What clients, critics, commissioners, managers, mentees, friends & foes say about my work. For gallery of logos of organisations I engaged with, click here. For the rest of my CV, click here.

LEADERSHIP, INNOVATION & CULTURE CHANGE

I specialise in pioneering creative, teaching/learning, research and knowledge exchange (RKE) interventions through artistic research and ‘artful’ strategies that are (co-)creative, interdisciplinary, intersectional and inclusive. My creative leadership & innovation lies in identifying & initiating novel connections across diverse, previously or historically disconnected/siloed/divided and even divergent/conflicted boundaries of sector, discipline, class, culture. In forging new, liminal pathways, I fill lacunae between the areas, as well as generate insights that can advance respective areas. Examples include: running and leadership (from being often derided as ‘neoliberalist’ by the social constructivist), neurodevelopmental processes like ADHD (as clinical ‘disorders’ and ‘abnormalities’ that warrants treatment and fixing by those in the brain/mind sciences), and inviting others to think about a better future (by becoming ‘tentacular’ and with the deadline of ‘2050’). Through my methods of ‘productive antagonisms’ (Latham and Tan 2017) and being ‘ill-disciplined’ (a playful interdisciplinarity through subversion of ‘illness’, in Tan and Asherson 2018), I collide creative arts practice with humanities, and psych- and social sciences, to advance equitable ecologies for all involved. My innovations are perhaps applications of my atypical cognitive setup, and auto-ethnographic studies of ‘neurodivergent leadership’. Being with ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia, divergent thinking, creative problem-solving, courage and resilience (Lesch 2018) – to which I will add learning and bouncing back from failure – are my DNA, and much-sought-after traits in leadership (eg Frost 2016, Aylesworth & Cleary 2020). My research, which is both organically and intentionally entangled with teaching, creative practice and leadership, produces processes and outputs that are also resources for/with/by students, peers and stakeholders.  

  • This is challenging and thought provoking, and a really effective way of conveying the positively disruptive energy that engagement can release’. ‘The title was excellent, and captured the spirit of culture change: an animated group challenging established ways of framing disability, challenging the old with the new, taking risks. The clever and provocative construction extended to the caption, which captured vividly what it feels like to be caught up in the thrill of creating new knowledge which challenges and changes the world. — Judges’ comments for winning photo montage National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Award for Culture Change 2018 
  • That was incredible Kai – WOW. — A Professor of Creative Practice, of my keynote lecture on ‘Tentacular Pedagogy’ for European League of Institutes of the Arts’ Teachers Academy(ELIA), a Network for higher arts education with 300,000 members in 282 institutions in worldwide 
  • #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, and to find new, exciting and innovative ways to communicate the science of ADHD. The work is contributing to both local and national training with healthcare professionals and researchers. Kai […] is very exciting to work with. She contributed to both local and national training with health care professionals and researchers. […] She has integrated extremely well into our scientific community becoming a key member of our research team, sharing and developing ideas, and making important contributions to the dissemination of science to the public.  — Professor of Psychiatry Philip Asherson, 2019
  • Very much appreciate what you are doing for raising running to an artistic and literary level. – Holland’s leading author Abdelkader Benali 2018
  • Kai has been instrumental in the UK and lots of other contexts in pulling together all sorts of writers, artists, academics and performance-makers to come together and to start to form what might become to be called ‘Running Studies’. Kai has been absolutely central in this. She introduced me to a whole lot of people.’ — Artist Professor Gregg Whelan. Curator. ANTI Festival. Kuopio, Finland. 2015
  • But it is the artist, curator, and researcher Kai Syng Tan who has done the most in seeking to develop an interdisciplinary discourse around running art and performance. […] Tan’s work has encouraged conversations and connections across disciplines and it is in this context of a nascent interdisciplinary discourse on running that I think the concept of gesture offers an important means of understanding what running does, and what is at stake, when bodies run as art’. — Dr Andrew Filmer, journal article in Contemporary Theatre Review (Routledge) 2020  
  • Dr Tan’s PhD thesis was an exceptional piece of work; […]. What was most impressive about the dissertation was the ease and lucidity with which the dissertation moved between popular culture, literatures from a diverse range of academic disciplines, and the world of fine art. In my own research I have been exploring the relationship between urban environment and practices of physical fitness. Examining Dr Tan’s PhD suggested a whole range of productive new ways of thinking about these relationships; it’s a really high quality dissertation that does that. […] Collaborating with Dr Tan has been an intellectually energising experience. In all sorts of ways it has challenged me to rethink how I go about doing my research. And it has informed much of my recent work. […] Among the many impressive dimensions of the proposal is the centrality it gives to public engagement, along with its radical interdisciplinarity. Dr Tan has extensive experience configuring such interdisciplinary dialogues […] Dr Tan will produce research that is intellectually challenging, radically interdisciplinary and important.’ — UCL geographer Professor Alan Latham on my PhD thesis, 2014, which has been downloaded more than 4180 times
  • ‘[Kai] is one of Asia’s most talented and promising artists […] It is our honor to host not only a talented artist but also a great scholar. The importance of Kai for this program is tremendous […] she’s the brain behind [the South East Asian Cinema Program] and the main player in it.’ – Dr Erez Pery. Director, Cinema South International Film Festival, a human rights festival held next to the Gaza Strip 2008
  • Singaporean artist Kai Syng Tan  [is] known for her eclectic style and cheeky attitude to the art world […].’ — Tracey Clement. Cover story, Sydney Herald Tribune. 2006
  • She has the unusual distinction of being highly creative, intellectually able and positively self disciplined. […] I believe that she will contribute to the educational needs of students in terms of practice, and equally in theory. She is also an accomplished writer and is poised to establish herself professionally as a practicing video and filmmaker. In education her pedagogic and communicative skills and devotion to the notion of scholarship will also be significant.’ – Performance artist Stuart Brisley, 1998
  • Kai is unusually perceptive.’ – Artist Bruce Mclean 1994
  • Thank you very much for your energizing and inspiring keynote contribution at the ELIA Academy Online Kick-Off. It was a pleasure to have you with us and we’ve received a lot of positive feedback from the steering group and participants. Thank you for all your preparation, flexibility, critical thinking and provocation. It was a truly memorable experience’ — ELIA 2021
  • ‘A revelation’. – Megan Garrett-Jones, Real Time Arts Magazine, Australia, 2015
  • The tapestry clearly illustrates Kai’s restless body and mind and taps into a long artistic tradition.  It’s a very beautiful manifestation of a hidden disability. In the context of Unlimited, this commission is breaking new ground, linking academics, scientists and artists in interesting ways and enabling an artist to immerse herself in an emerging realm of neuroscience, including clinical trials.  The work is all about process and what Kai calls ‘productive antagonisms’ – atomic collisions where people from different backgrounds meet and discuss the latest science and lived experience of ADHD and neurological disabilities’ – 509 arts, in evaluation report for Unlimited 2018
  • We have been lucky to have @kaisyngtan as part of the @SGDPCentre, @KingsIoPPN. She brought creativity, and her wonderful good cheer top our daily lives, while working with Philip Asherson on #ADGD and mind wandering. We will miss you at the SGDP Centre. I hope that you will always feel part of the SGDP family, and you will certainly always have a warm welcome to the Centre whenever you are in London. Through you I have learned how closely art, science and medicine are ;linked, and that art is more than a picture on the wall. Your work has given us some high standards to keep, which will be all the harder without you to put in that third dimension to our work and our play. Life definitely need that glitter at the moment! Thank you again for all you have done for the SGDP Centre – it has been such an enriching relationship in both directions, and I do hope we find a way to continue that.’ – Head of Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre Professor of Genetic Epidemiology Cathryn Lewis 2019, 2020
  • Your work is really making a difference – Professor of Developmental Disorders & Neuropsychiatry Jonna Kuntsi, Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, King’s College London
  • You really brought incredible energy to what was a really important event I have been working on for some time. The films you showed have really inspired me further and your talk cut into the core of the discourse of running, it was exactly what we needed – Architect and PhD candidate Sarah Ackland for my new provocation to open her event at Newcastle Contemporary Art, 2022
  • The writing in these chapters is consistently focused, clever, and often quite provoking. The chapters act both as kind of context (of the why, and the how) for the video performances, and an extension or continuation of them. By this I mean they carry the playfulness, disruptiveness, and rhythm of the video performances into the main text. Overall I thought the dissertation and the various performances described within it were impressive. They all weave together a provocative mix of text, image and kinetic sense, which are both enjoyable and thought provoking’. – UCL geographer Professor Alan Latham on my PhD thesis
  • Kai Syng Tan closes this section with an exciting chapter on the activist potential of “art-ful” running across the consumerist city. — Anna P.H. Geurts, 2022. ‘Book Review: Mobilities, Literature, Culture’, The Journal of Transport History
  • I met Dr. Kai in 2017 when I joined the Running Cultures Research Group, advocated to reflect around running as a metaphor and as a creative tool for research. Dr. Kai is the most active, wise, gentle and creative artist-researcher I know. She is a people-oriented person who combines her exquisite and fine work with the act of sharing with people and creating communities around knowledge. She’s always thinking beyond and outside the box and she has the power of listening and understanding the nuances of complex situations to keep the conversation further. I had the fortune to participate in her RUN RUN RUN (#r3fest) Project in 2018 where I could see closely her accurate way of working and curating events. I am deeply thankful with her for all the support she has given to me and I feel fortunate to still have current interesting projects together. I totally recommend her as a person, as an artist, as a researcher and as a change-maker and social agent. —Dr Elisa Herrera Altamirano (Mexico/Spain), social scientist with multidisciplinary training in psychology, gender studies and anthropology within multicultural environments 
  • ‘Highly ambitious’, ‘amongst the most interesting I have ever been asked to review’. A ‘timely and hugely important project, demonstrating a very high degree of originality’, it has a ‘brilliant and fascinating blend of activities’. I have a ‘strong track-record in arts-based engagement’, and am ‘one of the few who has written and provided resources on this subject; I’ve used them in my own work and in my teaching, where my research assistants and MSc students have struggled to find research in this area’.— Feedback to my proposed Fellowship to theorise ‘Neurodivergent Leadership’, by Peer Reviewers of a Research Council, with two out of three awarding application the maximum 6 points, 2021
    • The proposal is ‘highly ambitious’, ‘amongst the most interesting I have ever been asked to review’, displaying a ‘deep commitment from the applicant to develop her own leadership of the emerging field of Neurodivergent Leadership’.
    • It is a ‘timely and hugely important project, demonstrating a very high degree of originality’ and will be a ‘timely focus for investment’ and ‘send a strong signal about this agenda being important to [the research council], and to this area of the creative sector too’.
    • The programme is a ‘brilliant and fascinating blend of activities’ pioneering ‘ground clearing’ work’, given ‘the real lack of work in this area’ and ‘real dearth of academic engagement on issues of neurodivergence in the creative sector (whether at universities or creative industries)’.
    • As a ‘new area to embrace a vast array of diverse politics, practices and crises including anti-colonialism, queer and anti-racist responses that have come to the fore especially during the pandemic’, ‘attention to these intersections provides a rich context but also means the frame itself is profoundly elastic and all-encompassing’.
    • The project will create ‘opportunities for policy and creative practice organisations to reflect on their, and their organisations’ practices’; inventing a ‘multi-faceted definition of leadership (in disciplinary and interdisciplinary terms, and within a framework of EDI’ that is ‘well placed to play a role in developing a fast emerging area of research on neurodiversity and its relationship to leadership and creativity’, ‘embracing different ways of conceiving of leadership in a discourse that is genuinely not limited to one discipline or one creative approach, promising to ‘help transform thinking for her participants’.
    • The project employs creative methods in ways that are intended to be challenging brings with it risks but the applicant demonstrates an awareness of these methods and has employed them previously in her established career within and beyond the academy’.
    • The proposed Fellow has a ‘strong track-record in arts-based engagement having worked with a range of creative partners on numerous publicly funded projects in the past’, and am already recognised as ‘one of the few who has written and provided resources on this subject; I’ve used them in my own work and in my teaching, where my research assistants and MSc students have struggled to find any detailed research engagement beyond industry reports’ 
INSPIRING HOPE

