DYSPLA is an award-winning arts organization producing and developing the work of dyslexic + neurodivergent story makers. They work in film, immersive theatre, installation & digital art. Incorporated in 2013 to shed light on Dyslexic Narrative and the Dyslexic Aesthetic DYSPLA is at the forefront of research into neurodivergent creativity.
The UK’s education system has belittled and undervalued the neurodivergent community for centuries, and they have lost many great minds over the years. DYSPLA dreams of a world where each and every mind is valued and can flourish within an empathetic and supportive environment, building the essential next generation of innovative thinkers. Based in London, DYSPLA has presented and developed the work throughout the world, including South Korea, Canada, USA, New Zealand, Cyprus, Italy, and Malta.
They have conducted monthly workshops since 2010, supporting the dyslexic and neurodivergent creative community and have supported over 200 writers to date, across all age ranges. Democratising a usually unaffordable resource, DYSPLA is a priceless asset to the UK’s creative industries. DYSPLA is receiving continued project lead funding from the Arts Council England, The Promotion of English Trust and various private funders but desperately needs core funding to continue is valuable work within the UK’s creative industries.
DYSPLA believes that dyslexics and the neurodivergent make better story makers and the world needs them desperately.
DT500MAG MET MAGIC DYSPLA LEADERS
CREATIVE PRODUCER LENNIE VARDARIDES
CREATIVE DIRECTOR KAZIMIR BIELECKI
DT500MAG: – What is the main role of the DYSPLA International Moving Image Festival?
LENNIE: – DYSPLA is at the forefront of artistic dyslexic/neurodivergent creativity – we have been producing and promoting dyslexic story-makers since 2007, and by our very existence have created a movement/community of like-minded artists.
“In our pursuit of what connects dyslexic creatives, we started developing the notion of the ‘Dyslexic Aesthetic’ about two years ago, and it was this that sparked the idea for the DYSPLA international Moving Image Festival – DIMIF.”
KAZIMIR: – The festival is, therefore, essentially a case study into the hypothesis of whether or not there is a “Dyslexic Aesthetic’. DYSPLA is building the only comprehensive Library of work by dyslexic and neurodivergent filmmakers. Every festival, every screening, every project we produce or commission is part of the tapestry and will form part of the evidence to answering the question.
DT500MAG: – Who are you collaborating with?
KAZIMIR: –Firstly, DYSPLA has commissioned Video Artist D-Fuse to create a multi-channel cinematic installation using transparent screens, video projectors, soundscapes, and smoke. D-Fuse is an innovator and a moving image pioneer.
“Working with D-Fuse has been an awesome experience for us. Another artist who we have commissioned is Sari Rathel, co-founder of the acclaimed jewelry studio Rathel & Wolf, who will be designing and making our handmade wearable multi-functional film awards.”
LENNIE: – DIMIF will also feature the work of over 20 neurodivergent filmmakers, including our world-renowned award-winner: Mike Forshaw, Emma Allen, and Lemonhang Jeremiah Mosese, as well as our special mention Stan Brakhage.
DT500MAG: – The DYSPLA 2018 is happening at The Crypt Gallery? How is the venue?
KAZIMIR: – The Crypt Gallery is one of London’s most unique and atmospheric exhibition spaces, and we are very excited about hosting our festival there. It is located in King’s Cross, underneath St. Pancras Church. We programmed our films with the space in mind; therefore, it is no surprise that the festival films have themes of; death, religion, spirituality, birth, trauma, and the fight for existence.
“From a more technical perspective, the very fact that space is located underground (and is therefore relatively dark), will allow us to cast multiple projections and experiment with light and visuals.”
LENNIE: – This setting has ultimately allowed us to give the audience an unprecedented experience; one that merges the essence of the art gallery format, with the film festival narrative, while also mixing in some audience participation.
DT500MAG: – DYSPLA is the world’s first festival dedicated to screening the work of dyslexic and neurodivergent filmmakers. Could you explain more about that dedication?
LENNIE: – We believe in the ‘dyslexic advantage,’ and that it can be channeled to create inventive and powerful work, which pushes modern conventions. DYSPLA believes that the Dyslexic Aesthetic is an artistic genre, which is why we are determined to pin down and articulate exactly what constitutes it.
“But let’s face it, it’s a big question that probably needs years of research and lots of resources, and far more festivals, to answer. – We are still at the hypothesis stage.”
KAZIMIR: – Currently, there isn’t a very large body of academic research based on the artistic aesthetics of dyslexia and neuro-divergence in film or the moving image. This is why DYSPLA hopes to instigate and facilitate research in this field, becoming pioneers in the topic and establishing the dyslexic aesthetic as a new genre (and not just pseudo-science).
DT500MAG: – What are the nuances of dyslexia and neuro-divergence?
LENNIE: – In terms of dyslexia, everybody is already quite aware of the difficulties that children face in school in terms of rote learning, reading, writing, multiplication, short-term memory, processing, orientation, and spelling. Society, focuses on these difficulties and brands dyslexia as a learning disability, ignoring the all-important flip side of these weaknesses: i.e., the many great gifts that dyslexia can bring when it comes to spatial, material, creative and big-picture reasoning.
