of my sensory ‘stimming’ – calming, even if just for the rhythmic enunciative physical qualities.)

This is one old word that I’m longing to luxuriate in.

Sometimes, the cosmos interferes vigorously, even sharply, for my own good, especially when I have been self-destructively obtuse, obstinate and obscurant – inwardly – denying what ought to be glaringly obvious, covering my ears to the roaring whispers of ratiocination. A knock on the head was needed to wake me from my self-induced somnambulism. This thunder-clap on my thick skull came from a remark made by an autistic man, expressing an utterly selfish viewpoint with foot-stomping petulance and digging in of the heels with so much defensiveness that it was almost bizarre. The age-old “What’s in it for me?” agenda reared its ugly head. I was shocked and disappointed at first, but I realise now that, inside a deeper consciousness, I already and always knew this side of him. I had merely been blinded by my very own enthusiastic hope that the person would change, daring to even think that I could make a difference in this person’s attitude and learning journey within such a short span of time as three years. Continue reading

si bon, si bon! – SYNC Day 3

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Day 3 of SYNC.

I am not going to talk about the course itself, but will just prattle away about my sensory experience. So, be prepared for fragments, bits and bobs, and gyrations going hither tither without much finesse.

I didn’t get enough sleep last night, so arrived with puffy eyes and even puffier face. I found a blob of doggy poop in the grass when Lucy was doing her own toilette, and I picked it up. I didn’t want people to think it was Lucy’s, so we trotted back to the security post at the entrance to have a little chat. Turns out that some people do bring their dogs here. Most inconsiderate of these dog owners, though. I cannot understand why people ruin pleasant environments and then complain that there aren’t enough dog friendly spaces around. For Lucy and me, it is such a relief that the security staff here are super friendly and welcoming. They remembered us from the last time. They even took photos of Miss Lucy to show their friends and family. One of them showed me pictures of his Dachshund too. It’s a somewhat tacky name, where our SYNC programme is being held, “Enabling Village“, but it’s turned out to be a sweet, gentle space for us.

Well, my creaky old body wasn’t very cooperative today, it decided that pain would be the punishment for the punishment. Never mind. A small price to pay for a push in the right direction. It’s not that I am learning anything revolutionary, but I really like that this course is framing everything neatly without breaking my already exhausted brain. Very useful for when I need to ponder kinks in the tapestry every now and then.

Oh, yes, I like that we have frequent breaks and there’s decent food – it’s not lavish five-star hotel banquet fare, but it all sits well in the depths of digestion. The effort taken by organisers really adds to my appreciation too – we even have afternoon fruits served up washed and cut!

Things do get a tad noisy at times – artists are passionate folk – and my head hurts from the loud, exuberant chatter, but the cacophony is never aggressive. Perhaps I’ll make use of the quiet room tomorrow.

Another little ‘clemency’ is the grass patch just outside our seminar room. It’s lovely just being able to take Lucy outside for little strolls during break times – harkens back just a teeny weeny little bit to our days in Sydney, where we’d go for a toilet break and a stretch every so often during the course of our day working at our studio on campus. Nowadays, every small association is precious – that was a time and space in our life that we will never have the chance to revisit together. It is now imperative that I cherish every new unfolding moment we share, as the sense of urgency grows.

No more throwing my hard won pearls into the bog of snarling, grabbing, self-serving gnashers. The recent wake-up call was timely.

C’est si bon!