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Artist in Residence

Kai Tan


Dr Kai Syng Tan FRSA SFHEA is the SGDP Artist in Residence.

Her work has appeared in 400 shows across 55 cities. They include Royal Geographical Society, Biennale of Sydney, MOMA, ZKM, ICA and LADA Study Guide. Recognition includes San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award and Artangle Open 100, and collections include the Museum of London and Fukuoka Art Museum. She completed her PhD at the Slade.

Currently Visiting Researcher and Artist in Residence at the SGDP, Kai is also Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Mobilities Research at Lancaster University, Director of RUN! RUN! RUN!, and Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College member.

You can follow her on Twitter @kaisyngtan





A practice-led research project in collaboration with Professor Philip Asherson, weaving science and art together to celebrate mind wandering, magic carpets, mapping, making, small talk and productive antagonisms.

Magic carpet Art Workers Guild resized

Does your mind wander? How far is too far? When does mental restlessness become impairment? How do the wanderings of the mind and body correlate?

#MagicCarpet draws on emerging research on the universality of mind wandering as well as how it relates to visual art and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The project aims to generate a creative space to explore the lines between ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ behaviours, imagination and pathology, art practice and scientific research.

It unfolds through a series of residencies, talks, workshops and the creation of a new participatory tapestry art installation. Kai captured her observations and interpretations of the world of psychiatry in drawings or maps and then weaved them into a tapestry art piece at Flanders Tapestries in Belgium.

The work ‘takes off’ when people sit on the tapestry, paired up with Kai, Philip or other artists and scientists from UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN) and Submit to Love Studios of Headway East London, a charity for people affected by brain injury, to chat about their mind wandering and to co-create new maps.

Magic carpet 3 resized

#MagicCarpet generated excitement from medical students, trainee psychiatrists, arts workers and service users and its involvement in PsychArt 2017, an annual conference celebrating psychiatry, the arts and creativity that is supported by the Royal College of Psychiatry, has helped to inspire the students to consider specialising in psychiatry. In September 2018 #MagicCarpet will showcase at the Southbank Centre, SEND Network Conference and the 5th European Network for Hyperkinetic Disorder International Conference in Edinburgh.

More information about #MagicCarpet can be found here

Photo credits: An evening of discussion and the launch of the #MagicCarpet, Art Workers' Guild, April 2018. 
Photographer: Marco Berardi. 
#MagicCarpet is commissioned by Unlimited, a programme funded by Arts Council England and delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin. The project is part of King's Artist In Residence programme supported by Cultural Programming and the SGDP Centre. TEAM: Artist: Dr Kai Syng Tan (KCL, UCL) / Mentor: Professor Philip Asherson (KCL) / Arts Production Manager: Alessandra Cianetti / Photographer: Enamul Hoque / Sound and Music Director: Philip Tan (Philbeat) / Film Director: Michael Larsson (Ohsoweird) / Social Media and Publicity Curator (R&D phase): David Kelly-Mancaux (Erkembode)  | PARTNERS: Submit To Love Studios (Headway East London), UK Adult ADHD Network (UKAAN).



Mind Wanderer Overboard

MagicCarpet_ROAMROAMROAM3_KaiSyngTan_LowRes (1)As mind wandering is universal but invisible, we designed a set of badges that people can wear to ‘out’ themselves as ‘mind wanderers’. The badges have quirky slogans, like ‘Mind Wanderer Overboard’, which is inspired by the ‘Baby On Board’ badges that pregnant women wear on the London Underground. People we interact with in our daily lives earn badges. Bright and big, the badges allow these people to in turn talk to yet other strangers, friends and family about their mind wandering.

So far, we have given out 150 badges, including children who like to collect all designs. Through this ripple effect, we estimate that have reached 150-500 people. We have also collected 70 drawings by people from different sectors and backgrounds about their mind wandering from various events, such as from psychiatrists and service users during the 2017 UK Adult ADHD Network Congress sessions. We are thus building a lexicon that externalises what our minds picture when we daydream. 

Photo credit: Photo from Badge-wearing Mind Wanders In Action series. Unlimited/Arts Council England commission 2017.



Films featuring Kai's projects:

King's Artist Dr Kai Syng Tan and Professor Philip Asherson, SGDP Centre, Film by Gemma Riggs


Dr. Kai Syng Tan at King's Artists – New Thinking, New Making, Film by Winkball


ADHD Awareness Month 2018 - Shine a light on ADHD, Film by ADHD in Adults


Of wanderings and meanderings, flitting in and out of reason, between legibility and magic. #MagicCarpet film poem


Let's Talk Mental Health: Episode 4 - Sarah Hughes. Film by Professor Louise Arseneault. ESRC 2018


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