January 30, 2022

How Can We Convey the Beauty of Autistic Ways of Seeing?

Tzipporah Johnston

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Installation: Found objects, Embroidery, Mixed MediaThe Museum of Monotropism, 20212750mm x 3280mm x 2000mm

Most cultural depictions of autism are negative, reflecting neurotypical (non-autistic) people’s misunderstandings and prejudices, and casting us as tragic burdens. Rarely are we allowed communicate what autism actually feels like from within. This entry explores how autistic experience can be positively conveyed, without distress or deficit. Embracing theory of monotropism – the idea that the central characteristic of autism is the tendency to focus deeply on one thing at a time – The Museum of Monotropism celebrates the joy and sense of “flow” that autistic people experience when allowed to pursue our special interests.

It explores my own special interests – folk belief and ecology – and my compulsive urge to collect and catalogue. The Museum invites neurotypical viewers to see the world through my eyes, to recognise the beauty of autistic ways of seeing, and challenge their negative perceptions of autism. It also invites autistic audiences to see themselves positively represented in art. The installation can be engaged with on multiple levels, reflecting differences in neurotypical/neurodivergent approaches to information. It can simply be enjoyed as an aesthetic experience, without interpretation. However, for those who wish to engage more deeply, each item is carefully researched, interpreted in the museum catalogue.