Kaleidoscopic Minds: Thinking Differently
Azarra Amoy (b. 1989)
How do you see the world? Is it different to how others see it?
We all have unique ways of thinking and connecting with the world around us. Our brains work differently and Neurodiversity relates to the different ways we process information.
These artworks tell the story of people working in the institutions around Exhibition Road who identify as neurodiverse. Their contributions help drive innovative thinking in science and the arts here in South Kensington. Inspired by the idea of neurodiversity as a spectrum, Azarra celebrates one individual in each design using motifs from their life and work. We are all unique so every person in the artwork has a unique colour and kaleidoscopic patterns. The combination of colours with the kaleidoscope effect celebrates the unlimited and different way we see things.
Discover South Kensington, Imperial College London and partners collaborated with KCAW Art Trail team to develop Kaleidoscopic Minds. The work launched at the Great Exhibition Road Festival and is on display over the summer as part of the borough-wide Kensington & Chelsea Art Week Trail.
Research Student, Imperial College London
James's research is looking at how 3D printing can be used to improve implants in the knee. As part of Imperial’s Biomechanics Group, he is exploring the biomechanics of the knee and developing partial knee implants for patients with early-onset osteoarthritis. The work could help to improve healthcare for people suffering from joint problems.
Diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age, James found school life challenging. The difficulties he had with reading, public speaking and sitting exams made him doubt whether university would be an option. But over time, his perception of his dyslexia has changed, and James now believes that his dyslexic strengths have
benefited his research approach.
Silhouettes of the knee joint feature in the collage, as well as patterns from the inside of the knee implants.
Careers in research are possible forpeoplewho struggled withtraditional learning during their school and early university years
Dyslexia Coordinator, Royal College of Art
Noticing that many talented design students found essay writing really difficult, Qona discovered a high percentage of dyslexic and dyspraxic individuals in the art and design community.
As well as helping dyslexic students at the RCA, Qona is an active researcher, regularly contributing to publications and conferences. Inspired by her work with dyslexic students, she set up the ‘Creative Mentors Foundation’. The charity helps to make the arts curriculum at state schools more accessible and rewarding for dyslexic and dyspraxic children.
A brain scan is used in the collage to symbolise Qona’s role as a neurodiversity champion. She continues to practice as a jeweller and designs from her jewellery-making also feature.
Dyslexic and dyspraxic brains have the potential to be exceptionally creative.
Professor Sara Rankin
Professor of Leukocyte and Stem Cell Biology, Imperial College London
Sara only discovered she had the learning differences, dyslexia and dyspraxia in her forties, which explained why she struggled at school. She developed strategies like mnemonics, colour and visual aids to help her learn and ultimately succeed in her academic studies.
Her creative thinking and ability to link disparate ideas have been key assets in her scientific career, which is increasingly multidisciplinary. Sara has worked with physicists, engineers, material scientists and artists. Her current research involves identifying innovative drug combinations that help the body to regenerate after injuries, such as bone fractures or heart attacks.
Sara has established 2eMPower, delivering interdisciplinary workshops for 14-18 year olds with learning differences.
The collage features images of the bone marrow cells Sara works with.
Non-linear thinking helps me link disparate ideas, and work across disciplines in the sciences and the arts.
Imperial College London
Dez is a nonbinary autistic poet and researcher, and library staff member. They are also a neurodiversity advocate and educator, and Co-chair of ABLE, Imperial’s staff disability network.
Immersed in the language of insects, Dez creates poetry which describes their lived autistic experience and explores how they navigate an alienating world primarily designed for the neurotypical mind. Their work evolves through a series of creative processes: performance, making and unmaking, appropriation and assimilation, exploring the interaction between sound, image and text. Through their poetic practice, Dez disrupts the familiar and in doing so, is liberated from neurotypical modes of thinking, allowing them to (re)construct the ‘self’ through the language of insects. It is an act of nonconformity.
Performing poetry, singing, creating art and photographing insects are ways in which Dez expresses and communicates their autistic joy. Dez’s poetry can be heard at the Archive of the Now and work can be seen @ninerrors.
The kaleidoscope pattern features elements of Dez’s poetry and silhouettes of moths.
I have always been a non-conformist; I have never tried to fit in to the world but am continually curious and seek to make sense of a world which does not fit me. Autism enables me to be an independent and critical thinker; it opens the door to unique perspectives and creativity.
