There is a new feature story Making the Invisible Visible: Embracing Neurodivergent Perspectives through Art on the Guggenheim Museum website by Shanley Chien Pierce, published 8th December. We chatted in Summer, just after my interview with BBC World Service on women and ADHD. My art-psychiatry project #MagicCarpet has had much coverage, including an EU-funded film since viewed 68,000 times since its publication in late 2018. But this story is new as it explores / explodes the ‘Model Minority Myth’ and East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) communities, where conformity is key and strict codes are adhered to.   

Internalised ableism aside, other forces come into play in white-run spaces. We adore the ‘quirks’ of the rich and powerful (one Boris of Partygate), and can’t get enough of Musk and other ‘autistic tech-bro cartoon-tycoons’, as I call them in my forthcoming book. It’s ‘acceptable’, even ‘laudable’, to express your ‘authenticity’ — and by inference, weirdness — but that’s if you’re a white cis-het middle-class man, because expressing your ‘true self’ is a ‘luxury’ that the minoritised can ‘often ill afford’ (Ladkin 2021).  

This is why I’ve been shameless. As one of very few cis-women of colour in the academy who’s openly neurodivergent, I help make space for others for whom being different means risking your job, facing aggression, and more. Much of this work is slow-burning, burns, hurts and causes tears, and will take a while. So long as myself and others continue the effort in the background, I’m happy to be a poster-girl and take on popular media.

Screenshot of extract from article.

I made We Sat On A Mat and Had a Chat and Made Maps! #MagicCarpet (2017-8), an art-psychiatry creative research programme I led as the first artist-in-residence at the world-leading Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre. My mentor was Prof Phil Asherson. Relating ADHD with mind wandering, the project explores the constructs and boundaries of ‘normality’ and normativity.

Across 18 months, I raised questions — for there were no answers! —  through 35 exhibitions/workshops,15 articles, 3 podcasts, 13 films, 200 drawings, 24 seminars and lectures. Key was a tapestry, which 10,000 people have viewed or sat on in UK (South London Gallery, Southbank Centre, Science Museum, NESTA) and beyond (Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore; SOS Dyslexia Conference San Marino). #MagicCarpet won a National award, led to my role as the first artist on an editorial board of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, and enabled me to set up the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network, now a global alliance with 410 members, including neuro-queering’s Nick Walker.    

Above and middle: Screenshots from article. Image on top features a viewer taking a photograph of the tapestry in #MagicCarpet. The screenshot in the middle comprises text extract from the article.