The Neuroculture Project
What kinds of moving images are possible if they reflect a neurodiverse rather than a neurotypical experience of being in the world? The focus of the Neurocultures Project is on how autism can transform established cinematic norms and create progressive images. Using a participatory co-creation model, artist-filmmaker Steven Eastwood and producer Elhum Shakerifar are working with a group of eight autistic artists to co-create a feature film and a multiscreen gallery installation.
A series of workshops will lead to participatory filmmaking, where the creativity, experiences and insights of the group members contributes to the co-creation of a feature length film, titled NEUROCULTURES, and a multiscreen video artwork titled STIM CINEMA.
In order to create the film and multiscreen artwork, Steven Eastwood and Elhum Shakerifar have worked with an advisory panel to devise the right practice methodology and production structure. This has lead to the formation of a collective, who are developing the film’s content using platforms including Mural. A number of group members will take up professional apprenticeships on the film production.
The project is scheduled to shoot in the summer of 2021.
The feature film and gallery artwork have been supported by Wellcome Trust, BFI Doc Society, and the Film London FLAMIN scheme.
Many in the neurodiverse community find a visual pleasure in gifs as a kind of stimming form of cinema. Realised in co-creation with the Neurocultures Collective, a group of neurodiverse early-career artists, Stim Cinema responds to and riffs on the activity of stimming. Across multiple screens the artwork establishes a series of environments in which image sequences rock, tic and loop. Scenes are repeated, events are re-visited, and gestures roll. These circular sequences will be formally realised in micro and macro scale involving large cylindrical video environments and small sculptural rotating drums, as well as see-sawing projected images.
People who identify as autistic often express that the world to them can be a mass of bodies, faces, places, and events. Regulation of experience is needed, and this can take the form of stimming: the practice of physical repetition as a way of expressing or alleviating anxiety, or simply taking sensory pleasure in recurrence. This kind of circularity and repetition is in the DNA of the moving image, beneath its stories and temporal chronologies. Muybridge’s moving image experiments are like prototype GIFs. The early Lumiere Bros’ actualities prompted return visits to view the same single shots. As far back as the zoetrope there is the desire to see an action repeatedly conducted and completed.
In Stim Cinema, filmed backgrounds and peripheral objects start to take the starring role, micro actions are given hyper focus, eyelines don’t always match, and the faces of on-screen subjects gradually cease to be the centre of the visual arrangement. These loops are grafts taken from another cinema space, sequences from a parallel feature film project also co-created by the Neurocultures Collective, adapted, enlarged, interrogated to produce sensations and patterns. These exploded views make us consider personal space, balance, affordance to objects and dynamics.
 Stimming and rocking for some brings about intense embodiment. Stimming behaviours can consist of tactile, visual, auditory, olfactory, and vestibular stimming (which pertains to balance). Stimming or stims can include hand flapping, clapping, rocking, fast blinking, pacing, repeating noises or words, snapping fingers, and spinning objects.