MAEVE MULRENNAN DESCRIBES THE CURATORIAL STRATEGIES INVOLVED IN DEVELOPING THE EXHIBITION ‘SYNC’, WHICH OPENS AT THE GALWAY ARTS CENTRE IN OCTOBER 2012, AND IS AIMED AT CREATING A BENEFICIAL GALLERY EXPERIENCE FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISTIC SPECTRUM DISORDER.
In October 2012, The Galway Arts Centre (GAC) will host an exhibition entitled ‘Sync’ as part of the Baboró International Festival for Children. My co-curator, John J Twomey, and I are currently researching methods and mediation techniques for children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in a visual art context that will inform this exhibition. GAC has been mentored by Ábalta ABA School for Children with Autism and I have also interviewed Carolyn Chin in the V&A Museum Childhood in London, who runs a mediation programme designed specifically for children and young people with ASD.2 ‘Sync’ aims to link together different sources and research, providing a support network to the invited artists. Our research has raised several questions: How can contemporary visual art contribute to the life of a child with autism? What happens to an artist’s practice when they are asked to make work for an audience that may have difficulty with perception?
The ways in which ASD manifests itself are extremely individual. However, the common link is perception. Film director Henry Corra, who made a film with his autistic son George, describes autism thus:
“[Autustic children] have very splintered intelligence, so that they can deal with facts really well, and they can process concrete information really well, but when it comes to the idea of making connections, or empathy, it’s a severe social impairment.”3