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[Xmca-l] Re: And an awesome autistic artistic savant

Stephen Wiltshire has a frontispiece and a long footnote in our Korean
translation of HDHMF (the chapter on memory, of course--we use him to
explain what an eidetic memory is). Because the documentary on Stephen is
so relentlessly insistent on Stephen Wiltshire's "unique" gifts, it tends
to demphasize the memory component of it (a literal memory IS actually
quite common in autistic people). It also tends to play down what are
clearly some very serious speech problems (Stephen's apparent inability to
complete  sentence unless he's heard it before and also his apparent
inability to understand abstract concepts like "famous", not to mention the
terrible moment where he explains to the man who designed the Gherkin that
this is a famous building which is found in London, even though they are
standing in front of a window through which the building is clearly

I think the most touching, and also psychologically perspicacious, moment
in the documentary film is where his former teacher says she doesn't really
know which is most wonderful to her--Stephen's ability to draw or his
newfound ability to do things like buy a sandwich and even take the subway
by himself. After a moment of reflection, his teacher says: "the latter".
Of course, that's not the view of the documentary writers, but they are in
the business of glorifying his marketable skills.

When I first went to China, food was priced by the ingredients, not the
labour. But art objects were often priced by labour, measured in hours put
in: the buyer would have to judge these by the amount of detail. I'm not
very susceptible to the romantic view of art production (it seems quite
close to the documentary's insistence of the uniqueness of art potentials,
and I really prefer to think of them as ubiquitous, or at least universally
available). But I do something find something hard and horrible about the
gruelling detail of Wiltshire's work. I think it is the lack of
abstraction; the inability to "fuzz out". Even the distance of the horizon
is a rather literal reproduction of what the eye saw.

Tomorrow I have to give a half hour speech on the Sewol disaster in Korean,
and I have given up trying to memorize every word; I think I shall just do
what normal psychologies do naturally and riff on the slides.

David Kellogg
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies


By the way at the end of last month he did a panorama of Singapore that is
even more impressive, because unlike London, he hasn't lived there all his


On 4 August 2014 03:40, mike cole <lchcmike@gmail.com> wrote:

> Yep that is awesome, Greg.
> mike
> On Sun, Aug 3, 2014 at 9:33 AM, Greg Thompson <greg.a.thompson@gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Stephen Wiltshire is an autistic artistic savant. He was mute until age 5
> > and used drawing as a way of communicating before he was able to speak.
> >
> > Here is a short video (apologies for the commercial nature of it - stop
> the
> > video at 3:19 to avoid the commercial!)
> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsJbApZ5GF0
> >
> > And here is a longer (35 min)  documentary about when his life:
> > http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xklinT2g6wU
> >
> > Awesome.
> > -greg
> >
> > --
> > Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> > Assistant Professor
> > Department of Anthropology
> > 883 Spencer W. Kimball Tower
> > Brigham Young University
> > Provo, UT 84602
> > http://byu.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
> >