My work stands out for how I always transform negatives/deficits/problems into opportunities to learn/un-learn, and to inspire positivity & hope. This is driven by my big picture thinking, survival thrival instinct, resourcefulness (which many of marginalised /minoritised background tend to have to develop), long range vision (term coined by endurance runner and biologist Bernd Heinrich), as well as sense of duty as a teacher for 25 years, and as an ill-disciplined artist who likes to transgress boundaries and ask ‘What if’ and ‘Why not?’. Thus, rather than to stop at critiquing and calling out on how things are, or only being fatalistic, I am successfully helping to reframe & reimagine concepts and practices as creative, heuristic praxis, and encouraging others to redefine and reclaim their own truths. Examples include: running and leadership (from being often derided as ‘neoliberalist’ by the social constructivist), neurodevelopmental processes like ADHD (as clinical ‘disorders’ and ‘abnormalities’ that warrants treatment and fixing by those in the brain/mind sciences) and inviting others to think about a better future. 

  • Kai is like an incandescent source of energy. An energy that drives her not just her own achievements as her lights illuminate the paths for others. The latest of her many achievements comes from the effort she has put into establishing the Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network (who knew how many Neurodiverse achievers were out there), allowing us to see ourselves more clearly and positively, to recognise our strengths and giving us the confidence to seek out, to demand recognition, to carve our paths to success. She threw a spotlight for me onto an artist opportunity at KCL that has led to residencies working with the scientists of KCL, Imperial and Southampton Universities, and then to be a Visiting Teaching Fellow on the KCL MSc/MRes” – Mike Barrett, artist and data scientist
  • Thank goodness for you & your work Kai! You are one of the most important drivers in giving me energy to push for change’ – Dr Ranjita Dhital 2018, Lecturer in Interdisciplinary Health Studies in the Arts and Sciences Department & Co-Chair, Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network 
  • Heartfelt thanks to Kai Syng for creating powerful scenarios such as the RUN! RUN! RUN! #r3fest to explore running as a critical and creative tool and for making us feel radical hope. You’re a gem and you inspire me profoundly! Thanks for your energy! —Dr Elisa Herrera Altamirano (Mexico/Spain), social scientist with multidisciplinary training in psychology, gender studies and anthropology within multicultural environments 
  • You are one of the most positive and energetic people I know!! Really inspiring to work with you!!’ — Elisa Itkonen. Curator. ANTI-Festival of Contemporary Art, Finland 2015 
  • You leave me and my Camden colleagues with lots of ideas for the future.’ — Mr Peter Twist. Blue Badge London Tour Guide Trainer & retired Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent 2014
  • I’m interested in collaborating with you as I need a research partner willing to pursue an interdisciplinary study that can both complement my perspective and create links between spheres that seem disconnected with a critical but productive point of view. I specially felt attracted to your critical standing as you made a connection between running and performance, showing a completely different train of thought to thinking of running as a neoliberal practice, and whose interest seems to be only to criticise, not providing any ‘way out’ or positive outcome. – Post-doctoral researcher (US/Mexico) with background in Chemical Engineering, Social Anthropology, Business Innovation and the military 2022
  • The curious octopus, the easily bored octopus, the always moving octopus, the very brilliant and ancient octopus, the eight tentacled octopus, the loving and kind octopus, the shape shifting octopus, the neurodiverse octopus —- and you. It all makes sense. — Award-winning filmmaker and visual anthropologist Professor Amanda Ravetz 2021, on ‘How to Thrive in 2050! 8 Tentacular Workouts for a Tantalising Future
  • Your film is great. It left me grinning from ear to ear and then hammered me into a new Steve — Professor Steve Miles on the same film, 2021
ADVANCING EDI

Advancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the areas of race and anti-racism, disability, gender and more (click next section for neurodiversity), through arts & culture in conversation & collaboration with other disciplines/cultures/sectors, as live projects and CPD for students and peers.   

