I am an artistic researcher / creative researcher/ research-practitioner (ORCID: 0000-0002-4491-7166). I use art, artistic processes, strategies and/or outputs to catalyse conversation and action for a more creative and equitable future. I trespass and make novel, meaningful connections across disciplines and sectors, solo or in collaboration with diverse communities. I call this ‘artful agitation’, and sum up what I do as ‘catalysing change through artful agitation’.
What is the role of artistic research in advancing research, and dialogue/action towards a more creative and equitable future? Drawing on my background as a migrant woman from working-class roots who is neurodivergent (with ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia), I specialise in developing (co-)creative, decolonial and inclusive methods to catalyse cultural change within and beyond academia. I bridge silos using visual arts and performance processes including film, performance-lectures and creative workshops. I am ‘ill-disciplined’: playful, interdisciplinary, and subverting how ‘illness’ is commonly-understood (Tan and Asherson 2018). Frequently commissioned to introduce my innovative methods to spaces beyond art galleries and academic institutions, I extend artistic research as a knowledge-exchange and social force. I collaborate with marginalised groups and early-career researchers, nurturing and amplifying their creative voices. This exemplifies leadership and a future-facing agenda that catalyses impact exponentially.
4 overlapping strands:
1. Running Studies, art(s)-sport, art(s)-mobilities: I am best known for pioneering running as an artistic discourse to advance the fields of ‘Running Studies’, art and sport, and mobility studies. Key has been my curatorial investigation RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale #r3fest (since 2014). The cultural canon of walking has historically prioritised bodies that are white, male, privileged and ableist; running has also primarily been studied as a sport science or fitness activity. The bi-annual creative workshop has since brought together 80 researchers, artists, and 20,000 members of the public, at 5 international venues, including Paris School of Culture and Art and Cardiff National Indoor Stadium. Participants have come from 40 institutions including Harvard and Oxford Universities, Leeds Art Gallery and FreeToRun, a charity for women and girls in Afghanistan. We are collectively widening ‘running’ as an accessible and imaginative medium, spotlighting non-athletic, non-western, under-privileged and/or ageing body-minds. I have published 9 articles and 4 book chapters around #r3fest, including with high-impact journals like Cultural Geographies, Sport in Society, and Performance Research. #r3fest has instigated multiple research projects and collaborations, like the week-long ‘Running and Endurance’ at ANTI Contemporary Performance Festival (Finland, 2015) and 6-hour running programme at Grenoble Festival (France 2015). My leadership of ‘Running Studies’ has been established in the peer-reviewed Athens Journal of Sport (Stansbie 2019) and Contemporary Theatre Review (Filmer 2020, describing me as ‘the person who has done the most’ in the field), 6 PhD theses (including Hererra-Altamarino 2018, Open University of Catalonia) and popular platforms (including Guardian 2014 and BBC 2017). This work has opened doors for other disabled and/or non-western body-minds and scholarship. Outlining pathways to work ‘experimentally, exploratively, critically, reflectively and collaboratively’ (Tan and Southern, 2018), my research extends understandings of movement and access. This is confirmed in my inclusion in Handbook on Methods and Applications for Mobilities Research (eds: Büscher et al, Edward Elgar 2020) with a chapter foregrounding a dyslexic approach. Drawing on how a leading scholar has labelled my approach ‘running art-fully’ (Büscher 2018), I extended the global 90-person Running Cultures Group that I founded (2014), by creating a new ‘Running Artfully Network’ (2021). We awarded £1000 to newcomers, including ‘Run The World’ which blends performance and fitness for migrant women. As part of the £1.35m Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships, I will supervise a PhD devising a playful method to tackle pollution. My pioneering research in running and mobilities have opened doors for other disabled and/or non-western body-minds and scholarship. Outlining pathways to work ‘experimentally, exploratively, critically, reflectively and collaboratively’ (Tan and Southern, 2018), my research extends understandings of mobility and access. This is confirmed in my inclusion in Handbook on Methods and Applications for Mobilities Research (eds: Büscher et al, Edward Elgar 2020) with a chapter foregrounding a dyslexic approach.
