Excerpts from artist talk performance July 2018 at Sullivan Gallery
My sister loves to sing. She sings her favorite pop songs with atonal gusto. She sings Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, The Smiths – all out of her range. Her singing is practice for speech and is a part of her echolalia where she inserts lines from pop culture into conversation as if they were her own words. The repetition is a way she grasps a world that is not incorporated into her autistic schema. Conversely, Sara is not bound to a social reality because that reality is not designed to include her. I can see some benefits in having distance from the social and political world. If you can separate, PERHAPS operate from a double negative perspective, you can inhabit the fold of being positioned as or positioning an other – seeing and feeling the inextricability of one’s self from one’s environment and community/civic body/family in whatever way you formulate it.
This bind between separation and inclusion could also be called solitude in the way philosopher Emanuel Leinvas describes it as able to allow one to form a self in relation to the world, building responsibility and empathy to an other.
They come from Sensory Integration Therapy which seeks to help those with sensory overstimulation disorder or people on the Autism spectrum. The therapeutic method uses particular kinds of objects is to help organize the senses and categorize the imputes such that synesthesia does amass to be a wall from which people on the spectrum try to communicate through.
Examples of these object:
• weighted blanket (deep pressure inspired by Temple Grandin’s squeeze machine)
• disc-o-sit for wiggling and focusing, a rear fidget
• wedge – here it is made into a hybrid but for SIT is a positioner for focus
When Sara becomes overstimulated by way of social stimulation and social affective forces (say a very operatic sentimental song she enjoys but also does not understand (really who does). She stems out (such as when my sister flaps her hands and hums a song). This creates a soothing space that makes sense through piling of senses. Sensory integration objects are designed to reduce the need for stemming out, to organize the senses to rid the over compensating behavior (flapping, hitting, spinning and humming). This corrective behavioral therapy aims to give autistic individuals skills for independent living (daily survival), and crop up as devices in for more popular use occupational therapy, physical therapy, and ergonomics. These objects are less defined themselves than they define a user’s function or non-functional. They position a reading of physical and mental ability. Yet left alone these objects are undecided.
Playing on undecidabilty, or play in general, is non-productive. It’s a way of abstaining from becoming functional and by extension depleted. For example, the way that the ergonomic use of the wedge is used to facilitate working longer hours, ergonomics in a sense are a conduit to further give away labor power. But here you assist to distill in me a sense that one does not have to function in a structure that does not serve us.
I truly love this song, all the many many versions. It was written by songwriters (Burt Bacharach and Hal David in 1963, but made famous in 1970 by the Carpenters. Since its creation, the song has been recorded and performed countless times. The sentimental schlocky lyrics and intonations have been absorbed and adapted by performers across genres. Carpenters, Isaac Hayes, Diana Ross, Richard Chamberlain there is even a punk version by the Circle Jerks which did not make it into this piece. The coverability of the song in a sense makes it a poor, low brow node of culture that is highly shareable and fluid, which is at the heart of why it is so beautiful.
Writer Mary Ruefle in her lecture “On Sentimentality” defines sentiment as “emotional-thought,” linking the Latin root of “sentire,” to feel, with the “mental” part of the word. A methodology of sentimentality allows emotional-thought to be an approach to work, and a means for that work to open channels of communication and collectivity.
The pronoun “you” creates a vague and amorphous relationship between us – songwriter/performers, artist/audience. There are many “you’s” possible in the sentimental song and installation, and I thank you all for being here.
The sentimental is thus nested into the function of sensory integration objects. A kind of physical touch without touching, that is oh so touching. Being alone together.
But what the objects do here is they attempt to settle an overwhelming feeling that comes out of the song becoming disjointed and incoherent. Quite possibly these objects are really a way to piece the emotional world together. Melanie Kline talks about partial objects (fragments of mother – body parts) becoming a permanent object (whole mother) which is the way to obtaining a depressive position (which is a good thing). This I find to be a continual developmental process, so child phycology for any age. The accumulation of sentimental shows a tangible common desire to be in and of the world. This is the transitional phenomenon a well. So let’s swoon in an inside-out twist and shout of how mediation can be the means to be close.