Kai Syng Tan PhD FRSA PFHEA (she/her/they) is an award-winning artist, curator, academic, consultant, agitator, change-maker, volunteer and gatecrasher. Why/what/when/how/whom (with/for) Kai does seeks to catalyse conversations and actions for a more equitable and creative future. Mobilising artistic and artful processes to develop new and meaningful connections (‘productive antagonisms’) in a playful way (‘ill-disciplined’) across disciplinary/cultural/ geopolitical/sectoral/class and other normative divides, as well as diverse/divergent bodies and bodies of knowledge, Kai generates novel insights and urgent questions. See Kai’s CV here, what people have said about her here, her research and teaching profiles here and here, which her name/surname is here,
her access rider what you/your institution must do to gain access to her here, what her rates are here (nope, she does not work for free), and her key links here.
IN A PINE-NUTSHELL (300 words, with hyperlinks)
Kai Syng Tan PhD FRSA PFHEA (she/her/they, T: @kaisyngtan) is an award-winning artist, curator, academic, consultant, agitator, change-maker, volunteer and gatecrasher. Why/what/when/how/whom (with/for) Kai does seeks to catalyse conversations and actions for a more equitable and creative future. Mobilising artistic and artful processes to develop new and meaningful connections (‘productive antagonisms’) in a playful way (‘ill-disciplined’) across disciplinary/cultural/ geopolitical/sectoral/class and other normative divides, as well as diverse/divergent bodies and bodies of knowledge, Kai generates novel insights and urgent questions. 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 £4.8m (opening and closing ceremonies of 5th ASEAN Para Games 2015 described as ‘spectacular’ by the Singapore Prime Minister). Her creative leadership innovations/interventions includes art-science commission #MagicCarpet (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change Award 2018), extending ‘Running Studies’ into a creative, multidisciplinary field through her RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale and more, co-curating the 75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations PAC75 for Black History Month 2020 that reached 18.2 million people worldwide, and founding several international creative arts and humanities and EDI initiatives, including the 350-member Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network. Apart from being the first artist on the Editorial board of the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin, Kai is a trustee board member of Hear Me Out (charity for detained migrants), having been Expert Panel Advisor for Media Authority of Singapore (2007-2012) and other bodies. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Art and Programme Leader of the new Creative Arts Leadership MA, which draws on her background in teaching/consulting/examining >100 universities including Australian National University, Silliman (Philippines), Helsinki and RCA.
IN A PEA-NUTSHELL (495 words)
Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA PFHEA (she/her/they, T: @kaisyngtan) is a creative arts and humanities academic, artist, agitator and gatecrasher best known for curating art and artful processes to catalyse new insights, dialogues and actions for a more equitable future, by forging new links across communities/disciplines/ cultures in/beyond Higher Education, equity diversity and inclusion (EDI), cultural/creative and third sector organisations.
Kai’s 900 innovative interventions across the years (Biennale of Sydney, Tokyo Designers Week, MOMA NY, Royal Geographical Society) are distinct for ‘positive atmosphere’ (Guardian), ‘radical interdisciplinarity’ (geographer Alan Latham) and ‘eclectic style & cheeky attitude’ (Sydney Morning Herald). Awards include: National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Award for Culture Change, San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award and Young Artist Award from Singapore President. Apart from keynote lectures and masterclasses for European League of Institutes of the Arts’ Teachers Academy (300,000 members in 282 unversities) and Oxford University Philosophy-Psychiatry Summer School, Kai has been expert reviewer for UKRI and AHRC (since 2015), Singapore Infocomm Media Authority (2007-2012), UK Parliament KE unit, Iceland Research Council.
As Visual & Communications Director for the £4m Opening and Closing Ceremonies of Paralympics of Southeast Asia, Kai led disabled creatives in large multimedia shows at Singapore Indoor Stadium & Marina Bay Sands, which were described as ‘spectacular’ by the Singapore Prime Minister & ‘game-changing’ by Association of Deaf. Lasting impact include how sign language is now used in the safety videos of the Singapore Airlines. Kai strategised a 4-day festival with 11 partner organisations, the 75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations for Black History Month 2020, reaching 18.2m worldwide.
Kai has been labelled ‘absolutely instrumental’ (ANTI Festival of Contemporary Art) in reimagining running as creative discourse through her curated RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale & 90-person Running Cultures network. Her PhD thesis research, on the poetics of running, was completed at the Slade School as a UCL scholar and has been downloaded 4180 times. She was the first artist-in-residence at Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre with art-science commission #MagicCarpet, appearing on an EU-funded film on ADHD that has been viewed 52,832 times. She subsequently became the first artist on British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin Editorial Board and the first UK Adult ADHD Network Creative/Cultural Consultant. She founded and co-chairs the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network of 350 neurodivergent innovators, allies & groups including US, Canada, Australia & Asia. Kai has taught in >100 universities (Helsinki, Tama Art University in Tokyo, Silliman in the Philippines, Royal College of Art and Nanyang Technological University) and regularly delivers masterclasses and CPDs (such as for 870 brain and mind experts from 17 countries, 14th International Conference on ADHD in Berlin).
Currently, Kai is Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, and Programme Leader for the Creative Arts Leadership MA (10/2023). The MA reimagines ‘leadership’ as a creative, co-creative, decolonised, inclusive intervention, and is the first of the Department of Art & Performance to be co-delivered with the triple-accredited Business School.
IN A BRAZIL-NUT BOMBSHELL
MOVER & SHAKER (of pinches of salt): The 24-year international portfolio of artist, academic, advisor and agitator Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA PFHEA is distinct for its 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.