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’.
Watch my chat with artist Jonathan Drury, of Dialogue Village. Other interviews in the series include one with author of the 2016 cult book NeuroTribes, Steve Silberman, as well as official Star Wars and Stranger Things artist Rees Finlay.
This new short film was created at the invitation of a design pedagogy event by European consortium FUEL4Design: Future Education and Literacy for Designers as International Respondent. A performance-lecture version was created as Keynote Lecturer for Deep Meaningful Conversations of the Design Management course, London College of Communication, University Arts London.
Why is normality the gold standard, when the “norm” hasn’t worked for a while? Isn’t it time for new models of leadership, and new role models? Isn’t it more exciting to be non-standard, to be covered in glitter, and to embrace a phenomenal spectrum of colours and possibilities?’ Read my interview on neurodiversity and creativity with Jane Clark at Beshara magazine.
My new, not very good article ‘The Artful Agile Atypical Octopussy’ is live in the peer-reviewed Performance Research: A Journal of the Performing Arts, On (Un)Knowns, 03 March 2022. This was one of 30 selected articles out of 160 proposals, and one of two that are in full colour.
Click here to read my invited commentary, ‘Art and psychiatry in the 21st century: here’s to more messy – and magical – entanglements’ on the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin (Cambridge University, open access), in its new the new culture section, Cultural Reflections.
What can ‘Neurodivergent Leadership’ look like? A 15-month creative practice-led research project. Get in touch now to support/collaborate!
How To Thrive In 2050: 8 Tentacular Workouts For A Tantalising Future! is a new short film I made in Spring 2021. This is an art manifesto calling for a creative, equitable and ‘neuro-fantastic’ future by an Octopussy. The World Premiere is on BBC Culture in Quarantine Autumn 2021
In Spring 2021, I gave two presentations that were also CPD units, including one to 870 Europe-based mental health specialists from 17 countries (+ 6 languages and interpreters – almost as fabulous as Eurovision).
Want to work with me? Here’s how.
I was invited to select from and respond to a range of museum artefacts through a neurodivergent prism. I selected an artefact from the National Archives, which is an extract from an Education Department draft circular on the introduction of 11+ exam, July 1945.
It is Disability History Month and this article was published by Manchester Metropolitan University. As its ‘Disabled Staff Role Model’, I talked about being a neurodivergent academic, and how I spent 12 hours to write 160 words in a form.
My human-beast chimera performs a novel, embodied interdisciplinary mode of knowledge exchange and creation.
The following was my ‘Lockdown Diary’ entry for the Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre upon my final week there as its Visiting Fellow and first Artist in…
This is a recording of a performance lecture I delivered on 6 August 2020 for University of Reading, a repeat of a keynote-lecture that premiered for Royal Society of Arts on 9 July 2020 which was attended by up to 130 people.
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).
The booklet documents my reflections of #MagicCarpet (2017-2019), and was launched at the public view of my solo exhibition at the Craft and Design Centre
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.
EU-funded film on ADHD that was viewed 17,000 within first month.
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?