RUNDOWN: Watch film by Gemma Riggs which sums up the award-winning art-psychiatry commission #MagicCarpet (2017-2019). This is one of 13 films associated with or created by #MagicCarpet. See here for website, here for booklet and here for article that lays out the premise for being ‘ill-disciplined’ and the importance of ‘lofty’ art, here for an early articulation of how/why it started and sign up here to join the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network, one of its legacies.

#MAGICCARPET: We Sat On A Mat and Had a Chat and Made Maps! #MagicCarpet was an award-winning art-psychiatry commission. It brought visual art practice and research in dialogue with psychiatric research, with the case study of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and how that relates to the phenomena of mind wandering to explore constructs and boundaries of ‘normality’. I was in dialogue with a global authority of mental health and adult ADHD, Professor of Molecular Psychiatry Philip Asherson (top, left). This involved an 18-month durational performance at the Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre (SGDP), where I was its first artist-in-Residence, where I also took part in scientific trials.

HYPERACTIVE PROCESS: Across 18 months, I produced /participated in 35 seminars, exhibitions and workshops, a booklet, 14 articles (including one around gender that was a top editorial in Disability Arts Online), 3 podcasts, 13 films, 134 drawings, a tapestry art installation (made in same factory as Grayson Perry’s tapestries), and performance-lectures. The approach (such as a speed-dating event at the South London Gallery) was playful.

GIGS & ACCOLADES: Venues included Southbank Centre, Centre for Contemporary Art in Singapore and the SOS Dyslexia Conference in San Marino. More than 10,000 people, including mental health professionals and researchers (aged 2 to 85) have experienced its 26 exhibitions and 24 keynote lectures, seminars and workshops. Comments were 100% positive (far right, bottom). An image won the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Award for Culture Change (judges’ comments, bottom left), while another was nominated for the Sovereign Art prize, Asia’s leading arts award, and a film was an AHRC Research in Film Award finalist (top) The 40 instances of media engagement included an EU-funded film watched 17545 times in first month and an ESRC-commissioned film by an Academy of Medical Sciences Fellow, Resonance FM, Big Issue North.

CONTRIBUTIONS: #MagicCarpet’s contribution to knowledge was its introduction of the notion of being ‘ill-disciplined’ (Tan & Asherson 2018), a playful, hyperactive mode of interdisciplinary dialogue through ‘lofty’ artistic practice and research that problematise ‘illness’. This helped to widen how we understand ‘illness’ and disorder in the medical model of health. #MagicCarpet also helped to widen the possibilities of art-science, arts-health and critical medical humanities, with artist- (and ‘service- user’-) led perspectives and leadership (instead of social science-led) and high-quality artistic outcomes (not just processes). This research extended dominant neurodiversity discourses and social model of disability too, by focusing on ADHD and embedding intersectional insights (countering popular narratives centred on autism, and around the high-functioning autistic male such as in Rain Man). It also tempered the ‘superpower’ narrative that privileges lived experience and political advocacy while compromising nuanced discourse, artistic quality and ambiguity.

Caption: Ada Lovelace appearing on tapestry art as it is weaved at Flanders Tapestry in Belgium, the same factory that created the works of Grayson Perry. Weaving art, craft, craftiness, mental health, ADHD, gender and more together. Art-psychiatry commission #MagicCarpet (Kai Syng Tan 2017-2019).