Artist: R2D2, 1996 - 2008
(pictured behind the installation)
Materials: Found objects (tank tops, polo shirt), in situ flooring
Analysis: In this work we see the artist expressing his awareness of both the social milieu of the neighborhood in which he lives and his own exclusion from said milieu. Although the artist finds himself excluded from the most prestigious social groups in the "gay ghetto" of Toronto through the idiosyncratic (yet still irredeemably cruel) bigotries of speciesism, neuteredism, and not-allowed-outdoors-because-he's-an-indoor-catism, he shows a remarkable ability to broaden his implicit social commentary to the more commonly experienced bigotries of ageism and body fascism as they are manifested in the community, concomitantly broadening his potential audience for this piece. Notice how the ribbed, tight-fitting tank tops are presented in an intimate, almost flirtatious relationship to each other, safely ensconced on the soft, comfortable kitchen carpet. Indeed, the dark grey tank top occupying the powerful cynosure of the center of the carpet seems to be eagerly inviting the even skimpier blue tank top to join it in this position of esteem and visibility. The much baggier polo shirt, on the other hand, is not only ignored by the two tank tops, but has been marginalized in a quite literal sense - pushed entirely off the carpet onto the cold, black tile of social exclusion. Some critics have discounted the faded orange color of the polo shirt as a simple accident caused by the capriciousness of the artist's "owner" in leaving only this one particular polo shirt on the bedroom floor to be found by the artist. This critic, however, regards ideas of patronage or "ownership" of an individual artist to be insulting and damaging to the integrity of the artistic vision. While the choice of materials may indeed be limited by the oppressive, neo-colonialist atmosphere under which this artist is forced to labor, this in no way reduces the symbolism he is able to express given the infinite possibilities of artistic manipulation. Once this latter paradigm is accepted by the viewer, the faded orange color can be seen as a metaphor for the vanishing bloom of lost youth, rather than as mere happenstance. Finally, the artist's true sympathies are apparent, not just because he chooses to be photographed near the "excluded" polo shirt, but because this shirt is portrayed as being able to almost completely surpass the exclusion of the black tile and stake out its own territory on a portion of the wooden floor in the background. This wooden floor may not be soft and may not occupy the highly visible foreground; but unlike the all-synthetic carpet, it has a degree of authenticity and "realness" that the tank tops are completely oblivious to and may never be able to achieve until they manage to transcend their mindless conformity and insularity. Overall, this piece shows an unusual maturity and keen social vision for this artist that was hinted at in earlier works such as Sweat[er|shirt] and Yogurt! Hyk, hyk, hyk, bleeeeauuurgh!!, but has only achieved fruition in this, his masterpiece.