Why This Woman Allowed Strangers to Grope Her in Public

June 28th 2016

Milo Moiré is not afraid to express herself through art.

After about 1,000 women were sexually assaulted on New Year's Eve at a train station in Cologne, Germany, Moiré stood naked holding up a sign that read (in German) "Respect Us! We are not fair game even when naked!!!"

So her latest public art performance, though bizarre and brazen to many, made perfect sense to her. It's a complex statement about sex, power, consent, agency, and equality.

"Mirror Box"

Milo Moiré Mirror BoxPeter Palm

Moiré wore a mirrored box over her chest and then over her genitals and hit the streets. She invited total strangers to touch her breasts and vagina through the openings in the box. Oh, and there were cameras within the box to record the experience.

"I am standing here today for women's rights and sexual self-determination. Women have a sexuality, just like men have one. However, women decide for themselves when and how they want to be touched, and when they don't," Moiré announced through a megaphone.

She then invited the crowd to touch her for a maximum of 30 seconds. And they did.

ATTN: spoke with Moiré about "Mirror Box."

ATTN: Did any women touch you? If so, how many?

Moiré: During my Performance in Dusseldorf, Germany, with the Mirror Box on my breasts, around 40 percent of the people who touched my breasts were women. Whereas in Amsterdam and London, two female participants overall put their hands in the genital Mirror Box. The women told me that they wanted to support me and were curious about the experience. Many women were standing and observing from the beginning until the end, especially during the vaginal performance. The facial expressions of most women seemed eager and amazed to me.

Milo Moiré Mirror BoxPeter Palm

ATTN: Was Mirror Box inspired by any one particular event or incident?

Moiré: The performance is an homage to the Austrian artist Valie Export. She was already fighting for women’s rights in the 1960s through artistic actions like the “Tap and Touch Cinema” (i.e. breast cinema) in 1968.

Furthermore, this performance has been brought out of the "archive" as an expanded reenactment (with mirrors and genital cinema) to gave a symbol for the consensual nature of sex. Based on the Cologne attacks and the discussion about sexual self-determination and respect towards women, I decided to go one step further to revise the image of this [inhuman] sexual abuse.

ATTN: What did you want people to gain from this experience of touching your body?

Moiré: The Mirror Box performance states that women are equal partners in sexuality, not only receivers. As a woman, I have — just like any man — the power and the right to possess a sexual nature, and I have to agree before we can have sex. There are rules. During my performance, for instance, people who put their hands in the box have to look me in the eyes, there has to be interaction. Through the eye contact and the feedback I could see the people, but make it clear what I like, and that is a natural act. People have always been very respectful — I’ve never had to give negative feedback.

Milo Moiré Mirror BoxPeter Palm

Additionally I want to take the liberty of showing female desire, thus giving women a sexual voice. It supplements the dominant image of the female body as a mirror of male desire through the illumination of the libidinous black box of woman.

The paradox is that sexuality makes us stand out, it is a basic human need, without which [none] of us would exist. Nevertheless, nudity and sex are associated with negative labels. Sex is digitally consumed, but in real life a naked body is a taboo, something immoral.

Milo Moiré mirror boxPeter Palm

ATTN: In London, you were arrested for your work. Was it worth it?

Moiré: Being in a cell is a horrible experience. Nevertheless, I would take the risk again, because for me the purpose is too important. In the end, I see more hope than fear guiding my performances. Seeing as my performance art polarizes, I was surprised and pleased about how many people worldwide, and many, many women, too, got my message!

Milo Moiré arrestedWan Li

ATTN: While doing Mirror Box, did you ever feel worried for your safety?

Moiré: Since I perform usually in public, I learned to handle worries about my safety. However, Mirror Box was my most intimate performance, and I prepared everything meticulously. My boyfriend is always by my side. Nothing really dangerous happened, fortunately.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can see or purchase more of Moiré's work here. You can watch some of Mirror Box below.

[H/T Shaded Pencil]

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