Kai Syng Tan

Associate Professor in Arts and Cultural Leadership
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton

Kai Syng Tan PhD PFHEA (she/they @kaisyngtan)

I am an Associate Professor in Arts and Cultural Leadership at the Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. My portfolio as an artist-academic-agitator is hyperactive and tentacular. My current research – re-imagining leadership as a co-creative, neuro-queered practice centring anti-oppression, decolonisation and futurity – draws on my background as a neurodivergent migrant from a working-class up-bringing. I am a change-maker (as Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival juror, awarding the top award to an anonymous filmmaker formerly imprisoned by the Myanmar military junta; as trustee of a charity for detained refugees, drove its radical transformation by embedding co-creation and anti-oppression practices,  leading to the appointment of its first, black neurodivergent female Artistic Director in December 2023), curator and creative director (leading programmes ranging from £0 to £4.8m, including a Black History Month celebration that reached 18.2 million worldwide, and the opening and closing ceremonies of Asia’s Paralympics praised as ‘game-changing’ by disability groups), trans-disciplinary innovator (first artist on a Royal College of Psychiatrist’s editorial board), artist (San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Film Award; National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement Culture Change Award; Young Artist Award conferred by the president of Singapore; showcases in MoMA, Guangzhou Triennale and Royal Geographical Society), provocateur (regularly delivering keynote lectures; expert advisor for UK and Singapore government bodies, international research councils and even a ministry of defence), research innovator (acknowledged as ‘absolutely instrumental’ in re-framing running as creative discourse, through her curated RUN! RUN! RUN! Biennale, as well as Running Cultures and Running Artful Networks; founded and/or (co-)led 6 global research networks, including the 410-member Neurodiversity In/& Creative Research Network), creative theorist/writer (currently working on three books re-defining leadership with Palgrave MacMillan 2024, Routledge 2025, World Scientific 2025; other publications include BBC, Guggenheim, Frontiers Psychology and The Manila Times), as well as mentor, teacher and academic developer (awarded Principal Fellowship; taught in 200 universities worldwide; regularly delivers masterclasses, such as for Royal Society of Arts, and 870 brain and mind experts from 17 countries, 14th International Conference on ADHD in Berlin).

Photo: Kai Syng Tan 2023. Interview with NHK (Japan Public Broadcaster), Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival. Photograph by Lim Kah Wai.

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