Site: Mont Réel
Concept and performance: Mélanie Binette
Table Design: Mélanie Binette, Marie-France Daigneault-Bouchard, Nina Dubois, Constructlab.
Rassemblage was a participative installation archiving traces of the passage of guests at the Mont Réel’s picnic table. Imagined by the European collective Constructlab (Berlin), Mont Réel was a collaborative construction workshop lasting for a whole month, taking place at the former train dispatcher control in Outremont (the future site of the Université de Montréal “MIL” Campus). Constructlab’s architect, carpenter and designers had chosen this site to build a wooden structure resembling a mountain that could either act as a shelter or as a rounded outdoor auditorium, using the cityscape as its stage. Participants of different backgrounds gathered to help in building that structure, all sharing a strong interest in collaborative design, architecture, urban development and site-specific art interventions. Constructlab and the Goethe Institute therefore invited Théâtre Nulle Part to activate this site throughout the construction of the structure, by developing an art intervention that would engage with the workshop participants and the neighbouring communities in thinking creatively about this morphing stretch of land.
Mélanie Binette (Théâtre Nulle Part’s art director) hence conceptualized Rassemblage, an art installation around a picnic table that would gather people and trigger lively conversations about the Mont Réel project itself, as well as on urban development and social diversity, fostering encounters between strangers and inviting them to leave a trace behind. Made of a 6 feet large and 25 metres long industrial roll of fabric, a tablecloth unrolled all throughout July onto the picnic table, absorbing sauce spills, wine glasses’ stains or handwritten notes of conversations. Watercolours and natural inks were made available for painting and decorating, as well as embroidery material, so the constructors and other participants could playfully develop their thoughts. Once the whole surface of the table got covered, it would unroll over the guests’ heads; previous artworks and food stains projecting colours and forms over bodies and faces, telling the stories of previous meals whilst protecting guests from the blazing sun. The picnic table and its unrolling mechanism were co-designed with workshop participants Marie-France Daigneault-Bouchard and Nina Dubois, whose curatorial, artistic and research practices are revolving around architecture and a critical perspective on urban design.
The table’s design and its industrial roll were also reminders of the neighbouring areas’ former textile industry and of the labour and presence of immigrant women who shaped those neighbourhoods’ histories. Gently flying over the participants’ heads, the embroidered fabric brough a feminine touch to a traditionally male dominated area: the construction site. In partnership with Afrique au Féminin, a community organisation fostering the social integration of immigrant women, women from Park-Extension and its surroundings were invited to come and share their know-how on the tablecloth, notably women participating in Afrique au Féminin’s arts and crafts workshops.