Proposal by: Lianca Van der Merwe

ASD: Alternative Sensorial Dimensions

Project Proposal: We don't know as much as we think we do

We all have blind spots due to our culture, upbringing and even the language we speak. In addition, our brains are unswervingly selective organs that de-emphasise certain stimulus, like the noise from the street we live on. We are blissful in the fog of things we don’t know we don’t know. I therefore find it quite ironic (or rather moronic) that we value specific forms of intelligence, like IQ something measured using a reductive formulaic test, over others.

To change the hegemonic narrative, I work in rhyme. Rhyme activates different artefacts and connotations as opposed to traditional academic writing and winks at our limited view of the world. My poetry seeks to create conversations on how to reappraise intelligence and incorporate different perspectives - non-western, non-scientific, non-logical, non-linguistic, differently abled or embodied - into the conversations around perception and experience.


Doing brave things are brave -

Project Description

Neuro-DIVERSITY not neuro-similarity

I write, often dense, academic poetry on the limitations of cognition, affect theory and the nature of perception. I have always been interested in researching autism, something common in my family, to challenge negative stigmas around the way people neurodivergent people participate in the world. They have been categorised as 'other' and 'less-than' by labelling the condition as a disorder (Autism Spectrum Disorder).  The title of my work ASD-alternative sensorial dimensions is an attempt to flip this derogatory designation on its head and draw more attention to the nuances and range in neurodevelopment. I believe neurodiverse people have access to knowledge and other cosmologies so called “neurotypical” people tune out in favour of logic, science or reason. 

Poetry for change

For Mediamatic - ‘Penny for your thoughts,’ I’d like to co-create a new poem supported by the knowledge of the ASD community, either through participatory practices or by playing the role of an auteur utilizing their expertise and input. I’m already well versed in creating poetry using words but am keen on exploring a synesthetic translation employing, colours, vibrations, sounds etc. 

Rhyme is the correspondence of sound between words that creates an echo in the poem, which can leave a lasting effect on the audience. Instead of communicating logically, I purposefully employ this creative writing tactic to the describe and express complicated arguments and postulations.

My previous poems are accompanied by movement, video or small performances and are normally framed within the field of fashion. 

Selection of previous works:

Gossping Clothes: 

The manufacturing process is skilfully hidden from us by the entities that financially benefit from exploitative practices (The Brand). The living bodies or ecological bodies are disembodied because we don’t discuss them as bodies that deserve rights. We discuss these bodies as resources, functions and processes. It is easy to exploit them when we don’t consider these bodies our equals. It’s plausible to propose that the destructive nature of the industrial manufacturing process might significantly impact our lives beyond just the depletion of resources and exploitation of labour. On a physical and metaphysical level, clothing could be ushering forces into our lives, like the trauma of the labourers exploited during the manufacturing process.

Mind Reductive Body Destructive:

My ideologies had been manipulated since birth. Sometimes the indoctrination came directly through the media. Sometimes my parents, school and friends perpetuated the propaganda. My mind was corrupted by dogma and stereotypes, but I realised there was one thing I could always rely on - my body.

A Conscious Wardrobe 

We are primed by our culture, our upbringing and even the language that we speak to resolutely believe in our rendering of the world.  But would you believe it if I told you that our brains might be keeping certain information from us?Researchers have a lot to say about our cognitive abilities. Theories such as the ‘Cognitive Trade-Off Hypothesis’ or the process of ‘learned irrelevance’ – what our brains learn to tune out – points to the fact that humans tend to de-emphasise particular stimulus to not become cognitively overloaded. If you live next to a busy street, you eventually tune out the sounds of cars. What else are we missing out on?


Possible ways to expand the project

If there is scope I would love to contribute to Mediamatic's long-term research into redesigning art education. I often host workshops with my collective where we explore embodied activations and sensorial deprivation. We rely on participatory data collection to foster critical discourse, unlearn old habits and expand the boundaries of the mind.
Learn more about EXPERAMA:

By stimulating and revaluing our unique way of sensing and perceiving, our workshop, draws attention to how our experiences are shaped by broader phenomena, like the dynamic interactions between the brain, body, and our physical, and social environments. Moreover, how everyone positions themselves in the world is personal and incommensurable.

I think there is a lot of scope within our existing methodology to augment our practice and design a workshop that will give non-ASD people the chance to experience the world as ASD people do. This practice could springboard valuable dialogues around how we can re-contextualize and make art education more inclusive.


Personal introduction

Lianca van der Merwe (aka Lala3xl) critically reflects on the dimensions of reality and experience. She foregoes an intellectual life in favour of lived experience and firmly believes that the answer to the issues facing humanity today - like discrimination or sustainability - lies not in strategic solutions but in embodied ones. Lianca uses rhyme as a subversive medium to break down the artificial barriers that distinguish between what is ‘us’ vs. what is ‘them’. She graduated from ArtEZ University of the Arts and holds an MA in Critical Fashion Practices. She works as a performer, multimedia artist and educator,  hosting workshops on how to build individual autonomy and subvert the hegemonic narratives of the modern world.

Learn more about my work at: and on Insta @lala3xl

Estimated costs

Research & Writing (€500), Synesthetic Translation (€1000),  Designing Workshop & Recruiting Participants (€500), Documenting Results (€1000). Total: €3000


This proposal is part of the 'Penny for your Thoughts' project 2022.