A sushi restaurant in Vienna has recently become the focus of a new so called "art project" created by the Austrian artist Alexander Riegler. The art installation is in effect a one-way mirror that allows men to peer from their restroom into that of the ladies. Women first became aware that they were being spied upon when a local paper ran a piece on the mirror, leading to many complaints and the restaurant having to put up a sign warning women about the mirror upon entry to the restroom.
Why should we be taken aback by such a mirror that allows men a glimpse of the sink area of the women's restroom? The women's toilets have always been a place of sanctuary, a place to retouch make-up, bond over the lack of toilet roll, and share of feminine products in the case of an emergency–why should men be allowed such surveillance over this area of our lives?
The artist's intentions for the piece were to spark a discussion of "voyeurism and surveillance" but by first not informing the subjects of the project seems to be a large intrusion of privacy. Then, by putting up a sign warning of it, the unconscious behaviours exhibited by the women are removed, therefore nullifying the project altogether.
The future intention of the project is that the mirror will be flipped so that women will be able to peer into the men’s bathroom. With men’s urinals present however, this would surely push the project further into voyeurism and further from the realms of art. The case for the project is perhaps showing an increasingly open society in which more and more aspects of the different genders' habits are to be shared, but there are some things in life that should surely be kept behind the stall door.
Girl Museum Inc.