  • I was particularly excited to see Ghanaian students specifically and African (Diaspora) and students generally, participating actively in the event and celebrating their ancestors and promoting “blackness”. This made me so proud to be an African at this particular era. The resources would be particularly useful for my teaching and especially for its historic contents and great Pan African thinkers. – Dr Irene Appeaning Addo (Senior Research Fellow Institute of African Studies University of Ghana, Legon, of 75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations PAC75 which reached 18.2m people worldwide, 2020
  • Your dedication to work is most amazing and […] it has been central to our delivery of the successful PAC@75 programme’ — Professor Ola Uduku, Co-Curator of PAC75, now Head of Architecture, University of Liverpool 
  • A spectacular ceremony. — Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong 2015, on Closing Ceremonies of ASEAN Para Games 2015, for which I was Visual Director and Communications Director. The renowned Singapore Airlines now has sign language in its safety videos, featuring the sign language interpreter we ‘discovered’ in the ceremonies
  • Your team have been most open-minded, thoughtful and accommodating to our suggestions and inputs in making the event a truly accessible one for our community. With “live’’ captioning has been offered for such a big event and at a national level for the first time, the ASEAN Para Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies mark a giant step towards an inclusive Singaporean society. — Alvan Yap. Singapore Association for the Deaf, 2015. 
  • Congratulations for the picture-perfect Opening Ceremony. I believe the wonderful extraordinary experience will be engraved in the mind and heart for the rest of their lives. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to be part of this once in a life time journey and do let me affirm that your hard work and creative mind had captured the heart of the audience yesterday. You’ve created exceptional work in letting the status of our students with disabilities and let them soar to greater heights in an international platform. Kudos to your team! — Vice-Principal Anuwar Abdul Wahab, Metta School, 2015
  • Dr Kai was the Communications and Visual Director of the 8th ASEAN Para Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies entitled “Celebrate the Extraordinary”. I enjoyed working with Kai who was always warm and open in her interactions. She played a key role in uncovering and enabling my team to share several heart-warming and inspiring behind-the-scenes human interest stories of outstanding groups/individual talents from special needs background, artists as well as ordinary volunteers to reinforce the events’ message of inclusivity. — Chiu Ling, Marketing Manager 2016
  • I want to nominate Kai Syng Tan for her individual and dedicated practice at Manchester Metropolitan Unversity to champion diversity and work to develop an inclusive campus. Kai has initiated and undertaken action through the Race Equality Activity Planning (REAP) Group that has promoted diversity, equality and inclusion for staff snd students across the university. This has included through her own research practice, but also dedication to anti – racist practice – including dedicated work leading colleagues in coordinating many of the A&H faculty activities centring on the 75th anniversary of the Pan African Congress and tirelessly advocating for resources to support key EDI work. Kai has advocated for cultural leadership programmes,  and even setting up a book group that has regularly brought together colleagues to discuss a wide range of fiction, poetry and non fiction that focuses on BAME authors and experiences of racism. — EDI Award nomination by Manchester Poetry Library Director Becky Swain
  • Before leaving, I wanted to thank you for all your work in the area of EDI in the Faculty and wider University. — Former Faculty of Arts & Humanities Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor 2022 
COMMUNICATION & PUBLIC SPEAKING

Drawing on my international education (Chicago, Tokyo, London, Singapore), interdisciplinary creative arts and humanities portfolio, working class roots, thick-skinned-ness as an artist-hustler, extensive public speaking experience (since my first invited lecture aged 18 at an art university), I am skilled in writing and/or speech and/or body language, across diverse creative, professional, popular & social media platforms, and can communicate with anyone across any cultural/disciplinary/class backgrounds and/or affiliation, modulating level of tone, technical difficulty and diplomacy as needed. 

  • ‘Such a breath of fresh air’, ‘an eye opener’, ‘incredibly interesting perspective’, ‘Kai bubbles over with wonderful enthusiasm.’ – Feedback for my keynote for Association of Dyslexia Specialists in HE 20th Anniversary Conference, 2021
  • The room Tan Kai Syng devised for the exhibition ‘Politics of Fun’ in the House of World Cultures is overwhelming. […] She rejoices in communication, and her guises are protean. Within a brief conversation she is the humorous cynic, the attentive listener and so on and so forth. Whether she is gathering, making or showing things, she is wholly engrossed’. — Susanne Messmer, ‘The Manic Collector’. culturebase.net. Germany 2005
  • Kai was so charismatic and engaging, the children loved her. Don’t forget us next year!– teacher Jolanta Nowakowska. Lyndhurst Primary School 2018
  • Kai Syng Tan confronts her new social surrounding with the strategy of a research in progress that is an unusual mix of critical engagement, intellectual references and not to forget a very, very special way of engaging humour.’ — Johan Pijnappel, Biennale of Sydney catalogue pp268-269, 2006
  • Your interview was one of the most impressive – and most brave – I’ve ever encountered’. – Panel member of job interview at Manchester Metropolitan University 2019 (successful outcome)
  • And what such interesting work! Very critical and at the same time playful (not an easy task when problematizing such difficult issues).’ — Dr Fernanda Duarte. Review Editor. Transfers Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies, USA 2016  
  • She was very friendly and informative and we very much enjoyed this insight into Bloomsbury life’. — Chris Crowley 2012, on my guided tour on Art & Society, Bloomsbury Festival UK
  • Thank you for an entertaining and thought-provoking performance. Your performance should be a breath of fresh air to those attending – most academic presentations are usually quite awful.’ – Dr David Grant, Educational Psychologist, 2018
  • It was a pleasure to be with you in action Kai. You create a kind of “being with”. You are in our presence and we in yours. […] You were being you, in all your energy, power, wit, vulnerability, confusion and searing clarity.’ – Lois, artist working in art-science, 2018
  • As manager and coordinator of inclusive practice at PCA I invited Kai to design and deliver a presentation and workshop for colleagues around ideas of neurodiversity in HE with specific regard to ADHD, engagement, assessment and ways of working with students in a collaborative environment. Kai was brilliant to work with from the start and delivered a high quality presentation that was packed with artefacts, video, and texts that could be further articulated and unpacked later through analysis and reflection in the workshop. Kai was always open and responsive to ideas and feedback with myself and the group. The workshop was thoughtfully written and led with warmth and humour. She has a discursive style and is intuitive which is crucial given the diversity of staff and the complexity of the issues at our institution. This generosity led to imaginative outcomes from participants. Kai was wonderful to work with and I hope to continue our conversations in the future. — Sally Hall, Artist at Driftingspace, Independent Artist/CuratorArtist at Driftingspace, Independent Artist/Curator
  • You should do a TED talk! – Chris Baker, Four Communications, 2018
ARTISTIC INNOVATION

Distinct for traversing & colliding disciplines, media & platforms, working across film, performance-lecture, installation, painting, drawing, tapestry art, stage design across >900 international settings since starting aged 4, including film festivals, shopping malls, museums, art galleries, cinema, theatre, streets, and more. Described as ‘not only a talented artist but also a great scholar’ (Cinema South Festival) with a ‘sardonic humour but also a sharp intelligence which makes her a self-reflexive, incisive artist of South East Asia’ (Singapore International Festival of Arts Director Keng Sen Ong). Engagements include legendary performance artist Teh-Ching Hsieh (in an interview), cult Fluxus artist Takahiko Iimura, Dumb Type Choreographer Takao Kawaguchi & VideoArt Centre Tokyo. Curators worked with include Rikrit Tiravanija (NYC/Berlin). Featured alongside Yayoi Kusama and avant garde filmmaker Toshio Matsumoto for MOMA (New York) Film programme.

