Flatus vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega

What “place” is Autism?

At MACBA, we offer activities and tours with accessibility supports for very diverse groups, including people with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). In 2018, we also launched a line of research and experimentation focusing on autism within the context of family workshops. The activities developed along that line are centred on turning the museum into an artistic experimentation space for people with autism, rather than a series of exhibition spaces or, in other words, a museum as a container and disseminator of art.

Thus, rather than a profile, disorder or diagnosis, autism is a “place” where questions can be asked and actions encouraged (which may not lead anywhere, though they do move things around). Or, even more than that: autism is a key, a password for opening the museum up as a place of welcome and experimentation for the children, families and artists involved in any educational workshop.

Flatus vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega
Flatus Vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega

The normality of Autism

Recognising the need and even the urgency to progress towards equal access to public spaces and activities for people with autism, the projects promoted by the museum try to approach normalisation in a different way. These projects aim to question the limits of the normality of a family workshop, an art workshop or an educational workshop; to enable children with autism to show us how far the “being”, “doing”, “playing”, “communicating” and “exploring” together in a workshop can go; and ultimately, to learn how far the “together” concept can be taken.  

When and how does a workshop start? When does it finish? What spaces are “inside” and what ones are “outside”? How can we greet one another? What is “saying goodbye”? Who takes part in the workshop? What actions form part of it and what ones do not? How many ways of being in a workshop are there? How is the group formed? And how does one form part of the group? How many ways can we make contact? What is using an object? And moving through a space? And responding to an invitation? What is “responding”? Many of these and other questions were not posed before launching the projects. Rather, they have arisen during the activities with children with autism and their families. It is important to say that the autism-related work has not enabled us to find an answer to these questions; we have only learnt that, from each occasion (from each workshop, from each person, etc.), we can find different answers.

Flatus Vocis

Flatus vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega
Flatus Vocis. Family workshop for children with autism
Flatus Vocis. Familiy workshop for children with Autism
Flatus vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega
Flatus vocis. Photo: Anna Fàbrega

Flatus Vocis is a family workshop proposal drawing on Laia Estruch’s artistic practice. Specifically aimed at families that have children with autism, the workshop is based on a cross between performance art practices involving the wholebody and experimental spoken poetry. In essence, it invites the participants – adults and children – to become, at their own pace and to their own liking, actors of a joint performance and vocal action. Using our own voices as the material, Flatus Vocis aims to work on speaking and listening in a way that is different from usual. We delve into a process of recognising the sounds of voices inside our bodies, inside other people’s bodies, and inside the bodies of words and things in order to discover new landscapes and unknown characters. The neck, the throat, the mouth, the nose, the stomach, the torso, the arms and the legs, as well as the walls, the furniture, the utensils, the toys and even emptiness. They are all body and voice.

       We can experience voice as a tie that gets tighter and also as one that comes undone.

                          We can experience voice as a space: light or dark, dense or light, full or empty, and even loud or silent.

                                                Or we can experience it as a journey through a space: straight, winding, slippery, rising or falling.

                                                    We can experience voice as a tempo: a duration, a pace, a repetition, a bang, a stroke, a stereotypy or a constant refrain.

                          We can experience voice as an object: giving it, transferring it, disguising it, sculpting it and moulding it.

What does a museum sound like? Photo: Anna Fàbrega
What does a museum sound like? Photo: Anna Fàbrega

«What does a museum sound like?», «Magnetisms»…
And more family workshops

Based on the Flatus Vocis experience, we are doing everything we can to welcome families that have children with autism or similar needs into other MACBA family workshops. Drawing on open and malleable artistic practices, we adapt the necessary aspects to facilitate the participation of these families and to promote group learning with new artists and workshop proposals. In this school year, the workshops “What does a museum sound like?” and “Magnetisms” have been incorporated into the offering of workshops aimed at children with autism. We are working on offering more workshops soon.

 

MACBA’s educational projects for children with autism have benefited from essential collaboration with Escola Carrilet, Centre d’Educació Especial L’Estel – Can Bori, the network of child development and early care centres (CDIAP) and the Catalan Early Care Association (ACAP).


 

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I like to work with what is often called "cultural heritage", but the materials that I use are banal and clichéd, like sugar blocks, doors, couscous, rugs, official documents.
Latifa Echakhch