My lil brother will be 8 next april. His name is Adam, and he is funny, n wild. he is such a hoot n i love him with all of my lil brown heart.
When he was (i think) 4/5 years old we found out he was on the autistic spectrum because he was struggling to communicate verbally. He speaks a lil bit, maybe sometimes when he feels like it, but mostly not. He really enjoys shouting though, that’s like his favourite hobby.
My favourite thing about him is his intense focus. He gets obsessed with performing routines, but really strange obscure ones. A year or so ago he became really interested in performing the actions and routine of a birthday party, and so every weekend my Dad would have to buy him a birthday cake and some balloons, and he’d wrap all his toys up in paper, put candles in the cake and get ppl to sing him happy birthday - so he could blow out the candles, open his presents, and perform the routine again and again - until he was satisfied with how it all went down. A few years before that, he must have been only 5 or 6, he was really interested in the kinda prerequisite sitcom entrance. So he’d sit in my sister’s wardrobe, wait till we were talking amongst ourselves and then waltz outta the wardrobe super casual-like and say, 'HI GUYS,' and me and my sister would have to clap and whoop and whistle like a live sitcom audience when the star of the show comes onstage.
He sees and understands the world differently to me, his brain is wired up in a way that is not like mine. perhaps I can’t or won’t ever understand his perceptions, truly or deeply.
Thinking about him and the actions he performs and re-performs; I always thought he enacts these routines because he is trying to understand their basis, their purpose or function or why they are done. I feel like I do that with things I don’t quite understand too. If something sits kinda oddly with me, I understand through repeating it and like moisturiser it sinks into my skin. Lil’ Wayne said: 'Repetition is the father of learning. I repeat: repetition is the father of learning,' and I agree, but more than learning, it is also a tool for understanding. Perhaps I’m seeing Adam’s behaviours through the lens of my own, but that’s how I understand it. Because birthday parties ARE pretty weird things. By performing their actions and components over and over i think he gets to understand their purpose and function and < what > they actually are.
Saying this, laying down this foundation to talk about the work in Tramway;;;;;;
Ans I say this because the works i’m writing about this week were by Nama Ato, a group or collective of 3 Japanese artists. They all, like Adam, are on the autistic spectrum and communicate non-verbally. The work was all hung very straight and grouped by themselves. They didn’t speak with each other in the room, and the fact that there was no physical or like… present curation kinda rubbed against me. I felt it, and I felt it like a filmy skin between me and the work. Because although I understand that autism isn’t one set way of functioning / that it doesn’t materialise or present in the same way in everyone / the word idiosyncrasy belongs here / these artists could or would have an entirely separate and different experience of the world to Adam; and I couldn’t help but think about my brother while I was walking through the room. (but also, like, duh. Of course I think about him loads, he’s my little brother. I think of him when I see puddles, and geese, when I go to gallery gift shops, when I'm in the Asda bakery section, when I see someone eating a packet of Skips etc.)
Looking at the drawings from anime sheet music, I thought about Adam and how he repeats to understand. I thought about how the last time I saw him, he wanted to perform his bed-time routine. He got under the covers of my sister’s bed, fidgeted around, got up, ran to the bathroom n pottered around. He looked in cupboards and then ran back and said, 'Goodnight,' ready to start all over again. I don’t know if I’m being a dickhead by saying, 'I wish I’d seen more, more of the behind-the-work.' Because I don’t mean it in that way. I don’t mean that I want a documentary about the artists’ experiences and for someone to explain to me how, 'this is like this bc they have this and they see things like this,' because it doesn’t work like that. I don’t want the artists’ identities to be defined by the fact they are autistic. However, Adam performs these routines and I truly think he understands the world in this way; by performing odd parts of it over and over. Maybe the deal here is: I don’t know much about autism beyond my brother’s contact and experience of it. Everything I know and understand about it is through him. I wish Adam was old enough to understand my questions if I asked him about it, but honestly ask any 8 year old why they’re doing something and they’re like, “BEcaUSE I wANt to, DUH” (tbh fair enough, good answer).
While I was looking round, I saw the work as a similar kind of thing, in the same circle of the Venn diagram as Adam eating cheetos in a party hat every Saturday. It might sound strange and unrelated but there’s something in his actions and the way the work showed the artists’ repeated actions that made me think there was more to the work than just its face. What about itself. I wanted to know if anyone else who didn’t have Adam as a little brother would see the work in the same way as me. And if they don’t, were they missing the point? I hope people didn’t walk away from this exhibition thinking the work was samey-samey, or too easy or uncomplex, because it wasn’t. But also. Maybe I’ve only got these questions because I walked into the room and thought about Adam, and balloons, and cakes? Maybe I shouldn’t be asking to see the backs of things and I should take it all at face value (an important thing to do sometimes), maybe I’m being neurotypical af, expecting these things to be translated for me and other ppl who think like me. Maybe if Adam had come to Glasgow with me, he’d have loved the show and got it, and that’s the point, that’s all that matters. I wish Adam came on tour with the White Pube, because IDEALLY - he should be writing this review.