  • The tapestry was the most beautiful piece of work I’ve have seen in a long time. – King’s Artists exhibition visitor, Bush House (1500 visitors) 2018, on tapestry art ‘I Run & Run, Let Out An Earth-Shattering Roar, and Turn Into A Giant Octopussy’, part of award-winning art-science commission #MagicCarpet (2017-2019)  
  • Kai is a media artist to look out for – Johan Pijannapel, Japanese art journal Art It. 2005 
  • Tan Kai Syng is one of the most prolific young artists of Singapore. Well-versed in video, sound & electronic media, she has created wide ranging works bordering between discourse and personal reflection. Her works often reveal her sardonic humour but also a sharp intelligence which makes her a self reflexive, incisive artist of South East Asia now. […] Being a versatile straddler between academician & practising artist demonstrates her agility in moving between different fields of knowledge & diverse disciplines. She has a wryness which stands her in good stead […] she is a very talented interdisciplinary artist […]. She moves restlessly from one medium to another which is part of the joy of her work. She has proven herself to be immensely attractive to students who follow her classes with avid involvement, she can be an amazing source of inspiration’. – Singapore International Festival of Arts Director Dr Keng Sen Ong, 2009
  • Tan has established herself as one of the foremost video artists in Singapore, engaging with the medium in interesting and often innovative ways — Dr Eugene Tan 2007, ‘Contemporary Art In Singapore. Eds Nadarajan G, Storer, R. & Tan, E. Institute of Contemporary Arts’ p142
  • Loved it. Bold brash and radical!!  Love it. Congrats its a super radical piece of subversive TV! Love it!! Congrats on what I think it a fun, provocative and important piece! – Dr Atif Mohammed, Director, Producer, on film How to Thrive in 2050, 2021
  • Tan Kai Syng’s two TV screen pieces stood out easily as the exhibition’s most potent and engaging; both works a credit to the medium. […] Tan’s TV work offers spare, elegant visuals that […], bring the viewer into the piece’s hauntingly lyrical, abstracted narrative. […] [It] shows an artistic mastery uncommon in a medium where technical competence is more frequent than aesthetic intelligence. — Iola Lenzi. 2003. ‘President’s Young Talents’. The Arts Magazine. Singapore
  • The tapestry is dense, visually and thoughtfully. It’s a voyage through Kai’s mind. […] The text runs throughout in seemingly infinite amounts, appearing at first legible, then running off into a black murky void. Everything about the tapestry screams at you, and it is beautiful for that reason. There’s so much going on that you really want to touch it, explore every nook and cranny, uncover its secrets through returning to it again and again’. – James Zakta-Hass, on tapestry art ‘I Run & Run, Let Out An Earth-Shattering Roar, and Turn Into A Giant Octopussy’, part of award-winning art-science commission #MagicCarpet (Kai Syng Tan 2017-2019 Disability Arts Online 2019
  • It should be in Tate or something, so amazing. Couldn’t believe the size and the detail of the work’. – Gunes Tavmos 2019
  • Many thanks for the lovely and fascinating tapesty – it was a beautiful visitor. Because my office happens to be close by I was able to visit a few times and it was great to be guided through it. I was guided through a different area each time and I shall miss my visits. It is gorgeous’. – Sue Wiseman 2019 
  • A ridiculously brilliant tapestry by Kai Syng Tan is on display at @birkbeck_arts #BBKArtsWeek #mentalhealth #adhd #geniusalert’. – Dr Sasha Dovzhyk 2019
  • The very beautiful #MagicCarpet part of an engaging + thought provoking evening discussing neurodiversity + art – Tina Hodgkinson 2019
  • Absolutely gorgeous to gaze at and feel #magiccarpet maximalist tapestry by @kaisyngtan  – Pauline Suwanban 2019
  • You take our product to a real professional level’ – Flanders Tapestry, which also weaved the work of artists Laura Provoust and Grayson Perry 2018
  • ‘[…] the arts and writing also dominated the discussion, with artist Kai Syng Tan presenting a Prezi like no other.’ — Dr Katy Kennedy, Running Dialogues 2015 
CURATING NEW, ENGAGING SPACES

I specialise in curating innovative, hybrid teaching/learning, research and knowledge exchange (RKE) interventions through artistic research and ‘artful’ strategies that are (co-)creative, interdisciplinary, intersectional and inclusive. These spaces make novel connections across diverse, previously or historically disconnected/siloed/divided and even divergent/conflicted boundaries of sector, discipline, class, culture. In forging new, liminal pathways, I fill lacunae between the areas, as well as generate insights that can advance respective areas. The following are feedback from my RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale #r3fest (2014-2018). To counter static, linear, logocentric and often elitist and inaccessible modes of academic conferences, I work with different curators to craft a range of interfaces, including 8-minute papers, film screenings, pop-up museums, ‘running discourses’, meditation sessions and more. Over the years, #r3fest has gathered & showcased 100 innovative researchers & practitioners, papers, projects and propositions from >40 academic, cultural and third sector organisations, including Goodgym, Leeds Arts Gallery and the Universities of Harvard and Oxford, for 20,000 members of the public, across venues like the Cardiff National Indoor Stadium and Paris School of Culture and Art, and more online. 

  • Possibly the best conference ever. — Dr Sarah Petts 2014 in a tweet
  • Perhaps other conferences could take a leaf out of #r3fest’s book.’ — Dr Alex Lockwood. Guardian 2014
  • I think you got the tone, timing, and mix of speakers/activities/displays just right. After going to this kind of event I’ll find it even more difficult to summon up the enthusiasm for a more conventional academic conference. And 8-minute slots are the way to go. —Professor of Human Geography Derek McCormack, Oxford University, 2014
  • I loved the workshop – I don’t get enough opportunities to meet people from such a wide variety of professions (or obsessions!) who share a passion for running in one form or another.’– Professor Anson MacKay, UCL ex-Vice Dean for Social Science, 2014 
  • I think it worked really well – especially considering how diverse the crowd was. Well done! It was good fun and quite inspiring! Danny was very happy he came […], and was intrigued by how deep and interesting the discussions after the films were. —Ben Graham, Director of Headway East London, a charity for people affected by brain injury, 2016
  • It was a very inspiring and stimulating afternoon.’ – Sarah Brown, Principal Keeper, Leeds Art Gallery, Chair of Leeds Leg, 2016
  • It was a very good session, informative, interesting and well organised. – Dr Doug Sandle BA. PhD. CPsychol. AFBPsS. Chair, Fields of Vision, 2016
  • Caught a lot of very interesting perspectives. – Julien Carrel, Director, L’Entorse festival, Lille, France, that explores the sport-art entanglement, 2016
  • I think you have an energy and approach which is a bit more exciting than many academics and therefore more accessible. And fun. — Hackney Tours 2016
  • I loved the atmosphere and feel of the Festival […] You leave me and my Camden colleagues with lots of ideas for the future. — Peter Twist, City of London Guide, Trainer. 2014
  • I really enjoyed it. I’ve come away very inspired. – Devashishu Torpy. Sri Chimnoy Centre. 2014.
  • The ANTI festival project was very interesting and we have nice memories about it – Maria Ikonen, parent of participant, Finland. 2015
DEVELOPING OTHERS

