'But you don't look autistic'. Asefeh Tayebani heard that sentence many times at the Graduation Show of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, where she exhibited her graduation project to the press and public in 2018. Less than six months earlier she was diagnosed with autism. 'It's difficult to explain to others what that exactly means', Tayebani says. 'I noticed that what I said was often not understood or believed.' With the project Precious Burden she chose to let others feel it. Three wearable accessories let you physically experience what it's like to be hypersensitive in terms of proximity, touch, sound and eye contact. Ever felt a paralyzing shock when someone touches you? Experienced ambient noise as deafening? Or not being able to look someone straight in the eye?
Nevertheless, she kept hearing that one sentence. It became the title of her next project, which Tayebani started with the support of Creative Industries Fund NL. Soon the online platform butyoudontlookautistic.nl will be launched, specifically for women with autism. 'Almost everything you can find about this disorder is geared towards men', says Tayebani. 'Women often don't get the diagnosis until later in life, I was already thirty. And even then there is a lot of disbelief; after all, you can't see it on the outside.' In the past year she has conducted a lot of research, collected personal stories, and worked together with graphic designer Fallon Does on an autism-friendly web design that does not put off the target group. 'A lot of websites I find difficult to deal with; I tune out when there's too much going on on the screen', says Tayebani. Therefore, in this design extra attention has been paid to an orderly layout, without excessive information overload and bright colors.
Removing stigmas from illnesses and making the invisible visible; these are themes that inform much of Tayebani's work. For example, she conducted material research into healing 'wounds' in materials. After a course in clothing repair, where she learned to darn socks with a needle and thread, to lock frayed edges and repair tears, she decided to apply the same technique to metal. Leaving Traces shows copper as you have never seen it before; no smooth, tightly polished surfaces, but sheets with dents, folds, scratches and holes. The visible care with which they have been repaired with copper wire is touching. They were broken, but that is no longer relevant; during the repair process, they have only become more beautiful.
Text: Willemijn de Jonge