Floaters vs. Sinkers
Location: SUB, first floor, men’s washroom
Medium: Etching on bathroom stall wall
Gallery hours: Open 24/7
Floaters vs. Sinkers has existed in the leftmost stall of the first-floor men’s washroom in SUB since before I started studying at the University of Alberta. It is the seminal piece in the shifting bathroom art hyper-scape at the U of A.
Notice the construction of “tallies” on the stall wall, the consequent destruction of these marks by janitorial staff, and the inevitable reconstruction of this expression. A clear effort by the artist to situate the work in an Apollonian and Dionysian cycle of measured restraint and frenzied self-forgetting. By presenting a self-conscious re-meditation of exhibition via the artist and the audience, he seizes and reifies the bathroom space. When we compare Floaters vs. Sinkers to fuck you written in black felt marker in the second stall from the right on the second floor of FAB, we are struck by the comparative sophistication of the former. Consider the brutal stroke with which the artist engraves “floaters” and the bathroom context in which it is situated — it is a coded critique of phallocentrism — evoking the image of a castrated penis, the crumbling heterosexual matrix, and the modal spectator. Furthermore, by portraying floaters in a dichotomous relation to sinkers, he unveils underlying socio-cultural tensions in the campus dialectic. Are we the floaters? Sheltered PLLC scholars drifting through university on dad’s payroll? Or are we the sinkers? Spiraling down the drain of minimum wage jobs and student debt? Floaters vs. Sinkers brings this succinct phantasmagoria to the forefront of our unconscious. A tour de force of bathroom art.
See it in the first floor SUB men’s bathroom permanent collections — next to the “grunt it out” etching.