Nicola Shaughnessy and Melissa Trimingham
This paper emerges from the AHRC funded project Imagining Autism led by the Centre for Cognition Kinesthetics and Performance (University of Kent) and addresses value and efficacy in the arts. It asks questions about the ‘value’ of a purely affective, aesthetic experience in relation to the ‘efficacy’ of applied theatre models.
This paper emerges from the AHRC funded project Imagining Autism and addresses value and efficacy in the arts. It questions the ‘value’of a purely affective, aesthetic experience in relation to the ‘efficacy’ of applied theatre models.
An interdisciplinary team are investigating the autistic imagination via ‘affect’ where performance creates conditions for constructing and changing experiences. ‘Intermediality’ becomes the liminal space between realities, where performed experiences create an empathetic encounter both ‘affective’ and ‘affecting’, a site ‘where felt emotion, memory, desire and understanding come together’ (Denzin 2003:23). The interactive and participatory experience we set up for the autistic children is one that emerges from its materiality: the cloth walls of the environment, the leaves underfoot, the puppets the children can touch, pick up and work, the masked figures presenting a ‘material’ (and safe?) unchanging face, the wind, the sounds and the smells. One of the key questions emerging from this research is not only how this ‘material’ approach ‘affects’ but why it is affective. Why should materiality promote ‘affect’? How does materiality in this performance work? From Brentano’s research in the mid-nineteenth century on intentionality, early phenomenology emerged and later the embodied theory of Merleau-Ponty. The material world and the intentionality of the mind are key to these theories. Attempting to develop and nurture the embodied relationship of these children to the material world brings about the possibility of change: and the ‘value’ of such change may not so much be the ability to enter Tesco’s without fear or participate in the weekly shopping (valuable as these are) but a subtle shift in their relationship to the material world. By entering a liminal space where we move our experience of the sensory world closer to theirs, they in turn move closer to our experience of the world. The paper speculates on the nature of that subtle shift, gleaned from participation, immersion in sensory stimuli, and removed from fear, anxiety and isolation.