Every year France has its national journees de patrimoine, or heritage open day. In the Rhone Alpes region though an alternative is rivalling the traditional celebration of patrimony and has changed its sub title to les journees de matrimoine,ie matrimony and is only concerned with honouring the silent women and their ( often silent) contributions to history. Here in St julien Molin Molette 5 women working across 5 different media were asked to choose and work with an (extra) ordinary woman form the village in order to create a site specific piece of creative work based on her portrait for an old ans almost untouched silk-weaving factory. The mediums used for the restitution were live dance, installation, embroidery, photography and film. I chose to work with wallpaper and the symbolism represented by the Virgin Mary, having exchanged with my subject her views on faith. Wallpaper because 'decoration and personalisation' were traditionally the only means of appropriating part of the patriarchally constructed and created space by the women who were were forced to work there, (wallpaper in the home was often the only element women were accorded choice over)traces of embellishment in the form of small religious images, photos and hand-written notes are still on the white plaster walls near each workers loom, look like spontaneous attempts to own and personalise their work-stations.
The catholic religion and the weaving industry were inseparable in the early 1800's. The factory which invited the exhibition is still configured like a church; a long central aisle with identical looms aligned to left and right (in the manner of pews) leading the eye all the way to the back wall on which there is an alter housing a statue of the virgin Mary, placed high up on the wall so that the head is naturally raised upon entering. I worked with the Virgin's shape, reducing her to base form; something like a pod, a chrysalis, a vulva, with her drapes closing her in and constraining before opening her out; redefining her bodily attitude with that of the contemporary and capable woman I worked with; legs apart, self-assured, balanced, strong, fully present non-excusing body language. I called the installation ' breaking out' this is todays woman standing upright, breaking the mould of the shrinking, robed, chrysalis-like, submissive woman stance that has been handed down to us over the centuries.