KAZIMIR: – Scientific research shows that dyslexics tend to rely more on their right brain hemisphere as opposed to greater reliance on the left, which we see in neurotypical individuals. The cell columns in their brain’s cortex are also more spaced out, meaning they create stronger long-distance connections, as opposed to more tightly packed cells creating stronger short-distance connections in neurotypical individuals. Although these comparisons are very basic and over-simplified, they do give us a general idea of the science behind the diversity which we see in brain structure.
LENNIE: – This difference in brain wiring is the reason why dyslexics often become innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, or criminals- because dyslexics have learned to operate outside of the rules.
KAZIMIR: – Our commissioned artist D-Fuse compared being dyslexic to “driving a Ferrari down a motorway… backward”. Well, if you’re driving backward, you’re getting a different perspective of the world (as well as the thrill of knowing that you’re life is in great danger) – and it’s in this space, between the knowing and the not knowing, where possibility, excitement, and creativity marry.
DT500MAG: – What is your call to action?
KAZIMIR: – We want the public to engage in our project and our movement – to witness the incredible work of our neurodivergent filmmakers and to participate in the first-ever festival that will investigate the theme of the Dyslexic Aesthetic.
LENNIE: – We are contributing not only to the awareness of a new artistic genre but also to its cultural landscape. How often does anyone get the chance to be part of a new movement, while it’s still moving?
DT500MAG: – What is the call to action to your audience and participants?
LENNIE: – We like to think that every audience member at DIMIF will be a willing participant, not just passive voters – but actively engage with space and the work.
“The festival is curated by active audience members. In the true style of postmodernism, they are going to be leading on their own interpretive narrative.”
KAZIMIR: – If authenticity and participation are indeed what people want today, how does your festival program provide that? Could you tell more about the radio navigation and the search for the story through the smoke and projected images?
LENNIE: – The gallery space is curated with TV monitors, video projectors, smoke, transmitter, and radio frequencies. 25 films are playing simultaneously. The audience is immersed in the moving image… literally. The audio from the Award-Winning and Finalists Films is herd only via headphones on portable radios. (Every audience member will receive a personal miniature radio on entering the space). The radio will guide, navigate the audience through the gallery space, the audience must search for each ‘story.’
KAZIMIR: – Here is our artistic experiment: will the audience create their own narrative to make sense of the work, or will they, like an obedient soul, look for the original story? DYSPLA will interview willing audience members about their experience to see if they either consciously or subconsciously, alter the narrative.
DT500MAG: – What is the DIMIF experience?
KAZIMIR: – We want the audience to experience what it feels like to be neurodivergent; how it feels to be disoriented and to accept the organized chaos as their ‘right of passage’ into their own extraordinary imagination.
DT500MAG: – Could you tell us more about the Dyslexic Aesthetic?
KAZIMIR: – We are still exploring the concept of the Dyslexic Aesthetic. DIMIF is the major starting point. What connects our filmmakers though – in particular, our award-winners, is an immediate and poignant sense of engagement. The audience is connected emotionally with the characters, making their narrative and their message accessible and relatable. The audience feels present in the story, and therefore, invested in it. The Industry Panel Discussion on the 15th Match will also discuss this further.
DT500MAG: – What is the Industry Panel Discussion?
LENNIE: – The Industry Panel Discussion is on the Dyslexic Aesthetic. It will take place on the second night of the festival, the 15th of March 2018 at 7:30 PM. It will essentially be an academic conversation on the Dyslexic Aesthetic and will be the pinnacle of our current findings. We are very excited to have some of the top industry professionals on our panel, who will hopefully approach the topic from different creative, as well as scientific angles, drawing on their own experiences and insights. The panel will be chaired by Deborah Williams from the Creative Diversity Network. Save the date if you’re up for a debate! Tickets for the Panel Discussion are £10 and can be booked here: www.dyspla.com
DT500MAG: – Who is the Creative Diversity Network?
LENNIE: – Deborah Williams is CEO of the Creative Diversity Network – the body funded by the UK’s major broadcasters, which brings together organizations across the UK television industry to promote, celebrate and share good practice around the diversity agenda. As CEO, Deborah is responsible for the strategic direction of CDN, delivering all aspects of the organization’s activities; including the ground-breaking Diamond diversity monitoring scheme, diversity talent databases, online resources, and the CDN awards.
DT500MAG: – Could you give some info about the next festival, any information for the new participants and new fans?
LENNIE: – The next festival is currently in its very early stages. We plan to hold it in 2020, and our call for entries will open this October. Filmmakers will be able to send us their submissions through FilmFreeway. FilmFreeway: October 2018 submissions https://filmfreeway.com/DYSPLAInternationalMovingImageFestival
DT500MAG: – RAPTURE!
Interview by Arthur Sopin
Portraits by Andreas Rod