Neuk Collective is a new collective of neurodivergent artists, formed as part of a project funded as part of Creative Scotland’s Create:Inclusion funding stream. Over the next year, we will be working on a manifesto outlining our vision for the inclusion of neurodivergent artists within the Scottish arts scene, culminating in a group exhibition in 2021.
Why a neurodivergent artists collective and manifesto?
The contemporary art world is in many ways inherently hostile towards people with social disabilities, and there appears to be little understanding of the problem, let alone the will to change. Neurodivergent artists are frequently shut out by the system of networking for exposure. Issues with executive functioning and cognitive load can make dealing with funding bodies and applications overwhelming. Neurotypical gatekeepers often insist on work that fits with their ideas of what autism is or should be, as something tragic and pitiable. But when artists do create work around our difficulties, it can keep us siloed in a separate “disability” or “outsider” arts track, devalued and tokenised.
We are more likely than the general population to be unemployed and to experience poverty. We can’t afford to “work for exposure”, and our slow, considered artistic process doesn’t fit with the pressures of the commercial art world. The system simply isn’t built for us. And as budgets are squeezed and priorities shift in a post-Covid-19 world, these issues look set to get worse.
On top of this, neurodivergent artists often face these issues alone, without support structures or bodies to advocate for them. If we are to create alternatives to the current exclusionary model, neurodivergent people need to organise. The current state of dislocation and uncertainty presents challenges but it also an opportunity to remake the system – to imagine and demand a better one.
This project uses an artists’ collective as a starting point to highlight and challenge the exclusion of neurodivergent artists through the development of a manifesto for neurodiversity in the visual arts. We will then stage an exhibition that showcases the work of neurodivergent artists, and challenges public perceptions of neurodivergent people more generally.
My hope is that long-term, the collective will be a starting point for a broader network of neurodivergent artists, a peer group that can support one another, advocate for our place in the arts, and help create opportunities and forge alternative career paths outside the mainstream.
– Tzipporah Johnston, visual artist and project originator