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Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA SFHEA

Programme Leader, MA/MFA Executive Arts Leadership

Kai is an award-winning artist, curator, academic and consultant (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change award; San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate New Visions Award). Hyperactive and tentacular, she is best known for generating novel connections and productive antagonisms with diverse and divergent body-minds and bodies of knowledge across disciplinary/geopolitical/cultural boundaries. Kai has been featured on 900 platforms worldwide (including How to Thrive in 2050, now playing on BBC iPlayer), taught/consulted at 100 Higher Educational Institutions (such as University of Helsinki, Tama University and Australian National University), and delivered multiple keynote lectures, masterclasses and CPD globally (including to 870 mental health specialists from 17 countries at the 14th International Conference on ADHD in Berlin 2021). She joined the ManMet in 09/2019 as Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader to develop the new Creative Arts Leadership MA (09/2023).

Working with Kai:


-Founder and co-chair Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network, of 320 innovators, academics, researchers and practitioners from across creative, cultural, psych-sciences, tech and more sectors, in UK, US, Canada, Australia, India and more:

-Co-curator of the 4-day Pan African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations 2020 with Professor of Architecture Ola Uduku and 11 partner organisations including AIU RACE Centre, University of Manchester and Manchester Poetry Library which reached 18.2 million people worldwide. Story: BBC Radio 4 Another story: Resources: YouTube: More Resources

-Co-founder and Co-chair of 55-person Race Equality Activities Planning Group (REAP), which led cultural activities for Black History Month 2021

-EDI Co-lead (Department of Art and Performance) and E&D Group member (Faculty of Arts and Humanities) and helped organise Faculty's first LGBTQIA+ History Month Festival 2021

-Advisory Board Member for Research Centre for Study of Race & Racism

-Disabled Role Model 2020


- Principal Supervisor for critically-acclaimed composer Daniel Kidane (BBC Proms 2019) 2021-. 'The Sound of Decolonisation'. With Royal College of Northern Music.  

- Principal Supervisor for Erika Conchis 2021-2024:'Can Design Anthropology and co-creative mapping approaches support residents in navigating urban air pollution?' Part of £1.35m LEVERHULME UNIT FOR THE DESIGN OF CITIES OF THE FUTURE (LUDEC) full studentship scheme. Prior to this, Erika worked with Kai as Research Assistant and delivered PAC@75 and a BBC film commission.

- First Supervisor for Anne-Marie Atkinson 2018-: 'Challenging Outsider Art: How are learning disabled artists informing contemporary art?' With Venture Arts.

- Second Supervisor for Olivia Rowland 2020-: 'Articulation ≠ Liberation: Automatic Drawing, Anxiety and Agency'.

Kai welcomes new PhD students, especially in:

-problematising arts, creative and/or cultural leadership
-interdisciplinary thinking+making
-socially-engaged art; art for social change
-art, mobilities, borders, place & geopolitics
-neurodiversity & inclusive practice
-curatorial practice
-art writing; writing as art
-arts-health & art-science entanglements
-running as an arts & humanities discourse
-live art & installation
-film/video/media and locative art


Says Kai (12/2019): ‘I’m excited about my new role, which converges my diverse interests as an artist, curator, researcher and consultant of the past twenty-five years. In such troubled, volatile times, managers and practitioners alike must interrogate how and why we are, and how we can and must do things differently. The programmes are timely and urgent too, given the World Economic Forum’s argument that posits creativity as key in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the Arts Council England’s £7m investment in leadership. I look forward to working with the arts, creative, cultural and other industries in Manchester, UK and worldwide to unpack, problematise & reimagine the possibilities of 'arts leadership'. Through a dynamic, interdisciplinary, internationalised and inclusive curriculum, and drawing on the School's outstanding track record as the UK's oldest comprehensive arts school (1838), as well as capitalising on the multi-disciplinary environs of Manchester Metropolitan University which is located in the UK's top liveable city (The Economist’s ‘Global Livability Index’, 2019) that has a proud punk history, I wish to invite us to consider ‘arts leadership’ as a critical intervention that can take place not just within the arts, creative and cultural sectors, but beyond, not just in terms of effecting change within organisations, but in culture, in thinking, in behaviour, and in society at large'. Enquiries welcome.