I do my best to look after the people I work with. This draws on my qualifications in coaching and mental health first aid, as well as extensive experience in managing teams, providing pastoral care. My background as someone with learning differences and from a working class household with both parents who were school dropouts, and growing up in a regime that prizes competition and profits, have made me keen to not duplicate the same inequitable conditions in how I work. I look out for, look after and where possible, hire those from minoritised/marginalised backgrounds, in my own projects, classes and more. I feel the success of others – especially those who come from groups that face more barriers — as both a duty and reflection of my own progress, and always build in ways to enable learning and leadership of those not traditionally deemed ‘leaders’.

  • Dr Kai Syng Tan is a dynamic, bold, genuine, thought provoking artistic academic. I had the opportunity to work with Kai on the organisation of the PAC@75 (75th Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress Celebrations – 15–18 October 2020), the launch of the REAP network (Race Equality Activity Planning – launched March 2021) and as a first-time producer on her BBC commissioned film “How to thrive in 2050!” (premiered on the BBC iPlayer September 2021). These were all fantastic collaborations and more recently, I started a PhD studentship with Kai as principal supervisor. When working with Kai, everyone in the team gets a chance to contribute to the project creatively and critically. There is always space for (self-) reflection, which means that all projects are a chance to grow and learn from each other. Kai is also an inspiration when it comes to diversity, with a firm commitment to diverse representations and to act for a creative, equitable (and tantalising!) future. She was a great support throughout my PhD studentship application process. As a principal supervisor she is highly committed and provides great guidance and feedback whilst creating a space for me to learn, “work things out” and create. I’m really excited for the 3.5 years of creative research to come! — Erika Conchis, former assistant & Visual Anthropology MA Distinction graduate now undertaking PhD exploring co-creative method on air-pollution with citizens as pioneering batch of scholars under £1.35 Leverhulme Unit for the Design of Cities of the Future (LUDEC) at Manchester Metropolitan University 2022
  • Working with Kai on the #MagicCarpet art and science Unlimited commission as an art production manager has been an incredible journey into Kai’s brilliant approach to how the creative sector can meaningfully contribute to discourses around neurodiversity. Kai’s high-quality artworks along with her ability to engage intergenerational audiences into complex yet playful conversations, exhibitions, workshops, and performative lectures have been an inspiration on how to tackle health and socio-political themes through interdisciplinary art projects. Kai’s ongoing contribution as an artist and researcher to both the creative and psychiatric sectors is definitely an example to look at to build successful, sustainable, playful ways to create outstanding art pieces, and long-term and mutually impactful multidisciplinary collaborations. — Alessandra Cianetti, #MagicCarpet Production Manager 2017-2019, performing borders Founder, now Bagri Foundation Project Manager   
  • I just wanted to thank you for all of your support during this process. Your neurodiversity-centred approach to understanding and teasing out problems is acknowledged and greatly appreciated. I noticed the look of concern on your face and wanted to reassure you that in mental health I’m in a good place. I just wanted to reiterate my gratitude for working with me as a mentor. —Neurodivergent and racially-diverse mid-career artist-mentee, 2022 
  • You’ve taught me how to think. — Michael Tebinka Sweden 2015. Swedish mature student with extensive industry experience, Michael meant that ‘You have given me the tools to do what I want to do creatively and intellectually’. Studied with me & collaborated on my projects too. Graduated with BA (First Class Hons). Went on to earn an MSc (Distinction) in 3D stereoscopic media from Ravensbourne University London. Aesthetic sensitivity, unique poetic vernacular & technical proficiency demonstrated in roles as award-winning professional cinematographer and artistic practitioner. Highlights include winning ARRI Unspoken Nordic Challenge, Kinofilm Manchester International Short Film Festival for Best International Cinematography, Queen Palm International Film Festival Silver Award, and working on a Netflix original ‘Red Dot’. Exhibitions include at Onassis Cultural Center (Athens), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia (Madrid) and NASA Reykjavik. As collaborator, worked on my permanent public art commission and £4m Opening and Closing Ceremonies of Southeast Asia’s Paralympics 
  • I met Dr Kai Syng Tan during my post as a Senior Research Assistant on the Drug Policy Voices at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Department of Sociology. Dr Tan’s research specialism and work in interdisciplinarity, inclusion, and creative practice as research and pedagogy has substantially expanded my research knowledge. For example, I participated in Dr Tan’s programme of activities like the Anti-Racist Reading group as well as university wide neurodiversity and disability advocacy, including the Inaugural EDI Festival, which was empowering personally and academically. I have now moved on to an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and I have found my continued engagement with Dr Tan’s lead on EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) supportive of my career progression including my next post as a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge. — Dr Afrodita Nikolova, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow 2022, first person in family to go to University 
  • Working with Kai and the rest of the team on the film ‘How To Thrive In 2050!’ has been a very fulfilling journey for me. The project theme and topic was creatively challenging which made the process even the more exciting. I was able to learn a lot from everyone and I think this also sharpened my skills in many ways because of the experimental nature of the film. Some of my favourite chapters in the film would have to be the octopus chapter and the final chapter where all the creatures and animals come together. I enjoyed editing and animating on those chapters mainly because I also came across obstacles that required me to problem solve and discover many ways to creatively approach the same idea. Kai also pushed me to push boundaries and not settle for the ‘obvious’, I felt very supported and also that my views were listened to too. The film as a whole was a pleasure to work on and I feel that I took away so much out of it, from being more educated and aware on the topics it addresses, to having gained new skills and learnt more about my own abilities! — Zineb Berrais, emerging 23-year old UK-Algerian animator on How to Thrive in 2050!, on my developmental approach to collaboration, enabling heightened sense of self (2021) 
  • I’m interested in collaborating with you as I need a research partner willing to pursue an interdisciplinary study that can both complement my perspective and create links between spheres that seem disconnected with a critical but productive point of view. I specially felt attracted to your critical standing as you made a connection between running and performance, showing a completely different train of thought to thinking of running as a neoliberal practice, and whose interest seems to be only to criticise, not providing any ‘way out’ or positive outcome. – US-Mexican trans-disciplinary post-doctoral researcher 2022
  • In their lives, I believe most people can point towards one or two people who have been crucial figures in their educational development – combining a unique level of dedicated, compassionate support with challenging, intense critique. Kai is, without a doubt, one of these unique people for me. Having been my personal tutor for the final year of my Fine Art BA at Manchester School of Art, Kai shaped integral parts of my artistic approach, knowledge-base and practice, as well as my own self-perception and belief in the future potential for higher education. Even now, almost a year since my graduation, Kai and I remain extremely close and she has continued to offer me invaluable guidance, especially during my (now successful) application to the Slade for a MA in Fine Art Media. During that process, Kai sacrificed time and energy to help me prepare for interviews, write glowing references and offer support. As a result of that application, I now find myself the most excited that I have ever been about my future and the direction of my creative path. Kai’s teaching approach is innovative and, to me, a shining example of how higher education should be practised. Throughout my time as her student, the conversation never once felt self-oriented, placing me and my thinking at the forefront of every single discussion – confirming my belief that Kai always and genuinely prioritises the concerns of her students. During a year of lockdowns, unprecedented adversity and disconnection, I have never felt closer to an educational figure in my life. I also believe Kai recognised that my wellbeing, particularly during COVID-19 ,was inextricably tied to my engagement with the course and my practice as a whole, and was extraordinarily adept at listening and responding to my situation with sensitivity and respect. Kai’s contribution, however, to my own development and maturation extends far beyond just my practice, and into my own personal growth. Her promotion of EDI values especially, through conversations, her own art and her activities within the university have helped me to consider these concerns far more deeply and critically than before I knew her. Additionally, Kai’s extensive knowledge of art history and contemporary contexts has provided me with countless sources of inspiration and has often led to the catalysis of my next creative surge – a phenomena that any creative knows the true value of. I cannot recommend Kai to anyone enough – whether that be as an educator, a collaborator, or manage and leader. It fills me with great joy to know that people like her exist in this world and that other students are currently having the same experience of creative and personal growth as I had with her. — Manchester Metropolitan University Fine Art graduate Frederick Sanders, embarking on an MA at Slade in 2022 following my recommendation letter + coaching + mock interview
  • Thank you for being the best tutor, especially when the support was much needed. I always felt listened to and always left a tutorial inspired due to your words’ — Manchester Metropolitan University Fine Art transgender graduate  2021, who is now a teacher following my recommendation letter & mentoring for interview process  
  • I have not stopped thinking about ‘method and metaphor’ in art practice […]. The time with you continues to influence me in a good way. – Lois Bentley, Leeds Arts University access student 2016, who went on to do an Art-Science MA at Central St Martins, University Arts London
  • Our meetings have given me continued higher level of learning that can improve my personal development as an artist. This formalisation of learning is important to me, as it provides discipline, focus and a framework in which to grow. You have helped guide and encourage me. Your strong work ethic is an inspiration. I have enjoyed the discussions and critical feedback and how you make me feel equal as a fellow professional. I am learning a lot, and without doubt the ROAM! ROAM! ROAM! meetings have been useful, without them I wouldn’t have been able to consolidate our ideas. Access to your office is very useful as it encourages a continuity of thought. It is a kind of refuge, a safe haven. I like knowing it’s there, somewhere to reflect and debate with likeminded people. […] This is the beginning, it will be interesting to see where it takes us’. – Leeds Arts University Staff, a mature student turned staff-member then aged 57, 2016
  • Without you I would not have been the person I am today’ — Vassili Sibirius, 2011 who went to Singapore from Sweden to study with me following extensive email correspondence, who is today an entrepreneur 
  • I’ve met only one Singaporean when I was there, it was she who always listen student’s voice and very eager to give everything whatever she knew. I was very lucky for meeting with such a kind […] teacher’. —  Nyi Lyn Seck from Myanmar. 2005, former student at LASALLE College of Art, now Founder & Managing Director of 3XVIVR, the first VR company in Myanmar
FOUNDING & CRAFTING (CO-)CREATIVE NETWORKS

Over the years, I have set up a few international, interdisciplinary creative networks totalling 600 members globally, who are associated with nearly as many related institutions and organisations. One of these is the Running Cultures Research Group, and another is including the Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network This section focuses on the latter. A legacy of the award-winning art-psychiatry commission #MagicCarpet and founded in 2020 just before the UK lockdown, the Network gathers and makes visible a hitherto invisible community and valuable human resource. More than 150 people joined in the first month. The co-chair is Dr Ranjita Dhital, who had been a participant of several #MagicCarpet activities. The Network’s 350 members are collectively building inroads to make research and HE policy and practice more inclusive of neuro-minorities. The Network has become a global, interdisciplinary community of  neurodivergent people from all walks, researchers, and allies, including curators, clinicians, CEOs, artists, researchers (from professors to early career researchers) and more, located in as many HEIs (including Universities of Cambridge, Waterloo/Canada, Radboud/Netherlands) and organisations (like Whitstable Biennale and social enterprise Empowered to Cook). The Network is not just a safe(r) space for like-minded, but a creative and co-creative platform. We curate workshops, masterclasses and research seminars to connect, showcase, and share innovations and best practices in neuro-divergent and creative research from the arts, creative industries and HE sectors, including contributions from the psyche-, social-, and neuro- sciences. Members lead other related research groups such as Kansas City League of Autistics, Scottish Neurodiverse Performance Network, UK Adult ADHD Network. They are empowering yet other communities and colleagues to step forward and advocate for selves and others. The following are some of the feedback received (names removed).  

  • ‘I have finally found my tribe’; ‘This group makes me so happy’; ‘utterly invaluable’; ‘lifeline’; ‘brilliant resource’. ‘I cannot get over how much of a relief it was to share some of my experiences and ideas. I was so so grateful for everyone’s generosity and understanding, it really meant the absolute world. I hope that we can continue some of the valuable conversations and discussions that are coming out of this programme, and the work of the network more widely – especially around neurodivergent methodologies and advocate for more non-normative ways of knowing. It was so refreshing to be able to try and mode of presentation that was so new to me in a safe and inclusive space’; I once said to you, you were one of the most ethical people I know, and I really believe it.’ ‘I am also feeling happy, privileged and lucky to have you all as support and encouragement. It has been a tough journey for me to question structures, people and most often losing people whom we had put faith in the process’.
  • I cannot get over how much of a relief it was to share some of my experiences and ideas during Friday’s session, and I was so so grateful for everyone’s generosity and understanding, it really meant the absolute world. I hope that we can continue some of the valuable conversations and discussions that are coming out of this summer programme, and the work of the network more widely – especially around neurodivergent methodologies and advocate for more non-normative ways of knowing. I hope once I get this thesis written (!) I will be able to turn my attention more to helping out with network related activities. For now though, just an absolute big thank you for me to you both again for all you do with the network. It was so refreshing to be able to try and mode of presentation that was so new to me in a safe and inclusive space, and I hope that it was in some way helpful to the wonderful people that joined
  • Thanks for all your work with the network and mailing list – it’s a brilliant resource.
  • I am so humbled by your kind words of appreciation and understanding. I am also feeling happy, privileged and lucky to have you all as support and encouragement. It has been a tough journey for me to question structures, people and most often losing people whom we had put faith in the process. Look forward to the upcoming discussions. And please do reach out to me if I can offer any kind of support.
  • This group makes me so happy 
  • It seems a long time since I last wrote to you! Amazingly my dissertation was published by unlimited who commissioned me to write this blog. I am now on the new board too! You have been such an inspiration in my journey and I have even quoted you in several references. I ended up not making a film at all but Adhd leads the way sometimes and something totally different evolved.
  • I will continue to promote this utterly invaluable network.
  • Just want to quickly say that the email you sent out earlier is absolutely brilliant. Honestly, should be an example to literally anyone (but my immediate thoughts are NHS mental health teams and government in general) about how to deal with an unfortunate incident (of accidental GDPR breach by a member). 
  • Great to be part of this group xx feeling a little more seen 
  • I have connected to two different people on the network. I’m part of a research project and yesterday I spoke to Nicole who is researching in the area of domestic abuse, specifically interventions for men who use violence and abuse in their intimate relationships. It’s been good to connect. I’ve also connected her to someone else who may be able to support this research.
INCLUSIVE & INTERDISCIPLINARY TEACHING & PEDAGOGY

I have dedicated my life to advancing creative approaches to teaching/learning centred on EDI (equity, diversity and inclusivity). As artist-teacher-practitioner, specialise in what I term ‘tentacular pedagogy’. I curate innovative, inclusive, internationalised, student-centred, research-inquiry-based interventions & environments prioritising applied and transferable creative intelligence, promoting the art school spirit & skill of independent & creative thinking. I seek to provide  participants with the permission to play, take risks, think bold & act entrepreneurial, be agile & adaptive, and to be equipped with transferable skills that enable diverse applications in cross-sectorial boundaries within & beyond creative arts HE globally. I craft multi-modal, anti-colonial, internationalised, inclusivemethods and contents to counter siloed, elitist approaches. Instigate novel & meaningful synergies linking scholarship, industry demands & society. Prioritise learning from/with communities excluded from HE, & working with professionals & sectors outside HE. 

  • I really enjoyed reading/watching, and many of the provocations you make here really resonated with me – I really like the idea of tentacular pedagogy – co-incidentally I have been listening to some podcast of octopuses recently, and how they make us thinking about thinking differently, and those podcasts and your approach have inspired me to dig a little bit deeper into that conceptual model of pedagogy, which I had not really thought about before, so many thanks for sharing that. Please do stay in touch as your work develops, I would really like to read and find out more.’ – Professor Helen Laville, Provost, Kingston University 2021
  • ‘It was great!’’; I loved the session!’; ‘Thank you for everything! It was an incredible lecture and promoted critical thinking (not just for critically appraising research papers)’; ‘The session was extremely engaging and fun, thank you so much for putting in the effort to run the activity and encourage discussion 🙂 I think we all enjoyed it and learned a lot that way’ — Participants of annual session I design & deliver for Affective Disorder MSc
  • The external assessor has demonstrated an exemplary thoroughness with admirable professionalism.  […] We should use her more often where possible. – Singapore Institute of Management University Assistant Provost Associate Professor Cheah Horn Mun. 2016. Singapore
  • I have really enjoyed getting to know you and see a dedicated educator, artist and researcher/experimenter who is on a quest for truth and stands up for what matters to you and what will move us all forward collectively so that we can who we are, flourish as individuals, in communities and society! You and your work matter!!!’ — National Teaching Fellow Dr Chrissi Nerantzi 2022
  • Your session was most definitely the star event!’; ‘excellent presentations which came straight from the heart’; Three unique and personal perspectives delivered to a large and appreciative audience’; ‘ there can be few better ways to start a health care professional conference than listening to the true experts’ – Feedback for presentation + CPD unit chaired by Dr Kobus van Rensburg that kickstarted the the blended 14th International Berlin Conference on ADHD, for 870 professionals and researchers in ADHD and mental health from Austria, Denmark, UK, Sweden, Finland, Holland, France, Iceland and more, 2021
  • Your paper is overflowing with so many complex and fascinating ideas but is also underpinned by a strong pedagogic structure. […] I was very impressed at how you link your artistic and pedagogic practice. – Professor Patsy Cullen, Principal Fellow, Higher Education Academy, on my Senior Fellowship paper
  • She instigated and implemented major changes for the for the academic and artistic direction of the Video Art Pathway, resulting in a new and improved course design that matches international quality standards for Video Art at tertiary education level. Tan Kai Syng established herself as an excellent leader for the Video Art Pathway and respected team worker. — Dean Wolfgang Muench. Faculty of Media Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts, 2009, Singapore
  • You really got our teachers thinking differently’. —Dr Rini Paul, Teacher Development Lead, King’s Undergraduate Medical Education in the Community2018
  • Kai has a global / international vision in art production and education, and I am certain that her collaborators including myself have all had a valuable experience while working with her. She was always able to overcome all technical problems and provide on time a highly professional outcome.’ – Composer and personal tutor Professor Christophe Charles, Tokyo, Japan. 2009.
  • It has been a real privilege real to get to know you and work with you, and thanks so so much for your support and useful discussions and exchanges we have had! The learning is more on my side from you😊 It has been a real privilege for me to have the chance to work with you, and looking forward to continuing to benefit from your valuable contributions and from our exchanges😊 Dr Anwar Tlili, convenor of MA I have been invited to deliver since 2018, Education in Arts and Cultural Settings MASchool of Education, Communication and Society (alumni includes Turner Prizer winner 2021 Tom Wells) King’s College London 
CASE STUDY: #MagicCarpet 2017-2019

A key area of my work in culture change around neurodiversity – specifically, not just in terms of advocacy & support, but by re-framing creative aspects of ADHD and other neurodivergent processes (such as divergent thinking, risk-taking and so on) as innovation and creative research praxis, as well as to trouble existing notions of leadership. The following quotes are feedback from participants of my award-winning art-psychiatry commission #MagicCarpet as a case study, to bring together elements and features reflecting culture change, leadership & innovation, curating new & engaging spaces, artistic innovation, nurturing & developing others, and more.   

