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The Art Gallery of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located in Treaty 6 Territory, the traditional land of diverse Indigenous Peoples including the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Beaver Cree, Nitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Anishinaabe/Saulteaux/Ojibwe and Dene Peoples. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous, Inuit and Métis people who make Alberta their home today.

Esmaa Mohamoud: To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat

To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat is a celebration of diversity and an urgent call to action around issues of racial marginalization. Taking inspiration from the African American writer Ralph Ellison, artist Esmaa Mohamoud explores the ways in which Black bodies at once appear―and yet are rendered metaphorically invisible―within the spaces they navigate. She aims to re-examine 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, focussing on the homogenization of bodies within high-level athletics, and the enforced playout 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.

The dozen artworks in this exhibition consider a variety of concerns. Mohamoud’s appropriation of basketball jerseys within Victorian-era ballgowns, for example, complicates the sport’s fraught relationship with queer, gender-fluid, and female identities. Hockey mesh becomes a physical barrier that articulates the economic privileges and barriers that define contemporary sport. Reconstructed football equipment, including branded black leather footballs and African wax-printed helmets, celebrate cultural plurality through their exuberant, diverse designs, while also protesting the staged enactment of Black violence for entertainment.

Guest curated by Matthew Kyba, To Play in the Face of Certain Defeat is a plea to address the inherent inequities driving the contemporary sports entertainment systems, while envisioning agency, resilience, and collective strength.

Curated by Matthew Kyba, and organized and circulated by Museum London.

Bios

Esmaa Mohamoud (Canadian, b. 1992), is a Toronto based African Canadian artist. She holds a BFA from Western University (2014) and an MFA from OCAD University (2016). Mohamoud has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Montreal. Recent exhibitions include: To the Hoop: Basketball and Contemporary Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, UNCG, Greensboro, NC, USA and Human Capital, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK, Canada. Upcoming projects and exhibitions include: Artworks TO Year of Public Art, Toronto; The Bentway, Signature Public Art Commission, Toronto; and  Garmenting: Costume and Contemporary Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY, USA. 

Esmaa Mohamoud is a multidisciplinary artist whose work investigates Black body politics, depicting aesthetically the paradoxes of Blackness, its hypervisibility and invisibility, concerning herself with the ways in which racialized bodies navigate spaces as figures where complex gender and racial dynamics are confronted, performed and reimagined. Through a range of media which includes photography, sculpture, installation and performance, her powerful imagery suggests deeper forces at play in games like basketball and football, exploring how race and sports (institutions that commoditize and dehumanize Black life) also function together as a means of social mobility and protest. Drawing on materials from the industries of sport, construction and fashion, from used football helmets and textiles, to concrete and re-purposed metal chains, Mohamoud unveils how the plantation slavery system and its post-slave expressions have both defied and supported conditions of human bondage (both mental and physical), yet also build communities of resistance and resiliency.

Hours

Monday: closed
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: 11am-5pm
Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday: 11am-5pm
Saturday: 11am-5pm
Sunday: 11am-5pm

Admission

AGA members
FREE
Youth 0-17
FREE
Alberta students 18+
FREE
Out-of-province students
$10
General admission
$14
Seniors 65+
$10

Location

2 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T5J 2C1

780.422.6223
info@youraga.ca

Directions

The Art Gallery of Alberta respectfully acknowledges that we are located in Treaty 6 Territory, the traditional land of diverse Indigenous Peoples including the Plains Cree, Woodland Cree, Beaver Cree, Nitsitapi/Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Anishinaabe/Saulteaux/Ojibwe and Dene Peoples. We also acknowledge the many Indigenous, Inuit and Métis people who make Alberta their home today.