To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat documents a solo exhibition of work by African-Canadian artist Esmaa Mohamoud. Organized by Museum London and curated by Matthew Kyba, the exhibition was held at Museum London, September 14, 2019 to January 5, 2020. The exhibition subsequently toured to the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Spring-Summer 2021), Ottawa Art Gallery (Fall 2021-Winter 2022), and Winnipeg Art Gallery (Fall 2022-Winter 2023). Major essays by writers Matthew Kyba and Geneviève Wallen address the ways in which the artist’s multimedia work interrogates the intersection of racism, professional sports, and racial identity. An interview between Esmaa Mohamoud and Robert Enright uncovers the thematic trajectory and influences operating in the artist’s career to date.
Taking inspiration from the African American writer Ralph Ellison, Mohamoud explores the ways in which Black bodies at once appear―and yet are rendered metaphorically invisible―within the spaces they navigate. To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat re-examines understandings of contemporary Blackness, questioning the definitions of Blackness as a colour and shade, and/or as a societal or cultural construction.
Mohamoud draws on the modern industry of professional sports, which she equates with a covert form of neo-slavery. The London, Ontario-born artist transforms athletic equipment and symbols to illustrate pervasive, discriminatory behaviours and attitudes based on race, class, gender, and sexuality. She examines collective and individual struggle, focusing on the homogenization of bodies within high-level athletics, and the enforced play out of competitive violence between Black subjects. Through sculpture, photography, video, and installation, she investigates how high-level athletics operate as sites of corporate profit and discrimination.Published by the Art Gallery of Hamilton, 2021, debossed softcover, 79 pages 9 x 9.75 inches.
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