Nottingham Castle announces the premiere of STIM CINEMA – a new touring exhibition and moving image installation exploring repetitive actions and autistic experiences, tracking back to the earliest forms of moving image, and the birth of cinema and cinematic language. STIM CINEMA is part of Nottingham Castle’s season of new programming focusing on Neurodivergence.

The exhibition has been co-created by members of The Neurocultures Collective (Georgia Bradburn, Benjamin Brown, Sam Chown-Ahern, Robin Elliott-Knowles, Lucy Walker), with artist and filmmaker Steven Eastwood. 

STIM CINEMA takes the action of stimming – ‘the practice of physical repetition as a way of taking sensory pleasure in recurrence, or of expressing and alleviating anxiety, and a common trait of autistic experience’ – as its starting point, connecting delight in repetition to the birth of cinema and to the contemporary fascination with GIFS.

The exhibition invites the audience to take pleasure in discovering hidden movements in every part of the frame, reminding us all of the pleasure we share in seeing actions rock and loop, and revealing that such stimulation is not only common to autistic experience but in the DNA of the moving image.

The exhibition begins with a room of zoetropes – early moving image devices – which introduce the concept of the stim or repeated action. This commonality, between stimming, early cinema, and the avant-garde, is the founding principle for STIM CINEMA, the three-screen film installation which follows in the next space. This 16-minute loop explores the hidden and ever stimming details of the everyday world, via a protagonist taking part in an eye tracking test. Her curiosity introduces us to the wealth of information in the background of the sequences she is watching.

The third room considers the co-creation process involved in making STIM CINEMA through visual thinking, the use of mind maps, and the ambition to create new moving image forms.  Props, ephemera, original artworks, and GIF clips offer further insight into the work of the Collective.

The exhibition encourages the viewer to consider our shared neurodivergence, and to discover stimming as a joyous perceptual and bodily possibility, one which challenges the very notion of normativity and is in fact a desirable state.

The Neurocultures Collective was formed through participation in workshops as part of the Autism through Cinema research project, funded by the Wellcome Trust. The Collective and artist-filmmaker Steven Eastwood have been developing the project with curator Gilly Fox over two years of collaboration and conversation. This collaboration offered opportunity, inclusion, and visibility for neurodivergent creatives, who are often obliged to explain their identity to audiences rather than play a central part in how representations are formed.

The Collective’s progressive approach to moving image production seeks to create new ways of working and to explore how currently inadequate models might evolve to empower neurodiverse artists, audiences, and communities. 

Nottingham City Council’s portfolio holder for leisure & culture, Cllr Pavlos Kotsonis, said:

“After the successful reopening of Nottingham Castle earlier this year, I am delighted to announce the arrival of this exciting new exhibition where the experiences (and viewpoints) of Autistic artists are showcased in our main Temporary Exhibition Galleries.  Together with a ‘stimming’ artwork by Sam Metz, and our first Café Neuro commissions by Maggie Raithby and Kate Wand, this is the start of the largest dedicated season of exhibitions of Neurodivergent art ever staged at the castle. It will be fantastic to further welcome all visitors to experience these galleries and commissions.”

Tristram Aver, Curator of Exhibitions for Nottingham Castle and Autism Champion for Nottingham City Council, says:

“There are over 2,600 autistic adults in Nottingham City, with approx. 700,000 Autistic people living in the UK today.  This exhibition comes at a time where awareness about Autism may be growing, but the work of autistic creatives and artists is restricted or hidden.  Our hope is to change the sometimes negative perceptions of such underrepresented creatives and give them the support and confidence to know that their work belongs in museums such as ours.  STIM CINEMA, the commission by Sam Metz and Café Neuro are wonderful examples of this”.

STIM CINEMA is accompanied by a special artwork from artist Sam Metz, who Nottingham Castle has commissioned to create an interactive response to the exhibition through their ‘Drawing as Stimming’ practice, where visitors of all ages can create their own ‘stim’ with wire and add it to an ever-evolving sculptural form in the gallery.  In addition, new artworks will feature in the Ducal Palace café by the first recipients of the Café Neuro commissions, a project targeted exclusively for neurodivergent creatives in the East Midlands.

STIM CINEMA was funded by the Film London FLAMIN scheme, Arts Council England and The Wellcome Trust, with support from Queen Mary University of London. It is curated by Gilly Fox and produced by Chloe White (Whalebone Films) and Steven Eastwood. The advisory group consists of Tim Corrigan (Project Art Works), Maggi Hurt (BFI), Damian Milton (The Participatory Autism Research Collective) and Collective member Sam Chown Ahern.

STIM CINEMA launches at Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery, then will tour to Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, and Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea.

For more information about STIM CINEMA and to plan your visit to Nottingham Castle, see: