The Haptic HugShrug (2012)

Somehow, despite deliberate intentions to the contrary, things often just go one full circle and settle down happily like a contented doggy on his own rug, back where one just feels is the ‘right’ place to be.

So the workshop was intended as a collaborative effort. A miss-mash of different creative people coming together to do creative stuff. Well, I tried. Nobody wanted to or was able to get outside their social-brained operational mode to even be marginally interested in collaborating with me. And I guess I lacked the social engineering-navigational-manipulation skills nor did I have the energy anyway to drum up interest in myself where there is none at the outset. The tiny workshop about sensory and cognitive anomalies in Autism Spectrum Condition and their influence on creative process, which I had devised, and which had only 3 registered attendees, didn’t even happen. I was happy for a small group, even though I did ask both organisers if I should cancel due to lack of interest. I was told not to cancel. But in the end, nobody turned up at the designated time, and they didn’t bother to inform me. When the people in question finally appeared, they acted as if nothing was amiss. No mention of it at all. My workshop just didn’t exist. And neither did I, really. (Except to one or two in the entire grand scheme of things, but that is another story to be told.)

But I am not upset. Not in the way most normal folks would be at being flippantly marginalised and ignored. It was amusing to me, actually. What upset me was the time I wasted being there, when I could’ve been elsewhere and working on my own stuff. And the sensory pain I put myself through to get there and back.

Anyhow, here is what I created from out of the madness – a solo work, all mine, from conceptualisation to execution. I am happy. I like what I achieved. It didn’t matter to me so much that things didn’t unfold as promised, nor did it matter in the end that organisation was a bit of a messy affair. It mattered more to me that I learned a great deal, observed a whole lot about humanity, and pushed the limits of my own frames till they expanded.

The Haptic HugShrug (prototype) – by Dawn-joy Leong.

(Created for the Haptic InterFace exhibition – HKBU, Koo Ming Kown Exhibition Gallery, 21Nov-16Dec.)

Many with Autism Spectrum Condition suffer from sensory anomalies and are averse to human touch. However, just like everyone else, we crave the sensation of warm embrace. Studies have revealed that deep pressure haptic stimulation, especially that which enwraps, relaxes and calms panic and sensory alarm that are common features in Autism and other sensory-cognitive idiosyncratic conditions (ADHD, PTSD etc).

Temple Grandin, world famous autism advocate and animal behaviorist, developed the renowned “Squeeze Machine,” for the above purpose. In this machine, the user is able to regulate the intensity of pressure by activating a lever.

My “Haptic Hug-Shrug” is a response to Grandin’s “Squeeze Machine,” but was created to deliberately eschew technology, and address sensory-sympathetic need at its basic, primal level. Made from wool top, using crochet technique, the Hug-Shrug can be ‘worn’ or used as a blanket, and even gentle sensory mat to lie on. It’s weight provides the sensation of deep pressure, while the softness and warmth of fine Merino wool serves as supportive comfort to the wearer, who will regulate the intensity of the ‘hug’ by pulling at the edges.

Explanatory text by Dawn-joy Leong.