Tom Railton profile

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Tom Railton

Kingston University London (2023)


Dr Dean Kenning


It's Not the End of the World: Nonlinear Time and Neurodivergent Making


Drawing on my lived experience of neurodivergent time perceptions, this practice-based research will explore how contemporary artists use non-linear temporalities and rudimentary technologies to create science-fictive imaginings of speculative worlds. My project thus asks: what forms of art practice are needed to articulate and embody neurodivergent experiences as a way of world-making?

Living with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (cPTSD) and Dyspraxia motivates my disability- or ‘crip’-informed thinking, which, alongside involvement in DIY subcultures promoting mutual aid, informs the science-fictive worldmaking in my sculptural work.Here, art practice depicts other potential worlds through improvised or re-imagined technologies.

‘Chronesthesia’ (Tulving, 2002) is a day-to-day experience of ‘mental time travel’, while trauma survivors with PTSD detail reliving past events in the here-and-now. ADHD often lends me the perception of non-unitary temporality (perceiving oneself in more than one place or time), a lived experience yet to be fully described in science-fictive terms. This will be a key focus of my research, as I embrace non-linear temporalities as survival tools in adapting to a neurotypical world. 

Through involvement in autonomous punk and DIY initiatives, I have witnessed survival through collective effort and purpose, most obviously when participants represent marginalised communities who cannot find mainstream support. Modernity’s requirement for linear time and progress, and prevalent notions of societal advance through expected milestones, are problematized by divergent lives and non-normative temporal perceptions, such as ‘crip time’ (Kafer, 2013) or ‘queer time’ (Halberstam, 2005).

I will produce a body of artistic practice and peer research, integrated with creative contextual writing, examining how my neurodivergent life experiences and those of others intersect with post-apocalyptic motifs of technological anachronism and temporal looping. I will utilise these motifs as productive grounds for thought experiments in my own works, employing knowledge of DIY and self-organisation alongside the objects, customs and folk beliefs of social science fiction.