fabric, sand, silicone, stuffing, blanky, scan printed on minky, carpet underlay
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 or by way of a piece of culture, say a very operatic sentimental song, she stems out – flapping her hands and humming a series of tones. 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 define a user’s function or non-functional. They help dictate who is physical and mental able but establish a norm. These objects weed out a stem for the sake of “integrating ” into an implicit social norm for neurological function.
The song “They Long to Be Close to You” 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, like how Hito Steyerl speaks of the poor image which is a low grade .jpeg that via its circulation gets compressed and artifacted from people organizing, or simply united, online. Shareability and sentiment and is shareable is what makes a piece culture of communicate – 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 sentimental is 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). I am all for child phycology for any age because it seems that certain pieces of sentimental culture, in its riffs and refrains, makes an audience revisit a desire to, and rupture in, being in and of the world(s) – much like the navigation in a transitional phenomenon. So let’s swoon in an inside-out twist and shout of how mediation can be the means to not just integrate, but to be close.