Although the term is increasingly used/appropriated (not least by World Economic Forum and Nesta et al as a strategy in Industry 4.0), ‘neurodiversity’ remains a complex and contested – and hence exciting – term and framework. It is a highly-problematic term, not least because it isn’t as diverse as it purports to be (the most vocal are too white, too autism-centric and too privileged), and mirrors some of the biases, hierarchies and hypocrisies I have described elsewhere in ‘disability arts’ and arts-health’ and the ‘mad pride’ movement. It is most meaningful when aligned with ‘biodiversity’ (by Baron-Cohen and Singer et al), and as part of an inclusive and creative ecosystem (Tan and Northey 2020). I began working with and against ‘neurodiversity’ from late 2015, which was also when I was officially declared ‘non-neurotypical’. I have since interrogated the cultural/political/ideological constructs of the term, which had also entailed flirtations with other neologisms like ‘neurodiverse art’, ‘#ADHDart’ and ‘neurodivergency’. The key bodies of work include: the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 8th ASEAN Para Games (2015), Dysservice Cat(Suit) (digital drawing 2016, now in Wellcome Library collection), the award-winning art-psychiatry commission #MagicCarpet (2017-2019) and now, the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network (since February 2020, with members including the founder of the term ‘neurodiversity’, Judy Singer). Recent terms I am favouring are ‘artful’, ‘agile’ and ‘atypical’.
Instead of OBE/MBE/CBE, we’ll have NDE (NeuroDiversity medal of Excellence). Universities will finally stop failing or boring people, offering interdisciplinary MASc and PhDs. ‘Neurodiversity’ will also become truly diversified. We’ll then run around with tentacles on our heads. New performance-lecture at Royal Society of Arts attended by 130 people.
Speed dates are the perfect format for the short-attention spanned, novelty-chasing, risk-desiring, boredom-adverse, intellectually-promiscuous ADHD person. Thus, I curated this speed-dating event at the South London Gallery in June 2018.
I am (co-)founder, (co-)leader, trustee, consultant, co-leader or member of 20 national and international networks and organisations in research, arts, health, and human rights.
05/2020: Germany and France have enlisted the help of humanities scholars, but we’ll need atypical thinkers and agile makers for artful ways forward.
03/2020: Struggling with social distancing and self-isolation? Here, put on my Catsuit. Meow.
Seeking collaborators/sponsors: I aim to curate a residency-cum-collaboration programme that will lead to an exhibition asking, ‘What Could A Neurodiversity-led 2050 Look Like?’ I want to matchmake unlikely pairs of neurodiverse artists and designers with scientists and technologists, and choreograph ways for them to work collaboratively towards the co-creation of new pilots and prototypes of apps, objects or experiences.
Article in The Conversation 2018 (10.6m subscribers) which was read 2000 times in the first 2 days. Using #MagicCarpet as an example, it introduced the notion of being ‘ill-disciplined’ (Tan & Asherson 2018).
This was a commissioned keynote lecture and masterclass for an EU-funded consortium of scientists CoCA at their Annual Meeting, University Hospital Frankfurt, Germany.
Where are neurodivergent leaders in the Cultural and Academic Sectors? Premiered at Birkbeck, Arts Week May 2019.
Is there too much, or not enough ‘neurodiversity’ in art & academia in the UK? Premiered at Birkbeck, Arts Week May 2019.
Disability Arts Online 2018 article. One of its top 10 editorial pieces, later presented as a performance-lecture at the Science Museum.
03/2020: Keen to explore the messy and magical entanglements between neurodiversity, creativity and research, and all the possibilities and intersections in between? Join the Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network, a new international hub.
Do you take risks? Why? Why not? What’s the greatest risks you have taken? Step forward, tell us. Go on – what’s the worst that can happen?