The titles of Andrea Crespo’s solo exhibitions seem to have Greek and medical roots: “virocrypsis” (2015), “polymorphoses” (2015), “sis: somatic systems” (2015). High-tech but strangely at the same time ancient, like the diction of a precocious child. Indeed, much of Crespo’s work springs from a place of fidgeting adolescence, with its obsessions, revelations, betrayals and trials, trials made all the more punishing for those who are trans. The dramas of individuation acquire a dire aspect when one happens to be a “they”.
By Dimitris Lempesis
Photo:MIT List Visual Arts Center Archive
Andrea Crespo premieres the film “[intensifies]” (2016) and a suite of drawings, as part of the ongoing List Projects exhibition series at MIT List Visual Arts Center. Every year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance studies, estimate a greater prevalence of autism among American children. Between the years 2000 and 2012, the supposed occurrence of autism rose from 1 in 150 to 1 in 68. Such a steep increase in diagnoses could suggest a number of possibilities. Some parents and pop-scientists suggest that there is an unknown catalyst triggering the spread of autism among those born between 1992 and 2004. Some social scientists suggest that the meaning of autism has expanded to define the embodiments of more and more children with every passing year. Regardless of the cause for this epidemiological explosion, it has gathered attention to autism as a biological phenomenon affecting an increasingly salient subspecies of the American population. Andrea Crespo’s semi-autobiographical animated film “[intensifies]” (2016) refers to personal experience in order to narrate the rise of the so-called autism crisis. The film narrates the atypical development of Alan, a fictional young autistic male, from the first-person perspective. Alan is subjected to a range of psychological tests and daily trials, manifest in terms associated with terror and alienation. He follows the circulation of autism discourse, which proliferates across satirical internet memes, and is constructed in terms of crisis and epidemic in mainstream media. The film, inspired in part by the personal experiences of the artist, engages with autism as a simultaneously embodied and sociocultural entity. The film is accompanied by a suite of 12 graphite drawings that depict Alan’s machinic fantasies and a neurodivergent experience of the world, often typecast as unfeeling and inhuman, expressed in images of transport, warfare, and terror. Although conceiving of himself as faulty hardware in need of repair, Alan finds solace among the machines applied as metaphors for the autistic body, which mediate a continuous dialogue between segregation, pathology, and the governance of care. Both the film and drawings engage with the theme of the changeling, a common motif in literature and film depicting the troubled adolescent, the demonic child, or the disturbed loner. The use of this trope increased markedly following the mainstreaming of autism discourse as well as the proliferation of school shootings in recent decades, remaining a normative archetype associated with neurological difference.
Info: Curators: Alise Upitis & Yuri Stone, MIT List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames Street, Building E15, Cambridge, MA, Duration: 10/1-19/2/17, Days & Hours: Tue-Wed & Fri-Sun 12:00-18:00, Thu 12:00-20:00, https://listart.mit.edu