Art, Ambiguity, and Autism


For reasons I won't disclose, I know more about Autism than I'd like to.

A couple months ago, I said to a therapist in passing, "Working in the arts, trying to explain experimental art to normal people, it starts to feel like everyone has Autism, to some degree."

Unfortunately for those of us around it, Asperger's/Autism is "the hot" disorder right now, from tons of awful films to former Playboy bunnies speaking nonsense about vaccines on Larry King. But the fascination in the disorder, and the incorrectly used term "the spectrum", piques the public's interest about a sometimes gifted, yet linear, mindset, and world view of absolutes. "The spectrum" model begs the question of how much ambiguity you can handle, to what degree do you need the dots connected, and to what degree all of us become confused by uncertainty.

In the avant garde art world, ambiguity runs wild, and often there are very few dots, let alone obvious connections between them.  A plank on the floor, a broken glass next to it - what does it mean? You figure it out.  Julian Stallabrass, in High Art Light, discusses the trend of acceptability of artists to refuse to give any insight into their work, or any hints of possible meaning. It wasn't their job as artists.  

I put a discussion about Autism into an art blog because after all these blog posts, after all this discussion of decorative art high art, good art, challenging art, and the act of judging art - I think the line in the sand has a lot to do with ambiguity. There is ambiguity of meaning, ethical ambiguity, and narrative/structural ambiguity. 

It goes back to the aforementioned connection of dots.  I don't like swelling music in movies because I don't like being told how to feel. But most people do, and that's why they plop it in there. It's why there's a voice-over in Blade Runner, but when the director made his cut, he took it out.

It's my personal belief that we are largely genetically built to like the type of art we like. Yes, sometimes we change, and we can educate ourselves to broaden our range. But we can only expand so far, and a magnetic-pull keeps bringing us back to certain types of objects and themes. We are cut from a cloth of a certain shape, be it perfectly symmetrical or jagged and irregular. And one is not superior to the other.  My non-linear view of the world comes with its own problems -  there's not one IQ test for which I won't hopelessly fail - I read so much into each question that I can't answer any of them, no matter how rudimentary. Every mind has its weaknesses and strengths. Personally, I thrive in chaos and suffocate in routine.  

The degree to which we need the world to be linear, or chaotic may just be human variation. And the differences in people's taste should be accepted, rather than forcing people on a quest to appreciate something they inherently, deeply, don't like. Instead, I believe in a path of finding the art that's right for you, and finding yourself in the process.

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  • do u know anyone or live with anyone autistic?

  • In reply to supergrover:

    yes to both.

  • In reply to supergrover:

    This is a really nice article on a subject I have often wondered about. Finally, a little tolerance for those whose opinions differ.

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