Watching people in a bathroom might not sound like art, but for Denver artist Cinthea Fiss and her Los-Angeles-based partner Kelly Hashimoto, it's the perfect way to explore the line between the public and private spheres. Fiss and Hashimoto's video installation "Buck Stop: Pro-Vanities in the Bathroom," along with the work of eight other Colorado artists, makes up the Electronic Easel exhibit opening at the CU Art Galleries this weekend. The show explores the relationship between art and technology. Leslie Broersma's computer "wall," for example, addresses the political implications of living in a technology-based society, while Angela B. Forster exposes mass media's disturbing images of women and Timothy Weaver presents what is termed "virtual-reality poetry."
Fiss and Hashimoto are especially interested in the increased use of surveillance in today's society. Their project was conceived one day in 1996, while they were casually videotaping each other as they prepared for a gallery opening. One of the women changed her skirt, the other put on lipstick -- and the resulting footage revealed the power one holds in becoming the object that others will look at. The two presented their installation at 71 Spot Gallery in New York, where they used four monitors to show people entering the room, along with live footage from the gallery's bathroom, where people could be found primping in front of a mirror. Visitors will get an eyeful at the Boulder exhibit, too, as the installation includes three monitors -- one playing footage of a children's beauty pageant, another running an ad for Acura's Global Positioning System and the third conveying images from a surveillance camera monitoring the gallery's space. Hashimoto and Fiss are still working out the details, but they might use toilets to simulate a bathroom in the gallery. "We want to see how people react in a private situation," says Hashimoto. "When people know they are being watched, they tend to perform."
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"People aren't just primping in a small setting. Now they can be looked at by the entire world," adds Fiss, an electronic media art design professor at the University of Denver. "We want people to question their own ideas of vanity."