Ladies and mens room mixup, Inkonst Malmö (November 2008)

Ladies’ and Men’s Room Mixup explored the norms of gender relations in a nightclub environment. It consisted of two LED displays mounted on two toilet doors. The displays would show a male icon on one door and a female icon on the other. When more than five participants had entered either of the doors, the sign would switch, consequently turning the ladies’ room into the men’s room and vice versa.

The intention was to spark intergender conversations between nightclub visitors. This was done by creating enough confusion for them to engage in conversation with each other about which toilet would be the right one to enter and, more specifically, spark conversations about why the toilet would be filled with the “wrong” gender when they entered.

The design was inspired by the tacit ways in which participants engaged with each other at nightclubs. Compared to other situations in everyday life, this struck us as odd. For example, the local basketball court has culturally understood norms of how to interact through the rules of the game.

Similarly, folk dance has a long tradition of dance routines where social mingling is embedded in the dance. Throughout each dance, one has to switch partners until one has danced with everyone. The switching of the toilet signs served as an indirect approach to creating opportunities for participants to mingle and engage socially with each other.

The rather simple setup created a massive number of conversations between the participants. The signs created a ripple effect of social disruption that forced everyone to communicate and debate which room to consider the appropriate one to enter. The conversations seemed to be playfully engaging. Participants would smile as they approached a toilet filled with people of the opposite gender. It seemed as if the participants enjoyed being victims of a situation that they did not entirely understand. Further, some participants actively turned the situation to their own advantage by becoming guides for others who needed to resolve the confusion of the mixed genders. They became performers of their own social narratives.


Source code:

Credits Daniel Brynolf, Mads Hobye, Nicolas Padfield and Vanessa Carpenter.

Multiple types af identity formats were explores: Nationality, Gender identity, Sexual Orientation etc.