Alexandra Ben-Abba’s series of table settings and interactive meals expresses conflicts through everyday experiences. This past February she traveled to Vienna for her project, What’s on Your Plate, which was supported by Asylum’s Small Grants. The project was a series of workshops she ran for girls in need, refugees, staff and volunteers at Space Lab Girls and Vielmehr Für Alle. The workshops deconstructed conventional perspectives on tableware, plates, and table settings and offered an opportunity to put the parts back together while acknowledging the past.
First, Ben-Abba demonstrated the simple action of breaking a plate. Then, she gently invited participants to think of their life experiences and express them through a creation of a composition of shards. She brought in a variety of factory made glass objects and urged participants to leave space for chance, flexibility and intuition as the objects are all made of different types of glass and processes and therefore participants are most likely to be surprised. Participants were excited, and most of them stated they were never invited to break an object on purpose.
The action of breaking as in of itself is liberating. However, you are left with a broken object and then you need to decide if and how you would like to reconstruct it. Then participants are invited to use plaster, glue, found objects, yarn, copper, and fabric to put the shards back together. They created a composition framing the plate with utensils and sharing a meal. For some, this experience was therapeutic. Marejka (17) says, “If something breaks down, like the relationship with the family, that does not mean that you cannot put it back together.” Others, enjoyed crafting and composing new objects as well as working with the challenge of actually eating off their creation. This process is playful, enhances understanding of privilege and impacts perspectives and work with girls in need and refugees.
The third workshop was followed by a music therapy workshop with Tal Gur. Gur placed musical instruments on the dinner table. Participants got to make music and choose an instrument that moves them and reminds them of someone they are or used to be close to. Projecting their feelings onto the instrument, participants began sharing their stories and experienced an improvisation approach to arrange the music interaction in order to go deeper in their memories.
The aftermath of the interactive meal was presented at Cafe Prosa along with a video documentation of the workshop and dinner.
Alexandra Ben-Abba is now showing her piece Reaching Across the Table as part of the exhibition Unresolved (Issues) at UrbanGlass.