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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Kahyun Lee

Notes on Play

For ‘Notes on Play’, multi-disciplinary artist Shenece Oretha was commissioned to make a new work in response to the ‘Playtimes’ collection within the British Library’s Sound Archive – a rich variety of recordings documenting the imaginative, subversive and interpretative nature of play. The project is in partnership with the British Library’s ‘Unlocking Our Sound Heritage’ (UOSH) programme.

Using selected material from the sound archive as a starting point, ‘Notes on Play’ explores the politics of play, the creative capacities of active listening and the effects and meaning of the archival itself. The project offers an alternative means for a new or expanded audience to engage with the archive. 

Through the act of listening to the collection our personal memories of childhood playtime can be conjured, which – beyond mere nostalgia – creates a sense of liveliness and palpability to our own, unique archive of imagination. Actively listening to the archive is also a means to critically re-examine it, to be attentive to who or what is missing. The lack of racial diversity in the digitised sound collection, despite existing in a national archive, reminds us of the urgency to address what archives do and who they are for. With this in mind, ‘Notes on Play’ aims to encourage listening – as a methodology and as an active practice –  to be attentive not only towards what we can hear, but also towards what we cannot. Far from being static or passive, we understand the sound archive as a dynamic and active body that can be altered and reimagined, that can be a source for creativity – an artistic medium in itself that can be played with.

Curated by Mahamed Abdullahi, Maria Abramenko, Liza-Rose Burton, Rodrigo Chaveiro, Matilde Silva Fry, Kahyun Lee and Ruby Yang.


Degree Details

School of Arts & Humanities

Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Kahyun Lee is an independent curator, cultural producer, writer and translator based in London and Seoul. She is interested in curatorial as a method of critical practice, knowledge production and alternative history writing. Her practice is centred on transnational curatorial methodologies embracing a multitude and plurality of artistic languages in the globalised art world. Through her practice, she aims to initiate critical engagement and rethink the hegemony of institution with a focus on modern and contemporary art practice in Asia and the Asian diaspora. 

Her dissertation, Korean Artists in Western Institutions in Transnational Contemporary Art World examines the representation of Korean born artists in global art discourse, specifically in the western institutional context. The case study of the research probes into text and publication produced by major institutions and analyses how contemporary art practice from Asia is situated and interpreted. 

As part of the graduate project, she co-curated Notes on Play, an artist commission in partnership with the British Library’s sound archive. Drawing upon rich recording resources from the sound archive, the project explored the politics of play, collective memory of archive and Black diaspora. 

Alongside research and curating, she translates publications in arts and cultural fields. Translated publications include History of Design and Design Protection (scheduled to be published by Kyoto University Press, 2021), Red Ink by Max Pinckers, Photographs of Soap: Ways of Art by Inhwa Hwang, Gwangju Design Biennale: United Korean Design United Korean Flags Exhibition Catalogue and Changwon Asia Art Festival for Young Artists 2019 Catalogue

She obtained a master’s degree in Curating Contemporary Art at Royal College of Art, London. Prior to RCA, she studied Art History and Theory at Hongik University, Seoul. 

Shenece Oretha, Possibilities, 2021

This is a trailer of Shenece Oretha’s Possibilities which is a commissioned work for Notes on Play.