Recording Available for Shadowboxing Panel with Community Leader in Residence Abdi Osman, JORIAL & Christopher Smith

On September 29 2021, The ArQuives partnered with artist Abdi Osman, Trinity Square Video, Curator Ellyn Walker and the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies for a panel about Abdi Osman’s Shadowboxing exhibit. Panelists Abdi Osman, JORIAL (John Richard Allan), and Christopher Smith explore histories of queer cruising from local perspectives. Abdi Osman is one of the 2021-22 Community Leaders in Residence at the Bonham Centre’s Queer and Trans Research Lab.


a public installation by Abdi Osman

curated by Ellyn Walker

15 September – 02 November 2021, sunset to 11PM daily

The ArQuives: Canada’s LGBTQ2+ Archives

34 Isabella Street, Toronto

Co-presented in partnership with Trinity Square Video and The ArQuives

shadowboxing {verb} /ˈSHadōˌbäksiNG/

– making a show of tackling a problem or opponent while avoiding any direct engagement

– sparring an imaginary opponent as a form of combat exercise within martial arts training

Within the shadows of some of the more well-known sites of queer cruising – public parks, back alleyways, and bathroom stalls – connections importantly take shape that defy impossibility. Cruising is an otherwise encounter created between individuals who, despite the increased surveillance and targeted policing of these sites, live, gather, and dream otherwise.

Shadowboxing (2021) is a public installation by Toronto artist Abdi Osman that builds on his ongoing research surrounding the gaps between experiences and representations of queer cruising, space- and place-making in the city. Visible to pedestrians without being in direct sightline, a projection of lush green park environments documented by Osman from sites across the city appears from the upper window of the ArQuives’s building – a heritage home located in what is considered Toronto’s gay village. Osman’s holdings and records of queer, locational fortitude speak to the countless compounded sites around us where bodies have forged connections in time and space in spite of continued realities of homophobia, racism and white supremacy that exist in Toronto, and beyond.

The projection is augmented by an online audio work that features local oral histories about queer cruising from the perspectives and experiences of Black, queer, and trans community members, as recorded by the artist.

Through the metaphor of shadowboxing as a relational, defensive, and precarious state, this public art installation invites viewers to consider some of the shifting conditions in which queer connection takes place. In this way, shadows offer and represent radical spaces, involving environmental and bodily negotiations that are always site-specific.

Abdi Osman is a Somali-Canadian multidisciplinary artist whose work focuses on questions of black masculinity as it intersects with Muslim and queer identities. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions, as well as festivals, across Canada and internationally such as at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, the Gardiner Museum, the Art Gallery of Mississauga, Thames Art Gallery, The National Museum of Kenya (Kenya), Goethe Institute, Johannesburg (South Africa) and Iwalewahaus The Centre for African Contemporary Art and Culture (Germany). His work has been widely written about and published in academic, arts, and cultural studies anthologies, journals, and catalogues including Archi-feministes!; Art contemporain, theories feministes/Contemporary Art, Feminist Theories, Writing Black Canada: Transitions, the Journal of Canadian Studies, Public, Kapsula Magazine and Drain: Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture and Canadian Art. Osman holds an MFA in Documentary Media from Ryerson University and a B.A. in African Studies from the University of Toronto. He has held fellowships and participated in artist residencies at the Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Creativity at the University of Saskatchewan, the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies at the University of Bayreuth, Germany, the McColl Centre for Visual Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, and currently at the Mark Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. Osman will begin his Community Leadership residency at the Queer and Trans Research Lab (QTRL) housed at the Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies in 2021.

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