This post is in the Executive function category

A Safer Intimacy. Zen Zen Zo, Zeitgiest © S. Woods 2009

"A Safer Intimacy" - Zen Zen Zo, Zeitgiest © S. Woods 2009

It would appear that my practice in collaborative arts may be linked to a desire for a safer intimacy, a thirst for the mind-meld. In the studio, in the theatre rehearsal room, in the making of meaning together there is a shared experience, an intimacy that is defined by its content, mediated by its context and completely safe within its own boundaries. The environment of collaborative music making gives an opportunity to talk about the music and the emotional content and context of the moment in a way that I have not experienced elsewhere. 1 In real life the meaning-moment is gone, it cannot be replayed and analysed, but in these creative environments I can bring my life experience to a discussion about the heart, “speak my mind”, say what I think and probe the thoughts and feelings of the other participants directly, through spoken language and the recorded coding of the music or drama itself.

Perhaps as a reflection of this intimacy, we develop relationships with our collaborators. It is a necessary and natural process, as each member of the team comes to know each other. Often the hours are long, and the work-space spills into the social-space – food, breaks, sometimes retreats and intensive development “camps”, and there is an intensity of exchange when individuals are creating together that exposes aspects of personality, modes of operation and functioning that may be otherwise hidden; artists who are comfortable working alone are now sharing aspects of their process, their history, their insecurities and their emotional life. The post Help me if you can …explores one such instance, where the personal and professional, the dealing with another personality are the cause of significant stress.

These creative partnerships highlight another aspect of Executive Function that tends to be affected in Asperger’s Syndrome – difficulties in defining and regulating social contexts and relationships (Baron-Cohen & Wheelwright, 2004; Müller, Schuler & Yates, 2008; Soderstrom, Rastam & Gillberg, 2002; Tantam, 1992). In my own case, I like to have as many of the interpersonal aspects of my life as possible nicely compartmentalised, and I become confused and frustrated when the boundaries are blurred.  Clearly this means that I am frustrated and confused about a lot of things … Charlotte Davies discusses this issue in relation to social research, indicating that for the ethnographer it is important to be aware that the ambiguities in such social relationships are “sometimes misleading and readily misinterpreted” (Davies, 2008, p. 92). She warns that the research process involving people who were close prior to the research can adversely affect the relationship, and this has indeed been an issue over the course of this research. It is not surprising that someone with ASD would be susceptible to confusions. Friendships are not easy for me, their initiation and maintenance is some mysterious magic, and in the course of this research I have found that confusions arise when contexts change; when we leave the safety of the studio, the rehearsal space or the classroom, and when roles change from Producer / Singer, Sound Designer / Assistant, Teacher / Student, Workmates, Friends. This can and does affect creative outcomes.

These elements are also discussed in the Emotions section.

  1. If one is playing jazz, one is expected to feel the music, to respond intuitively to the changes and the ebb and flow of the other musicians. Well, I tried it and didn’t work for me. In larger ensembles it is the conductor, to a large extent, who plays the music – the musicians are themselves the instruments under her hands. []

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