I am a UK-based artist, curator, consultant and academic. I seek to catalyse conversations and actions for a more equitable and creative future, and do so through mobilising artistic and artful processes to trespass disciplinary/cultural/geopolitical borders. My work is distinct for its ‘positive atmosphere’ (Guardian 2014), ’radical interdisciplinarity’ (UCL geographer Professor Alan Latham 2017) and ‘eclectic style and cheeky attitude‘ (Sydney Morning Herald 2006) that is ‘positively disruptive’ (National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award for Culture Change, 2018).

TACTICS: I use artistic/creative practices and research, interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogues and collaborations as processes of interrogation and expression, to energise, disrupt, connect, and catalyse new conversations towards change. I mobilise the body and mind in motion as modes of creative intervention to trouble and trespass borders/silos/‘norms’ (geopolitical, disciplinary, cultural) amid a world in motion/commotion. Scampering within/between/across crevices and boundaries, I engineer spaces of ‘productive antagonisms’ (Latham and Tan 2016) in a distinctive ‘ill-disciplined’ (Tan & Asherson 2018) approach, gathering diverse and divergent bodies and bodies of knowledge to generate new insights to issues/tasks. There are multiple, overlapping strands, including around: leadership, running, mind wandering and neurodiversity, (im)mobilities and borders, disability, health, gender and technology.

THE 900 SHOWS OR SO I have been involved in include Biennale of Sydney and Tokyo Designers’ Week, at Southbank Centre, MOMA (New York), Royal Geographical Society, Moscow’s Dom Muzyiki, BBC Radio3 & Fuji TV. Recognition includes National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award (Culture Change) and San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award. Collections include Museum of London and Fukuoka Art Museum.

STRANDS: I am described as ‘absolutely instrumental’ (Gregg Whelan 2015) in opening up what could be called ‘Running Studies’, and the person ‘who has done the most in seeking to develop an interdisciplinary discourse around running art and performance’ (Filmer 2020). This draws on my PhD research which was conducted at Slade School of Fine Art as a UCL scholar. My art-psychiatry commission, #MagicCarpet, explores mind wandering and neurodiversity and has been enjoyed by 10,000 people offline. Co-created with disabled colleagues, the £4m Opening and Closing Ceremonies of 8th ASEAN Para Games (I was Visual and Communications Director) was applauded as ‘spectacular’ by Singapore Prime Minister and game-changing and ‘most inclusive’ by the Singapore Association of the Deaf. I was Co-Curator with Professor of Architecture Ola Uduku of the Pan African Congress 75th Anniversary Celebrations PAC@75 with 11 creative, academic and community partner institutions, where student leaders took on leading Black thinkers Afua Hirsch, Lemn Sissay MBE, Gary Younge, David Olusoga and Princeton University’s historian Kwame Anthony Appiah. PAC@75’s media coverage reached 18.2m worldwide, including via a BBC Radio 4 programme, while its bespoke Youtube channel welcomed 2000 views in 3 weeks, with positive feedback from stakeholders in S Africa and Ghana. We now co-lead a 55-member action group to activate Black History Month 2021

CURRENTLY I am Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader and EDI Co-Lead at Manchester School of Art. Until 2020, I was King’s College London Visiting Research Fellow and King’s Artist. I am also UK Research and Innovation and Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College Member, Hear Me Out (empowering detained migrants through the arts since 2003) and Fermynwoods Contemporary Art trustee, founder + chair of RUN! RUN! RUN!, Manager of Running Cultures Research Group (90-members), co-founder and co-lead of Neurodiversity In/And Creative Research Network (120 members within first month), UK Adult ADHD Network (for professionals and researchers in mental health), Creative and Cultural Consultant, Philbeat (creative company in Singapore) consultant, and the first artist on the British Journal of Psychiatry Bulletin Editorial Board.


Kai Syng Tan is a member of the Art and Performance Research Hub.

A selection of recent research outputs.


Tan, KS., Smith, BAR., 2021. The World is a Work in Progress, Attenborough Arts Centre,, 25/9/2021 - 16/1/2022.

Tan, KS., Uduku, O., 2020. PAC@75: The Fifth Pan-African Conference 75th Anniversary Celebrations, Manchester Metropolitan University, 15/10/2020 - 18/10/2020.

Townsend, P., 2019. Psychoanalysis and the Creative Process (as curator), Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre, 28/3/2019 - 26/4/2019.

Tan, KS., 2018. #MagicCarpet tapestry art exhibition, Arts in Mind Festival, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, 4/6/2018 - 25/6/2018.

Tan, KS., 2018. Exhibition of tapestry art and film (Southbank Centre), Southbank Centre, 5/9/2018 - 9/9/2018.

