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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Tong (Ruby) Yang

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)
Tong (Ruby) Yang

Ruby Yang is an independent curator and art historian working in the field of art. She considers curating as a translating tool that bridges between the art and its audiences. Her work focuses on discovering new ways to understand identities and cultures within the current structure of the world.

        In her graduate dissertation, Where Do Platypus Go?: A Discussion on Intersectional Curation, Ruby discusses the importance and lack of intersectional perspective in our ways of understanding the world, and how intersectional thinking is needed within the current art institutions’ hierarchy. In her research, she looks at exhibitions that place intersectionality at the forefront, and institutions that are structurally aware of intersectionality in their daily practices, developing an understanding for the deficiency in art organizations’ approach to identities and cultural art.

        For her graduate project, Ruby co-curated Notes on Play, a commission project in collaboration with the British Library. The project re-interpreted the British Library Sound archive through commissioning artist Shenece Oretha. The project also aimed to bring a more diverse and multi-cultural perspective into the archive, while thematically called for attention to the importance of play in the current world. 

Shenece Oretha, Possibilities, 2021

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