  • It was great to see neurodiversity being explored in such varied and interesting ways. The short project film exploring risk-taking and neurodiversity was honest and engaging, and it was fantastic to see Kai’s #MagicCarpet tapestry in person – a unique representation of mind-wandering and neurodiversity’. – Imogen Clarke, Assistant Curator, Science Museum
  • The event was just tremendous. It was such a privilege to hear so many moving and fascinating stories – it really was a singular and special event. It was really exciting to see how the magic carpet became this generative object, quietly (though in its own way loudly) creating a space that was both safe and adventurous. You and your work really created a unique space, generous and energising, and I’m so glad I got to share it. So many mind-blowing performances!’ –Dr Sophie Jones, Wellcome ISSF Birkbeck Fellow, on Open MicBirkbeck Fellow, on Open Mic
  • Again, a thought provoking evening and I’ve since been mulling over how society is set up, what the rules are, why they are there and what happens if any of us, from those at the end of the spectrum or even those in the middle, decide they are not going to conform! – Dr Kathy Barrett, University Lead for Research Staff Development, KCL 2018
  • Thank you Kai for a v-special event. I’m a dyslexic and dyspraxic academic and your story + that of others really resonated with me. It’s so important share experiences and hear about the diverse lives by neuro diverse people. — Participant, 2018
  • It was so amazing to hear more, listen to people tell us their story, their truths, themselves. An education & a joy’. ‘Kai sets a very open and non-judgemental atmosphere, which allows people to speak so freely, and hence we hear very touching and informing stories from the audience’. ‘This was extremely validating for women with ADHD. Mind-wandering a word I now have and helps me’. ‘Great, diverse sharing, multi-generational’ — Participant, 2018
  • So good to have had intergenerational conversations. Informative + surprising’; ‘It was a mind opening experience’. ‘Beautiful experience’. ‘Very fun & engaging! Talking with strangers is nice:)’. ‘Helped me talk to others, I am normally an introvert who watches.’ ‘What you did do was create a safe + wonderful way to be open to each other.’ – Participants of South London Gallery event 2018
  • ‘The highlights of the day were the opportunity to question rather than define, and the honesty and openness’; ‘The performative lecture was so packed with info & ideas, & Kai set this up really well’; ‘The interactive workshop- discussions etc. & sharing ideas with each other- provocative statements’; ‘Style of morning presentation- big words, colours, concepts. How the whole day was about thinking & understanding’; ‘The level of discussion; the relaxed nature of delivery’; ‘I enjoyed the whole day, I can’t fault it’; ‘Would have liked more!’; ‘I’m feeling so inspired & reassured, thank you’; ‘A great day, good balance of presentation and workshop. Extremely relevant and informative’; ‘It was incredibly useful to think of ways in which we are all neurodiverse + diverse and how this should be considered to make improvements/inclusions in everyday life- v. good to hear an artist’s perspective’; ‘Excellent material both for reflection and practical use when interacting with students’. – Participants of neurodiversity masterclass, Plymouth College of Art, UK, 2019. 100% agreed or strongly agreed that the activity has ‘improved my understanding of “neurodiversity” in HE, and that they will ’apply what I’ve learnt in my communication and interactions with students & colleagues’.
  • Thanks […] for being able to gather so many different people and create such a proactive, engaging and safe environment for people from all disciplines to be part of the conversation (yesterday I spoke with NHS people, academics, poets, theatre-makers, students….).’ – Arts Production Manager Alessandra Cianetti, 2018
  • So much is going on there in terms of gender politics, mental health (‘including the mental health in academia crisis’ ™(c)), history – Sasha 2019.  
  • I found it wonderful being there and feeling immediately connected with everyone. Neurodiverse experiences run deep’. – Academic 2019
  • I had an amazing time at the #MagicCarpet event at The Arts Guild. It was wonderful to meet so many like minded people. I came away with the over riding thought (and one that had been brewing for a while) that the Art World, the business of it, the ‘professional approach’ of artist statements, funding applications, articles etc etc etc is all geared towards a neuro-normative brain. … But I am determined to try, even if I never quite get there. The system as it stands creates huge barriers for so many neurodiverse artists to achieve. I wonder if we can start a movement to challenge this? I have so much to say about my own practice regarding this that I couldn’t condense verbally at the event – I AM finding ways around things and ways to manage my way of working. What I need to do is work on the communication of it – not to apologise to the establishment but a FIRM and CONFIDENT “this is what I do”’. – Participant, 2018 
  • I wanted to congratulate you and thank you for an amazing event yesterday. Your event was so innovative and really brought art and science together, two disciplines that are so far-fetched from each other. I learned more about the mind, ADHD and how important art is in navigating various outlets and that was more valuable to me in terms of what I would have learned in a classroom setting. The connection between art and science is so essential, and you were able to impact and educate individuals so effectively and bring awareness at the same time. Your event was exceptional as it encouraged everyone to step outside of their comfort zone and try to understand their own inhibitions in terms of ADHD and of other people as well. […] I hope that you continue to get funding and make your vision even better and more accessible to all. Due to my ADHD, I have always struggled making friends or having access to specialists and your event was able to break both barriers and provide a ‘family’ as well as imparting useful skills in return. Art in that case served as a process to educate me and to connect me with people that are just like me, something that I am extremely grateful to you. – Shushank Chibber, in The Psychologist 2018, of the speed-dating event at South London Gallery.    
  • ‘Meeting people the same as me – I am not alone!!! :)’, ‘‘Engagement with audience’, ‘debate’, ‘being introduced to different concepts and different ways of seeing things’, ‘The conversation was great’, ‘The artists to speak to, the speakers and the debate’, ‘Atmosphere’, ‘Diversity of definitions’, ‘Speakers’ ‘Contents’, ‘Discussing art practice + ADHD + a neuro-normative art market world’, ‘Discussing education – barriers faced by people with ADHD’, ‘Science-neuro-diverse-art’. Other comments were: ‘Loved it loved it loved it. Felt at home (underlined twice). So Happy! :)’ – Participants of Art Workers’ Guild launch event 2018
  • ‘The event was useful to my research/professional development and/or interest’ and ‘This event has challenged my understanding of how artists and scientists work together, and/or my own body and mind and that of others that are different to mine’. – 100% of the feedback agreed or strongly agreed to questions, 2018
  • ‘Thank you for bringing us all together’, ‘I have gained a better understanding of what the possibilities are and the constraints that our society constructs place on us’, ‘A really engaging and interesting and thought provoking evening!’, ‘Well done!’, ‘I thought this was a very interesting evening and a very interesting discussion on both embracing and the definition of neurodiversity to different people’, ‘You are great!’, ‘I enjoyed everything’, ‘Keep doing more events. Thank you.’ Further feedback for event, 2018
  • The mat is amazing! You have reflected my thought patterns.’ – Artist Jacki Cairns, 2018
  • I really enjoyed it. Great to get immersed in the discussions about art, mind wandering, neurodiversity, accessibility and the rest, and what a fantastic panel. The place was buzzing.’ – Dr Sarah Holme, editor of ADDISS newsletter, 2018
  • Thanks so much for hosting such a positive, intriguing and productive event […]. I think you achieved something very usual – a genuinely diverse and progressive format for people to express their thoughts. Great work. I also really enjoyed your slightly meandering approach to mediation! Somehow both provocative and reassuring at once. – Ben Platts Mills, Director, Headway East London, 2018 
  • I still think about your Art Workers Guild event as I learnt so much from it – Dr Kathy Barett, King’s College London University Lead for Research Staff Development four months after event, 2018
  • The project is a very exciting and innovative integration of art and science and functions as a wonderful platform for the clinical and scientific community to develop an interesting dialogue with Kai, and to find new, exciting and innovative ways to communicate the science of ADHD through her art.’ – Philip Asherson. Professor of Psychiatry, KCL. 2017.
  • Fantastic to be involved #MagicCarpet @wesatonamat discussing mind wandering & ADHD. — Professor Helen Chatterjee MBE. 2017.
  • I have been enjoying all the images of brains and mind-wandering in the SGDP Atrium – they brighten up my date after a miserable commute.’ – Head of Social, Genetic & Developmental Psychiatry Centre Professor of Genetic Epidemiology Cathryn Lewis
  • Rich, layered, detailed, worked, overworked and a perfect example of #creativecase where #ADHD is no barrier but instead a creative impetus. – Jo Verrent, Senior Producer, Unlimited. 2018
  • Incredible work here from @kaisyngtan as her @weareunltd tapestry commission @wesatonamat #MagicCarpet is literally woven into being. Fascinating piece & process with layer upon layer of image and meaning #mindwandering – Unlimited. 2018
  • Excellent – Roundabout, dramatherapy charity 2018.  
  • Great exploration of ADHD as a way of knowing & being – Assistant Professor Dr Jess Hughes, Reading Area Community College, USA. 2018
  • ‘Great chats with arts assassins. So good to have had intergenerational conversations. Informative + surprising’. ‘It was a mind opening experience’. ‘Beautiful experience’. ‘Very fun & engaging! Talking with strangers is nice:)’. ‘Helped me talk to others, I am normally an introvert who watches.’ ‘What you did do was create a safe + wonderful way to be open to each other.’ – Participants’ feedback of ‘speed dating’ style event at South London Gallery
  • Your carpet is magic. – Dr Jolanta Zanelli, Divisional Manager Academic Psychiatry and Business Manager Psychosis Studies, KCL
  • Thank you for your speech – super moving and motivational and inspiring! […] I think it’s super powerful, and I believe it applies to others who are neurotypical but don’t really fit in the box as well’ – Attendee of a talk on neurodiversity 2019
  • Thank you so much for organising the workshop, it was so stimulating and refreshing! Took all the stress away for the time we were involved in art to be honest!’ – geneticist of Art-Science Creative Collisions 2019 
  • It was great to be part of your very special event. I enjoyed the evening immensely. I love what you’re doing and find it very inspiring. There doesn’t appear to be a lot of understanding or appreciation about neurodiversity in academia. I find this frustrating and has often made me question if to continue with it or not. – Academic, 2018
  • So thought provoking, open and moving. It’s really been a pleasure to have been part of supporting your project’ – Director, Cultural Programming, Alison Duthie
  • Had a wicked, random evening with #MagicCarpet @wesatonamat. Kai is super freaking awesome! Kai Forever! […] I keep my @wesatonamat ‘Kai’ badge here now, so Kai is with me wherever I go in this crazy world. – Author with ADHD, 2018