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Proprioceptive Drawing 2

I've already written about my proprioceptive sensory experiences and why I draw them as proprioceptively distorted animals in another post - so here, I want to talk specifically about distortions and the therapeutic value of drawing like this.

As an autistic person, I experience an enormous sensory and bodily dysmorphia that can be difficult to explain. In its simplest description, I often don't feel fully human - like I am trapped in the body of the wrong species! I don't literally believe myself to be a Bat or a Shark, I just don't feel human. Yet this dysmorphia also draws me into empathetic relationships with animals whose being is distorted by human views.

Humans don't like a lot of animals - especially the ones who aren't cute and fluffy, or the ones who represent danger and risk. I relate enormously to the distortions humans make about Bats and Sharks because similar distortions are made socially about autistic people. I'm the wrong kind of human, who does 'human' in all the wrong ways. So, I don't feel how I look, because the kind of 'human' that has been modelled extensively for me by others, or expected of me by others, is very distant from the human I experience myself as being.

The kind of human I feel myself as being is the one who recognises itself as an animal. She is a human who is intensely aware of her sensory system and the unfiltered world of sensory communication. She is a human who feels her own heartbeat regularly and imagines the same kind of organ drumming away in the bodies of other animals. She is a human who is curious about forms of knowledge, expression, and communication that are not in written or spoken words. She is a human who knows fear and the experience of a shrinking world that no longer meets all her needs and can empathise with similar experiences amongst other animals.

Most humans don't know animals very well, they project their own ideas on them - usually in paternalistic, infantilising ways that treat adult animals like human babies. The same thing is done to autistic adults reduced to lesser, inferior humans who cannot properly care for themselves or operate in the world without supervision, or worse, pity. The irony is that it is often the same people who pity us who also make the world unbearably inaccessible to us too.

When animal lives are distorted by human views, their right to exist and have safe access to their homes and foods are often questioned or even outright taken away. The same thing has been done to generations of autistic people, Indigenous people, differently-abled people, and marginalised people of all kinds and belongings, and identities.

The trauma and fear I have dealt with my whole life from this is something I feel as a vulnerability on my back and an awkwardness in my hands and arms - my fear-inducing Shark fin and my weird but wonderful Bat wings. So I draw myself distorted with these animals - sometimes with the fin and wings as parts of my body, even though I would never presume to speak for the experiences of Bats and Sharks as though I actually am one. I am not. Those are their stories, not mine.

However, I am also not entirely human, either. That part is my story to tell, and these drawings are part of the process of figuring out how to tell it.

*Artworks and images of artworks belong to Sara Kian-Judge 2023.

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