The Neurocultures Collective
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 co-creation model, artist-filmmaker Steven Eastwood is working with a group of five autistic artists - the Neurocultures Collective - to co-create a feature length film, NEUROCULTURES, and a multiscreen gallery installation, STIM CINEMA. One shoot, two artworks. The five members of the Neurocultures Collective are Georgia Kumari Bradburn, Lister Cat, Sam Ahern, Benjamin Brown, and Robin Knowles.
Using a range of formats and platforms, including experimental workshops, Zoom, and group Mural visual collaboration sessions, the collective has developed an outline for a documentary-fiction hybrid, a combination of observational non-fiction, sensory ethnography, and a twist on B-Movie body horror. The film reflects a number of the key concerns of the co-creative group, including masking, camouflage, pleasure in repetition, testing and diagnosis, body language and inference, and the recurring pattern of the spiral. The film will describe states of creatureliness, affordance to objects, backgrounds, landscapes and non-human species, and may explore the concept of neurotypicality as contagion.
In order to create the film and multiscreen artwork, Steven Eastwood has worked with an advisory panel to devise the right practice methodology and production structure. Neurocultures is not only unique in terms of what is planned for the screen. The production model is also highly innovative and involves apprenticeships to key production roles. The feature film and gallery artwork have been supported by Wellcome Trust and the Film London FLAMIN scheme, with additional funds pledged by Field of Vision, and applications to Arts Council pending.
The shoot is now underway. The Neurocultures Collective have taken to the streets, the woodlands, a swimming pool and a green screen to start their cinematic odyssey...
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.