Dr Audrey de Nazelle
Senior Lecturer, Imperial College London
Audrey’s work explores the relationship between urban design and health, with a particular focus on active travel and air pollution. At the intersection of environmental sciences, health behaviour, transportation, and urban planning, her research explores both people’s motivations and the impacts of their choices. She works with urban planners and policymakers to help them create healthy cities, streets and neighbourhoods.
As cities are complex and diverse, Audrey believes we need brains that grasp that complexity, see the big picture and connect the dots to help move us towards more sustainable and healthy solutions.
Echoes of the city appear in the artwork. Patterns illustrate air pollution, but also envisage an ideal world of sustainable transport and green spaces.
It takes all sorts of minds to progress.
Design-Engineering Student, Imperial College London/ Royal College of Art
Working at the intersections of art and science, Luisa looks for unconventional solutions to complex problems. As part of the Global Innovation Design joint Master’s degree between Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, she is working with Imperial’s Robot Intelligences lab on a surface water drone which will be used to monitor water quality in wetland habitats.
The drone, ‘Float’, is an unmanned surface vehicle that measures water quality data in real time. It is designed to be built by unskilled Citizen Scientists out of low cost and easily accessible materials. Developed alongside members of Colombo City’s wetland communities, Float enables participation in a wider system of wetland management, putting the power to improve conditions into the hands of those most affected by them.
Luisa was diagnosed at age six with dyspraxia, and later with ADHD. She feels that being diagnosed early in her life enabled her to find her own ways of doing things, building her confidence and encouraging her creativity.
The prototype drone appears in the collage, which also shows elements from coding and 3D drawing.
Once you give yourself permission to do things your own way, your neurodiversity becomes an asset - not a setback.
Dr Khalil Thirlaway
Science Communicator, Natural History Museum
Trained as an immunologist, Khalil now works as a science communicator, helping museum audiences to build relationships with science and nature. Khalil feels his approach is shaped by his ADHD and dyspraxia. He is happiest when learning new media, playing with new ideas and forging connections with people,
Khalil finds unconventional and creative ways to engage audiences, from making wildlife crime podcasts and curating exhibitions to Dungeons & Dragons live streams and comedy rap songs about ants.
He is open about his neurodiversity, finding this helps to build bridges with others and work together more effectively. Recently he learned it had also inspired someone else with ADHD to feel that the label didn’t need to hold them back.
The kaleidoscope design features embroidery recalling Khalil’s Palestinian heritage and lightning bolts for the way he describes his thought process, as ideas coming and going quickly like forked lightning.
I’m open about my ADHD, as it helps to establish a dynamic that gets the best out of everyone.
Explainer Team, Science Museum
Explainers run the Science Museum’s interactive galleries. As a skilled science communicator, Ruth performs demos, workshops and experiments that help to engage visitors of all ages with the exhibits. She aims to spark wonder and curiosity, opening up new horizons.
Outside work Ruth volunteers at an equine therapy centre, where she runs sessions for children and young people.
The artwork shows a silhouette of Ruth at work in the space section of the Wonderlab, with the Moon behind her. She is also shown on her horse.
Marketing Manager, Science Museum
Promoting the museum’s offer means thinking outside the box to engage new audiences and showcase the variety of things visitors can do. Working on the campaign for a new interactive gallery, Technicians: The David Sainsbury Gallery gave Caroline the chance to challenge herself and bring her passion to inspire the next generation to the fore.
The gallery will highlight the hidden yet vital careers of technicians from the creative arts, manufacturing, health science and renewable energy sectors. Caroline hopes it will encourage young people to consider the huge range of career options they might not otherwise have thought of.
For Caroline, her dyslexia is like a super-power. Seeing the world in a way others may not helps her solve problems. Having felt in the past that she needed to hide her dyslexia, she now wants to help others accept and celebrate what makes them different.
In the artwork, she is shown in a light bulb, symbolising her creative thinking. Floral designs allude to her love of gardening, and speech bubbles represent the theme of communication, that is central to her job.
Dyslexia is a super-power, not something to be ashamed of.
Visiting Lecturer, RCA and Freelancer, V&A
Intersectional inclusion is central to Natasha’s practice.