Tan, KS., 2018. Making Mind Wandering Visible.

Tan, KS., 2018. Wandering Minds: exhibition of film 'Of Wanderings and Meaderings', South London Gallery, 5/6/2018 - 5/6/2018.

Tan, KS., 2017. Monologue Dialogue 4: Mysticism and Insecurity, Koppel Project Baker Street, 4/5/2017 - 1/7/2017.


Tan, KS., 2019. 'BJP volume 215 issue 3 Cover and Back matter'.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Communication materials for CIAO II Version 1.0 Randomised controlled trial of the short term effects of OROS-methylphenidate on ADHD symptoms and behavioural outcomes in young male prisoners with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder', Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry Centre.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Exceptional talent, the state of fun & islands of after death: one artist/curator/woman's tale of how art & mobilities collide through 100 slides', Peter Scott Gallery.

Tan, KS., 2017. 'Crossed wor(l)ds (unfloored) (brain drawing) (2019 itinerary) (after Brexit, Chagall, Billingham, Wes, Savage (commissioned art installation)', Social, Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry permanent collection.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'The Breathtakingly Brobdingnagian British Blue Battleship Catastrophical Cataclysmic Catalystic Customisable Cosmic Cat(suit)', Wellcome Images Library.


Tan, KS., 2020. 'Ten Reasons to Collaborate with Neurodiverse & Creative Allies (17/03/2020 Lecture + Masterclass for EU-funded consortium of scientists)', Frankfurt University Hospital, 17/3/2020 - 17/3/2020.

Tan, KS., Latham, A., 2019. 'ANTI Adult RUN! RUN! RUN!', Kuopio, Finland, 3/9/2015 - 5/9/2015.

Tan, KS., 2019. 'I Run and Run, Let Out an Earth Shattering Roar, and Turn into a Giant Octopussy and Other Tales of Unreasonable Adjustments (performance-lecture, Southbank Centre)', Southbank Centre, 6/9/2018 - 6/9/2018.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Exceptional talent, the state of fun & islands of after death: one artist/curator/woman's tale of how art & mobilities collide through 100 slides', Art & Mobilities Network Inaugural Symposium, Peter Scott Gallery, 3/7/2018 - 3/7/2018.

Tan, KS., Tan, P., 2016. 'Celebrate the Extraordinary: 8th ASEAN Para Games Opening & Closing Ceremonies performances and associated outputs', Singapore, 3/12/2015 - 9/12/2015.


Tan, KS., 2019. 'On Art, Neurodivesity & Giant Octopussies: Reflections on art-science commission #MagicCarpet', King's College London, King's College London.

Book Chapters

Tan, KS., 2020. 'Run Riot! On Mobilities, Life, and Death (of Civilisation), and the Reveries of Running Artfully'. In Büscher, M., Freudendal-Pedersen, M., Kesselring, S., Kristensen, NG. (eds.) Handbook on Research Methods and Applications for Mobilities, pp. 303-314, Edward Elgar Publishing.

Tan, KS., 2019. 'Running (in) Your City'. In Aguiar, M., Mathieson, C., Pearce, L. (eds.) Mobilities, Literature, Culture, pp. 163-186, Springer Nature, Palgrave Macmillan.

Tan, KS., 2017. 'Hand-in-Hand: Activating the Body in Motion to Re-Connect with Ourselves and Others amidst a World in Motion and Commotion'. In Drevon, G., Gwiazdzinski, L. (eds.) Chronotopies: Lecture et écriture des mondes en mouvement (Chronotopics: Readings and Writings on a World in Movement), pp. 59-69, Elya Editions, France.


Tan, KS., 2021. 'How to Thrive in 2050'.

Winkball Media, 2018. 'Interview of Tan by Winkball media'.


Tan, KS., Stahl, A., 2018. 'A Reflection on Monologue Dialogue 4: Mysticism and Insecurity. Art In An Insecure Age', University College London.

Internet Publications

Tan, KS., 2019. 'Effecting Change in Perspective Is a Challenging (and Hence Critical) Endeavour',

Tan, K., Asherson, P., 2018. 'How 'lofty' art can help the medical world reimagine mental health',

Tan, KS., Asherson, P., 2017. 'Come Sit on a Mat with an Artist and a Psychiatrist to Have a Chat about Mind Wandering, Gingerbread Men, Shark Baits, and the Interface of Normal/abnormal Behaviour',

Journal Articles

Tan, KS., 2021. 'Art and psychiatry in the 21st century: here's to more messy - and magical - entanglements', BJPsych Bulletin, pp. 1-4.

