KAI SYNG TAN PhD FRSA SFHEA ADHD

I am a UK-based artist, curator, consultant, academic, hyperactive running-messenger, atypical Octopussy and Exceptionally Talented (officially certified by Priti Patel/Theresa May) Mind-Full Ill-Disciplined BusyBody. Why/what/when/how I do seek to catalyse conversations and actions for a more equitable and creative future. I activate artistic and artful processes to develop novel and meaningful connections (‘productive antagonisms’) across disciplinary/ cultural/ geopolitical and other normative boundaries. See my research and teaching profiles here and here, my CV here, what people have said about me here, which on earth my name/surname is here, and my access rider what you/your institution must do to gain access to me here, and what my rates are here (nope, I don’t work for free).

IN A PINE NUTSHELL

Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA SFHEA is an award-winning artist-curator, academic and consultant. Kai seeks to catalyse dialogues and actions for a more equitable and creative future, and does so through mobilising artistic and artful processes to trespass disciplinary/cultural/geopolitical borders. Her keynote lectures, op-eds, exhibitions, creative interventions and more have been featured in more than 900 platforms, including ELIA (European network for higher arts education with 300,000 members worldwide), BBC, MOMA (New York), Biennale of Sydney and Tokyo Design Week, with budgets from £0 to £4m (opening and closing ceremonies of 5th ASEAN Para Games 2015). Kai has taught in more than 100 HEIs, including Australian National University, Silliman University (Philippines), University of Helsinki and Royal College of Art. To test out and theorise the notion of ‘creative neurodivergent leadership’, her recent interventions include being a trustee board member of Hear Me Out (charity for detained migrants) and working with a psychiatrist to explore the boundaries of normality through the art-science commission #MagicCarpet (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change Award 2018). Kai is recognised as a leader who extended ‘Running Studies’ as a creative interdisciplinary field, and has founded numerous other international creative research initiatives, including the 350-member Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network. Kai is the first artist on the Editorial board of the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin and is working on a monograph Hypertactical: Handbook of Creative Mobile Neurodivergent Methods.    

IN A BRAZIL NUT BOMB SHELL 

MOVER & SHAKER (of pinches of salt): Turbocharged by an insatiable curiosity, risk-taking sensibility, a refusal to stay still and a day-glo palette, my work is distinct for its ‘positive atmosphere’ (Guardian 2014), ’radical interdisciplinarity’ (UCL geographer Professor Alan Latham 2017) and ‘eclectic style and cheeky attitude‘ (Sydney Morning Herald 2006) that is ‘positively disruptive’ (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award for Culture Change, 2018). My practice, research and teaching are magically/messily intertwined, and what/how/why I do draws on my working class background with parents who left school by 16, ‘hothouse’ educational upbringing in shiny Singapore, and finding out in 2015 that my communication/learning/cognitive/behaviorial modes and affinity for long clunky sentences is due to my dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia and autism.

TACTICS: I use artistic/creative practices and research, interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogues and collaborations as processes of interrogation and expression, to energise, disrupt, connect, and catalyse new conversations towards change. I mobilise the body and mind in motion as modes of creative intervention to trouble and trespass borders/silos/‘norms’ (geopolitical, disciplinary, cultural) amid a world in motion/commotion. Scampering within/between/across crevices and boundaries, I engineer spaces of ‘productive antagonisms’ (Latham and Tan 2016) in a distinctive ‘ill-disciplined’ (Tan & Asherson 2018) approach, gathering diverse and divergent bodies and bodies of knowledge to generate new insights to issues/tasks. There are multiple, overlapping strands, including around: leadership, running, mind wandering and neurodiversity, (im)mobilities and borders, disability, health, gender and technology.

SHOWS include Biennale of Sydney and Tokyo Designers’ Week, at Southbank Centre, MOMA (New York), Royal Geographical Society, Moscow’s Dom Muzyiki, BBC Radio3 & Fuji TV. Recognition includes National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award (Culture Change) and San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award. Collections include Museum of London and Fukuoka Art Museum. I am described as ‘absolutely instrumental’ (Gregg Whelan 2015) in opening up what could be called ‘Running Studies’, and the person ‘who has done the most in seeking to develop an interdisciplinary discourse around running art and performance’ (Filmer 2020). This draws on my PhD research which was conducted at Slade School of Fine Art as a UCL scholar. My art-psychiatry commission, #MagicCarpet, explores mind wandering and neurodiversity and has been enjoyed by 10,000 people offline. Co-created with disabled colleagues, the £4m Opening and Closing Ceremonies of 8th ASEAN Para Games (I was Visual and Communications Director) was applauded as ‘spectacular’ by Singapore Prime Minister and game-changing and ‘most inclusive’ by the Singapore Association of the Deaf. I was Co-Curator with Professor of Architecture Ola Uduku of the Pan African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations PAC@75 with 11 creative, academic and community partner institutions, where student leaders took on leading Black thinkers Afua Hirsch, Lemn Sissay MBE, Gary Younge, David Olusoga and Princeton University’s historian Kwame Anthony Appiah. PAC@75’s media coverage reached 18.2m worldwide, including via a BBC Radio 4 programme, while its bespoke Youtube channel welcomed 2000 views in 3 weeks, with positive feedback from stakeholders in S Africa and Ghana. We now co-lead a 55-member action group to activate Black History Month 2021

CURRENTLY I am Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader and EDI Co-Lead at Manchester School of Art. Until 2020, I was King’s College London Visiting Research Fellow and King’s Artist. I am also UK Research and Innovation and Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College Member, Hear Me Out (empowering detained migrants through the arts) and Fermynwoods Contemporary Art trustee, founder + chair of RUN! RUN! RUN!, Manager of Running Cultures Research Group (90-members), co-founder and co-lead of Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network (120 members within first month), UK Adult ADHD Network (for professionals and researchers in mental health), Creative and Cultural Consultant, Philbeat (creative company in Singapore) consultant, and the first artist on the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin Editorial Board.

Caption: Picturing Happiness? Live performance at Centre for Contemporary Art with artists Philip Tan, Airik Ng and Patrick Poh, and Professor of Brain and Computer Interfaces Guan Cuntai and PhD Researcher Mane Ravikiran Tanaji from the School of Computer Science and Engineering, Nanyang Technological University. Photograph by Philip Tan. Singapore 2019.