An international equalities designer and researcher, her work explores extending the frontiers of knowledge around mental difference, non-typical bodyminds, ways of being and marginalised experiences. Natasha seeks to reframe mainstream notions of equality, equity, diversity, access and inclusion through an intersectional design lens, spanning multi-modal interactions, place-shaping, investigative play, and policy design for varied audiences, participants, and organisations.
Natasha has exhibited widely and created workshops at cultural organisations including the V&A, National Gallery and Tate Modern, and worked as a Research Associate at the Royal College of Art's Helen Hamlyn Centre and Wellcome Trust (Wellcome Hub) on Research project Design and The Mind.
She is currently an artist in residence at Somerset House’s studio 48, a consultant for Wellcome and a Design Expert Specialist for the Design Council. Natasha has been selected as a 10×10 emerging artist by the British Council, named on the Shaw Trust Disability Power 100 list of the most influential disabled people in the UK and recently nominated for a Genius Within Stereotype Buster award 2022.
The collage features Natasha’s self-portrait, and globes which evoke the discovery of different worlds and experiences.
We can create a symphony by combining our unique differences to create meaningful, sustainable exchanges and experiences in the world.
Dr Pavani Cherukupally
Research Associate, Imperial College London
Growing up in Hyderabad, Pavani became concerned about the impact of water pollution. It led her to develop a sponge-based technology for cleaning water, used to remove contaminants after oil spills, clean wastewater and for bacterial disinfection. A coating of nanoparticles attracts the surface charges of molecules such as bacteria or crude oil, pulling them out of the water and onto the surface of the sponge and leaving behind clean water. She hopes the technology will be used to treat polluted Indian rivers and help to ensure people around the world have access to safe water.
Dyslexia meant she had to persevere to achieve her goals. Despite the challenges she faced, Pavani was one of only six people from her village who went to university. Now she is raising awareness of what people with dyslexia can achieve with the right support.
The collage includes elements of water and oil, and technical drawings of the sponge.
With the right support, it’s never too late for people with dyslexia to make impactful contributions to society.
Samuel D Loveless
Composer and Student, Royal College of Music
Samuel is a composer, improviser and performance artist. His music challenges traditional approaches to composition, exploring the relationship between performer, space and audience. As someone with dyslexia, accessibility and inclusivity are important to him, and feature as central themes in his work.
Neurodiversity affects Samuel’s day-to-day life, from professional and personal communication, to reading speeds, and sense of time (as he puts it, “the inability to see the difference between 10 minutes and 10 hours”). However, he sees the challenges as wholly outweighed by the ‘gift’ of how he sees the world. For Samuel, there is beauty everywhere and intrigue in the most mundane objects. He describes it as experiencing the world as a beautiful abstract painting.
The collage includes shapes of musical instruments and notation.
I’m ‘odd’, ’strange’ and ‘different’, and I love it.
Dr Katie Gaudion
Senior Research Associate, The Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Royal College of Art
Katie has spent over 16 years working on design projects with autistic and neurodivergent people exploring ways to improve their environment. She has worked in a wide variety of settings, from supported living accommodation to schools and hospitals. An important focus of her work is to explore creative ways to meaningfully involve neurodivergent people in the design process.
Based in the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, Katie’s work has broadened the Centre’s methods and practices to consider hidden disabilities and neurodivergence (such as autism and mental health) for the first time. Katie is neurodivergent herself, and believes neurodivergence can offer unique perspectives and ideas for innovation that are often excluded from mainstream ways of thinking. As such Katie’s research aims to encourage neurodivergent people, whose unique ideas for innovation can be easily overlooked, to take more of a leading role on design projects.
The collage features shapes drawn from Katie’s sensory textile props and floral shapes which reflect her love of gardening.
Neurodivergent people have unique ideas for innovation.
Professor Jo-Anne Bichard
Professor of Accessible Design, Royal College of Art
Jo-Anne specialises in inclusive design of public toilets. She co-leads The Public Toilets Research Unit at the RCA's Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, and set up TINKLE (Toilets Innovation and New Knowledge Exchange) with the aim of creating better toilets for all. Her expertise is helping to make sure people have access to safe, comfortable and accessible toilet provision.
Having left school with no qualifications, Jo-Anne was diagnosed with autism in 2021. She feels it’s important for successful neurodiverse women to be more visible.
Jo-Anne is an avid collector, and items from her collections feature in the collage design, including snow-globes and lobsters, along with – of course – toilets.
It’s important for people to see neurodiversity in successful women.