School of Art Friday Lecture: Kai Syng Tan


  • 11.30am

  • Edinburgh College of Art Main Building, West Court
    74 Lauriston Place
    Edinburgh
    EH3 9DF

Ill-Disciplined: Creative Interventions in Higher Education

Ill-Disciplined is a playful provocation for Higher Education (HE) to embrace the critical and creative role of art. Framed as an art manifesto, it outlines fifteen points. Art practice and neurodiversity (broadly, neurological variations that are seen as outside the cognitive norm) are key, as is being ‘ill-disciplined’, which is an interdisciplinary approach that is playful and subverts conventional notions of ‘illness’ and ‘normality’. Drawing on artistic interventions by Tan including #MagicCarpet (from 2017) and RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale (from 2014), Ill-Disciplined urges HE to re-examine the often lazy and insincere claims to ‘innovation’, and ‘interdisciplinarity’, not least through the instrumentalisation of artistic research for ‘public engagement’ or ‘impact’, amid the neoliberalisation of HE. It also takes on art historian James Elkins’ invitation to reconsider the place of artistic research in HE and, through this process, reassess ‘the coherence of the university as a whole’. Ill-Disciplined puts forward a case for how art and other ‘soft and pure’ disciplines must help develop processes for discourse and lead social change, particularly given the hostile reality today. The workshop in the afternoon is a hands-on feet-on exercise entitled Hand In Hand: Wellbeing in an Unwell World?. This draws on a commissioned participatory work previously shared at Grenoble Festival 2016 and Whitworth Art Gallery during CultureShots (2016). All are welcome, no running experience or change of clothes needed.

About the speaker

Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA SFHEA is an artist, consultant, curator and academic. She is best known for gathering diverse and divergent bodies and bodies of knowledge to engineer spaces of ‘productive antagonisms’ (Latham & Tan 2016) across disciplinary, geopolitical and cultural boundaries, in what she calls an interdisciplinary ‘ill-disciplined’ approach (Tan & Asherson 2018). Her work is concerned with the body and mind in motion as a mode of interrogation and intervention in a world in motion and commotion. Marked by an 'eclectic style and cheeky attitude' (Sydney Morning Herald 2006), 'radical interdisciplinarity' (geographer Alan Latham 2016) and ‘positive atmosphere’ (Guardian 2014), Kai’s has shown at Biennale of Sydney, American Association of Geographers Annual meeting and Tokyo Designers’ Week. Venues include Science Museum, Southbank Centre and MOMA (New York). Media engagement include BBC Radio3 and Fuji TV. Recognition includes National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Images Award 2018 and San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award 1998, while collections include Museum of London and Fukuoka Art Museum. Kai is ‘absolutely instrumental’ (Gregg Whelan 2015) in co-pioneering ‘Running Studies’, which investigates running as an arts and humanities discourse and draws on her PhD (UCL Slade School of Fine Art 2014). She is manager of a 70-person Running Cultures Research Network that she co-founded in 2014. Her Arts Council England-funded Unlimited commission, #MagicCarpet, is ‘beautiful’ (Disability Arts Online 2018) and creates new conversations about neurodiversity, while the £4m Opening and Closing Ceremonies of 8th ASEAN Para Games (with Kai as Visual and Communications Director) was ‘spectacular’ (Singapore Prime Minister 2015). With colleagues at Centre for Mobilities Studies, she also helped to set up the Art & Mobilities Network at Lancaster University (2018). Kai is Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Art and Artist in Residence at King’s College London. She is also UKRI and AHRC Peer Review College Member, Music in Detention Trustee, UK Adult ADHD Network Creative and Cultural Consultant, and Advisor to PsychART.