2. Art(s)-Health, art(s)-science, art and neurodiversity: As artist and curator for a £56,427 commission funded by Unlimited (disability arts) and King’s College London, I led #MagicCarpet (2017-9) at the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre as its first artist-in-residence. Through drawing, performance, installation and creative workshops, I reframed ADHD as a creative discourse, disrupting its status as a medical disorder. This led to being awarded the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award and Arts and Humanities Research Council Film Award Official Selection. Its contribution and impact in disability arts, arts-science, arts-health and medical humanities are cited in 27 publications (eg Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 2018). #MagicCarpet has engaged 10,000 people worldwide, including newcomers to art. It was invited to Centre for Contemporary Art (Singapore) and SOS Dyslexia conference (San Marino), and I curated creative seminars and exhibitions at South London Gallery, Royal Society of Arts, Art Workers’ Guild, and Manchester Centre of Craft and Design. Artistic outputs are used for training in creativity and neurodiversity (celebrating diverse cognitive modes). This includes the EU-funded documentary ‘Shine A Light on ADHD’, watched 41,696 times on YouTube. #MagicCarpet led to my founding of the Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network, comprising of 260 neurodivergent innovators and allies in Australia, North America and Europe. The creative platform has instigated new interdisciplinary artistic research methods and collaborations, including Aby Watson’s ‘dysco’, currently touring Southbank Centre. #MagicCarpet is described as ‘a leading example of successful collaboration between scientific and cultural sectors. The project has been held as an innovative integration of art and science and functions as a powerful platform for the clinical and scientific community to develop an interesting dialogue with Kai’ (King’s College London 2018). With Covid-19, I ran a masterclass for an €50m EU-funded European-US science consortium (CoCA) on neurodiversity as a creative health method. London’s Science Museum approached me regarding adding #MagicCarpet to its public collection. I am the first artist on the British Journal of Psychiatry Editorial Board (Cambridge University for the Royal College of Psychiatry). My co-authored article on ‘neuro-aesthetics’ is published in Frontiers in Psychology (5th most-cited publisher, one billion views/downloads). #MagicCarpet will next be featured at an Attenborough Arts Centre exhibition alongside Bob and Roberta Smith, and at 14th International Conference on ADHD (Berlin). My international impacts to disability/neurodiversity artistic research and art-science continue. #MagicCarpet is ‘a leading example of successful collaboration between scientific and cultural sectors. The project has been held as an innovative integration of art and science and functions as a powerful platform for the clinical and scientific community to develop an interesting dialogue with Kai’ (King’s College London 2018). I ran a masterclass for an €50m EU-funded European-US science consortium (CoCA) on neurodiversity as a creative health method. I was in discussion with London’s Science Museum regarding adding #MagicCarpet to its public collection. I ahev been invited to join the editorial board of British Journal of Psychiatry (Cambridge University journal) as its first artistic-researcher. My co-authored article on ‘neuro-aesthetics’ is published in Frontiers in Psychology (5th most-cited publisher, one billion views/downloads).
3. Disability arts: As Visual Director for Celebrate the Extraordinary (Singapore, 2015), I directed a series of art performances and films, and pioneered an inclusive approach to international artistic collaboration. Commissioned by the Singapore government, Celebrate was the £4 million opening and closing ceremonies of the 8th ASEAN Para Games, the Paralympics for Southeast Asia. I applied my interdisciplinary method of ‘productive antagonisms’, first devised with a geographer (Latham and Tan 2017), to bridge divergent approaches. We embedded disabled collaborators, performers and consultants throughout the 2-year process, a radical approach for a region that had hitherto primarily framed disability within charity and medical models. I devised collaborative clusters between disabled and non-disabled people in my creative team of 45 artists. We produced 10 large-scale art-dance installations and 10 films and animations for live audiences of 7000 in Asia and 2 million online. I also led external communication with ministers and international press, and directed the editorial team for the official programme booklets, available also in Braille. Celebrate’s outputs were accessible, celebratory and aesthetically-sophisticated. We incorporated live captioning and live interpretation, which were firsts for the Games. It was applauded as ‘spectacular’ by the Singapore Prime Minister and ‘game-changing’ by the Singapore Association of the Deaf. The arts industry and beyond are now normalising conventions we pioneered, including incorporating sign language as performative components. Singapore Airlines have also employed the Deaf interpreter we ‘discovered’ on its safety videos. Celebrate has planted a seed to transform disability arts discourses and collaboration in Singapore and Asia.
4. Creative (Arts) Leadership, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion: For Black History Month in 2020, I co-curated PAC@75: Pan African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations with Professor Ola Uduku (UK-Nigeria), a world leader on social infrastructure. PAC@75 celebrated the impact of Manchester has had on global history in nationhood, leadership and Black Lives Matter. It drew on and extended my current research (since 2019), on testing/theorising new (co-)creative models of ‘leadership’ to tackle global issues. Collaborative and interdisciplinary, this disrupts how ‘leadership’ is commonly-understood. Working with students and 11 artistic and academic partner institutions (such as the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Centre) and speakers like Princeton-based Kwame Anthony Appiah and poet Carol Ann Duffy DBE, we devised 4-days of performances, exhibitions and creative seminars. PAC@75 developed lasting creative materials, approaches and structures. PAC@75 reached 18.2 million people worldwide. It was featured on BBC Radio 4 and Manchester Evening News, and our Youtube channel hit 2000 views upon being published. Praise came from Universities in Ghana and South Africa, and the W.E.B. Du Bois Museum Foundation (US). Uduku and I now co-lead the Race Equality Activities Planning with 50 members to continue to link these global stakeholders to local action through year-long creative programmes. I wrote an article on Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education (2021) on an PAC@75-inspired anti-racism framework, which was cited by the Association For Art History and Clore Leadership as exemplary. Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has set up an international Research Centre for Study of Race and Racism, for which I am an Advisory Board Member.
Above: Picturing Happiness? Performance and conversation between 4 artists and 2 scientists from Brain and Computer Interfaces of Nanyang Technological University and the audience, on human agency through technology, in the shiny happy island of Singapore. Directed by Philip Tan, part of the Residencies OPEN of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore at Gillman Barracks (Director: Ute Meta Bauer) for the Art After Dark and Singapore Art Week. We ran 8 shows for 252 audiences (aged 9-70s) in the period of 2 hours.