Culture Schools Projects


About Ali and the research

Ali Northcott, Artist in Residence and Honorary Researcher

Ali Nortcott
Ali Northcott is Artist in Residence and Honorary Researcher at the Centre for Research in Autism (CRAE) at University College London (UCL).

Ali is a multi-disciplinary artist, facilitator and researcher who explores perceptions of reality and neurodiversity, with a particular interest in neurodivergence and creativity. She creates participatory works and opportunities for co-authorship that involve a process of collaboration and participation. In particular, her approach involves dialogues, practice-based explorations, somatic and embodied enquiry, and she utilises qualitative and quantitative research methods informed by a psychology framework for her explorations. Her practice incorporates performance, installation, moving image, photography and choreographic practice. She draws on her lived experience of being autistic and dyslexic.

Ali is also Artist Investigator at The Wellcome Collection’s Reading Room, and a steering group member of Playing A/part, an interdisciplinary project, exploring the identities and experiences of autistic girls through creative practice and participatory research. It is a collaboration between the universities of Kent and Surrey, involving academics in drama, media arts and psychology.

The research: 'Embodying Difference'

Ali Northcott's workshop
'Embodying Difference' is a research project, part of Ali Northcott’s residency at CRAE, UCL.

For Embodying Difference, Ali has interviewed and developed ongoing dialogues with twenty established art practitioners in a range of disciplines including performance, dance, interactive design, installation, film and graphics. Most of the participating artists are autistic or dyspraxic with high levels of autistic traits, and many have co-existing conditions such as ADHD, dyslexia and synaesthesia. The majority of the participating practitioners either research or make work around neurodiversity or their/others experience of being autistic or dyspraxic. Whilst these are all successful and seemingly very capable individuals that exhibit work, publish findings and achieve awards, they each face challenges of their conditions on a daily basis, often without visibility having learnt to mask their differences.

During the interviews and practice-based explorations, the artists shared their insights into the phenemology of their heightened sensory experience, the acute awareness of both their internal and external environments, and described in detail the aesthetics of their minds and practical methods and activities for processing.

These practitioners are underrepresented individuals that do not display in a way that fits the current and most popular research and information related to these conditions and fall through the gaps in terms of support. Most of these individuals actively, and many of them prolifically, work towards generating a new and deeper understanding of these conditions and believe in the social model of disability.

The Embodying Difference research aims to create a dialogue between artistic and scientific disciplines to explore ways to generate knowledge from different perspectives. To highlights the artists’ strengths, showcase their research and insights and show how their traits enhance and inform their creativity and artistic practice, as well as highlighting the challenges.

(Image: Ali Northcott Artist Investigator series of live events exploring creativity and neurodiversity at the Wellcome Collection Reading Room in 2019, with guest collaborators Dark Matters. (c) Ali Northcott.)