Gallo, LMH., Giampietro, V., Zunszain, PA., Tan, KS., 2021. 'Covid-19 and Mental Health: Could Visual Art Exposure Help?', Frontiers in Psychology, 12.

Tan, KS., 2021. 'The artful agile atypical octopussy', Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts, 26 (4), pp. 128-129.

Tan, KS., 2021. 'Towards an anti-racist Fine Art Ph.D.: 'Anti-racism productive antagonisms' (ARPA) for the supervisor, student and examiner', Art, Design & Communication in Higher Education, 20 (1), pp. 49-63.

Tan, KS., 2020. 'Power, Play and Pedagogy through the PowerPoint Performance-Lecture', International Journal of Management and Applied Research, 7 (3), pp. 382-394.

Tan, KS., 2019. '#ADHDwomen making #ADHDart to widen the discourse on ADHD, neurodiversity and mental health', PsychART.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'An exploration of running as metaphor, methodology, material through the RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale #r3fest 2016', Sport in Society, 22 (5), pp. 829-845.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'What else could 'neurodiversity' look like?', Disability Arts Online, 3.

Latham, A., Tan, KS., 2017. 'Running into each other: Run! run! run! a festival and a collaboration', Cultural Geographies, 24 (4), pp. 625-630.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'Tough Ultramarathons and Life on the Run', Transfers, 6 (3), pp. 130-137.

Kai Syng Tan, 2012. 'MONSTER', Cultural Critique, 80, pp. 105-105.

Tan, KS., 2012. 'Monster: A Work by Kai Syng Tan (Singapore, 2009)', Cultural Critique, 80 (1), pp. 105-106.

Non-Peer Reviewed Articles

Tan, KS., 2016. 'What Has Running Got to Do with Our Divided World?'.

Conference Papers

Proctor, R., Belessiotis-Richards, C., Homayoun, S., Eskinazi, M., Baban, A., Curran, M., Sedgwick, R., Blake, L., Fisher, M., Bansal, A., Tan, KS., 2019. 'Evaluation of a Conference on Psychiatry and the Arts: PsychART 18', Royal College of Psychiatry Congress 2019.

Tan, KS., 2019. 'Too Much/ Not Enough 'Neurodiversity' in UK Art & Academia?', Birkbeck Arts Week, Birkbeck, University of London, 21/5/2019 - 21/5/2019.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'Poster on running and health', Museums in Art & Health Conference, Whitworth Art Gallery.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'RUN! RUN! RUN!', Museums in Art & Health Conference, Whitworth Art Gallery.


Tan, KS., 2019. 'Neurodivergent Leaders in the Cultural and Academic Sectors?'.

Theses and Dissertations

Tan, KS., 2014. 'THE PHYSICAL AND POETIC PROCESSES OF RUNNING A Practice-Related Fine Art Discourse About A Playful Way To Transform Your World Today'.

Other Outputs

Tan, KS., 2020. '2020: Ten Reasons to Collaborate with Neurodiverse & Creative Allies'.

Tan, KS., 2020. 'An exploration of running as metaphor, methodology, material through the RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale #r3fest 2016'.

Tan, KS., 2020. 'Cat(suit)s and Caring in the Time of COVID-19'.

Tan, KS., 2020. 'Running Artfully Across Disciplines'.

Tan, KS., Cianetti, A., Jones, S., 2019. 'Too Much/Not Enough: Neurodiversity and Cultural Production (Podcast)'.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Art & Mobilities Network Inaugural Symposium'.

Tan, KS., Bozhilova, N., 2018. 'Diagram for Neuroscience journal article'.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale 2018'.

Tan, KS., Latham, A., 2018. 'RUN! RUN! RUN! International Festival of Running 2014'.

Tan, KS., Southern, J., 2018. 'The Art & Mobilities Network Inaugural Symposium Instant Journal'.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Wandering Minds: participatory art activity / speed dating'.

Tan, KS., 2018. 'Workshop/participatory art with primary school children, Arts in Mind Festival'.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale 2016'.

Tan, KS., 2016. 'Running across borders', Cianetti, A..

Tan, K., 2015. 'Running (in) the City'.

Tan, KS., 2014. 'RUN! RUN! RUN! International Festival of Running 2014 (interdisciplinary programme that I conceptualised, founded, curated and contributed to)'.