Project Place Mats

In collaboration with Auberge Shalom... pour femmes. This project was also part of immixion - sites of engagement which was mostly a series of discussions about public art and community-based artistic projects held under the auspices of Gallery Daredare (Montreal).

The following are excerpts from the February 19, 1996 press release:

Auberge Shalom... pour femmes launches an innovative information campaign. Montreal, Quebec. In keeping with the spirit of International Women's Day to bring about positive adjustment to women's lives, Auberge Shalom... pour femmes, a shelter for women victims of conjugal violence, will launch an innovative campaign beginning March 4th and ending on International Women's Day, March 8th, 1996.

In what has been a true community effort, 10,000 place mats have been printed and will be distributed for use in Montreal area restaurants, cafeterias and community agencies. "We felt that the place mats were an ideal way to create community awareness around this issue and stimulate a dialogue that might result in positive, concrete change," explains the shelter's Executive Director Diane Sasson.

The place mat project was initiated by Montreal-based artist Devora Neumark who works as a volunteer at Auberge Shalom... pour femmes. Ms Neumark has made a practice of creating spaces for reflection and displacement through numerous public interventions and community based projects. She explains, "The place mats link us to the dinner table, a communal site of engagement. What we choose to put on the table - or hide underneath it - says much about what kind of society we choose to live in. If we see the table as a metaphor for the family or the community, then the place mats become what is concealed or revealed by conversation."

The place mats not only outline the services of the shelter, but try to involve the diner in a stimulating exploration through a "Hidden Words Search" which contains a variety of words connected to abusive relationships, e.g. shame, denial, humiliation...

We are looking for a way to get people to recognize many of the feelings associated with abusive relationships. Unfortunately, recognition of the extent of this problem and candid discussion is still hidden within many communal settings. Nevertheless, awareness doesn't necessarily have to be brought about through heavy-handed tactics. The "Hidden Words Search" actively engages the diner not only in the process of completing the puzzle but also in exploring some of the conflicting emotions women feel living through this experience.

For further information please contact Diane Sasson at (514) 731-0833.