Antonio Roberts, Heavyweight Champ, 2021. Image: Antonio Roberts
Antonio Roberts’ Heavyweight Champ uses glitch aesthetics to highlight how black characters have been depicted in video games. The title of this artwork alludes to an arcade game released by Sega in 1976 which allowed players to control a black fictional boxer. Heavyweight Champ is believed to be the first game to feature a black character: an athlete, to be precise, who is competing in a violent "sport" for a vast white audience.
Heavyweight Champ, Sega, 1976.
While African American artists including Sondra Perry and Rindon Johnson actively question the photorealistic aspirations of gaming tech to highlight their inherent biases in the depiction of the black body and black identity, Birmingham-based artist and curator Roberts is more interested in the "poor image", the glitch as a metaphorical and not simply visual distortion. With Heavyweight Champ, Roberts is actively interpellating the viewers, challenging them to decipher what they are looking at exactly.
Heavyweight Champ is currently on display in the group show Cut & Mix (October 30 2021- January 9 2022 at the New Art Exchange gallery in Nottingham, United Kingdom) alongside new artworks from Beverley Bennett, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Michael Forbes, Amartey Golding, Keith Piper, and, Marlene Smith. Curated by Ian Sargeant,
Cut & Mix interrogates and challenges notions of race, gender, sexualities, class, place and identities in relation to Black British masculinities. The exhibition creates a dialogue between past, present and future representations. The exhibition features works by seven Black British artists spanning from photography to film and from installation to drawings that defies stereotypical representations to make space for playfulness, joy, the multiplicity of being and vulnerability.
Antonio Roberts, is a new media artist and curator based in Birmingham UK, notable for his work in the areas of glitch art, installation art and live coding performance, including live visuals and/or music performances at algoraves.
LINK: Antonio Roberts
LINK: Cut & Mix