Kai Syng Tan is an artist with a 20-year international portfolio. After running about in the art world (dOCUMENTA; Biennale of Sydney; transmediale; Artangle Open100; San Francisco International Film Festival New Visions Merit Award; Young Artist Award; President’s Young Talent award), she returned to the Slade School of Fine Art and completed her Fine Art PhD as a University College London Scholar.

With Dr Alan Latham (UCL Geography), she runs the RUN! RUN! RUN! International Body for Research, which investigates and promotes running as a creative and critical technology that can enable us to re-imagine the way we engage with the world. Situated within and beyond the artistic and academic worlds, RUN! RUN! RUN! exercises are public- and world-facing, rigorous, theoretically-grounded and disruptive as they are light-footed, light-hearted and bonkers.

Kai runs slowly with a funny gait.

She works with Creative Director Philip Tan as Visual Director for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 8th ASEAN Para Games to be held in Singapore in December 2015.


Artist website



At EX PARTE, Dr Kai Syng Tan with present Life on the RUN! RUN! RUN!  a new work in response to the theme and site of Exparte.

For Blaise Pascal, human beings’ nature ‘consists in motion; complete rest is death’. This echoes the words of Lao Zi who describes human beings as ‘soft and nimble when living, but firm and rigid when dead.’ In other words, stagnancy is associated with death, and movement with life.

Dr Kai Syng Tan’s work brings this ethos to life. It scrutinises the poetics of physical, imaginative and virtual movements — via running. ‘Life on the RUN! RUN! RUN!’ explores running as a critical and creative strategy for the 21st contemporary individual, with a focus on the physical and poetic processes of ‘being on the run’.

What are the new frontiers or grand tours for the 21st century mobile citizen? What does it mean to be a political, digital, existential and intellectual exile, with ‘no home to return to’  (Lao Zi)? What are the ways in which we can engage with or run against the city and state? How can running function as a creative and critical strategy? What are the ways in which mobility function as a metaphor for resistance, set against the status quo, against things ‘coming to a standstill’ or ‘taking things lying down’? In this age of increased border control, paranoia and surveillance, (how) can we cross borders and remain or become autonomous? 

Kai samples practices and theories from different schools of thought, including Situationism, paleoanthropology and the Chinese philosophy of Daoism (Taoism). She also shares what she has learnt first-hand (or rather, ‘first-feet’) as someone who has called Tokyo, London, Leeds, Chicago and Singapore ‘home’. Kai presents her paper in the form of a ‘performance-lecture’, with a generous application of running-related metaphors. Drawing on the traditions of the performance-lecture (Walid Raad/Atlas Group) and cine-essay (Chris Marker, Agne Varda), Kai’s brand of performance-lectures are scripted talks are accompanied by highly-collaged moving images. Sound and image dance and battle with each another, enacting the exuberance of running, yet also raising questions about academic and artistic conventions of knowledge production.

Life on the RUN! RUN! RUN! is part of a larger work entitled Bodies on the RUN! RUN! RUN!, a two-year project that consists of a film, book and website. The work will be  largely created on the move, at locations exotic and mundane, actual and virtual.

‘Life on the RUN! RUN! RUN!’ premieres on 20 June 2015, 1700hrs-1730hrs, at the Brick Lane Gallery, 196 Brick Lane, London E1 6SA, London, UK.