Nottingham Castle announces the premiere of STIM CINEMA – a new touring exhibition and moving image installation exploring repetitive actions and autistic experiences, tracking back to the earliest forms of moving image, and the birth of cinema and cinematic language. STIM CINEMA is part of Nottingham Castle’s season of new programming focusing on Neurodivergence.
The exhibition has been co-created by members of The Neurocultures Collective (Georgia Bradburn, Benjamin Brown, Sam Chown-Ahern, Robin Elliott-Knowles, Lucy Walker), with artist and filmmaker Steven Eastwood.
STIM CINEMA takes the action of stimming – ‘the practice of physical repetition as a way of taking sensory pleasure in recurrence, or of expressing and alleviating anxiety, and a common trait of autistic experience’ – as its starting point, connecting delight in repetition to the birth of cinema and to the contemporary fascination with GIFS.
The exhibition invites the audience to take pleasure in discovering hidden movements in every part of the frame, reminding us all of the pleasure we share in seeing actions rock and loop, and revealing that such stimulation is not only common to autistic experience but in the DNA of the moving image.
The exhibition begins with a room of zoetropes – early moving image devices – which introduce the concept of the stim or repeated action. This commonality, between stimming, early cinema, and the avant-garde, is the founding principle for STIM CINEMA, the three-screen film installation which follows in the next space. This 16-minute loop explores the hidden and ever stimming details of the everyday world, via a protagonist taking part in an eye tracking test. Her curiosity introduces us to the wealth of information in the background of the sequences she is watching.
The third room considers the co-creation process involved in making STIM CINEMA through visual thinking, the use of mind maps, and the ambition to create new moving image forms. Props, ephemera, original artworks, and GIF clips offer further insight into the work of the Collective.
The exhibition encourages the viewer to consider our shared neurodivergence, and to discover stimming as a joyous perceptual and bodily possibility, one which challenges the very notion of normativity and is in fact a desirable state.
The Neurocultures Collective was formed through participation in workshops as part of the Autism through Cinema research project, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The Collective and artist-filmmaker Steven Eastwood have been developing the project with curator Gilly Fox over two years of collaboration and conversation. This collaboration offered opportunity, inclusion, and visibility for neurodivergent creatives, who are often obliged to explain their identity to audiences rather than play a central part in how representations are formed.
The Collective’s progressive approach to moving image production seeks to create new ways of working and to explore how currently inadequate models might evolve to empower neurodiverse artists, audiences, and communities.
STIM CINEMA is accompanied by a special artwork from artist Sam Metz, who has been commissioned by Nottingham Castle to create an interactive response to the exhibition through their ‘Drawing as Stimming’ practice, where visitors of all ages can create their own ‘stim’ with wire and add it to an ever-evolving sculptural form in the gallery. In addition, new artworks will feature in the Ducal Palace café by the first recipients of the Café Neuro commissions, a project targeted exclusively for neurodivergent creatives in the East Midlands.
STIM CINEMA was funded by the Film London FLAMIN scheme, Arts Council England and The Wellcome Trust, with support from Queen Mary University of London. It is curated by Gilly Fox and produced by Chloe White (Whalebone Films) and Steven Eastwood. The advisory group consists of Tim Corrigan (Project Art Works), Maggi Hurt (BFI), Damian Milton (The Participatory Autism Research Collective) and Collective member Sam Chown-Ahern.
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