Inspired from my readings of Marshal McLuhan’s ideas on media, Re:definition began with the simple question, “What if I wove text?” Contemplating this, I began to imagine ways in which making is thinking.
At the onset of Re:definition I gave myself a simple concept instruction – weave a dictionary. Following instructions has lead to many ideas and insights. By allowing the work to do the thinking, the meaning is revealed instead of imposed. Inspired by Canadian poet Christian Bök’s thinking around the work of Oulipo, an avant-garde poetry movement of the 1960’s “…that imposes arbitrary, but axiomatic, dicta upon the writing process in order to evoke an unpredicted possibility from these experimental restrictions.”1 Working within a set of constraints, although counterintuitive, affords me greater creative freedom. My interest in “working as thinking” is in part, informed by my early learning and exposure to a working class practicality, involving the craft of making things by hand and making do with what’s at hand. I first learned to weave on a mechanical loom 20 years ago. Weaving with nontraditional materials led me to adopt open-frame and off-frame weaving techniques. Part and parcel with this approach, collage and assemblage manifested diverse creative possibilities by setting these techniques within the constraints of the craft.
Committed to exhausting the entirety of a 1300 page 1956 Websters dictionary, this multi-year endeavor will culminate in over 100 panels. Given the scope of this project, it is meant to be shown throughout its creation not just as a final result. Within the exhibition space, Re:definition is shaped by a series of concentric circles, with the outer circle defined by the earliest panels, and the core circle defined by the most recent. As one navigates the gallery space, one travels through time. The ongoingness of weaving a dictionary is emphasized through the visible labor embedded in the artwork. And quite simply, I continue to follow the concept instruction – to weave the dictionary.
With the advent of the internet, the printed dictionary has shifted from being a practical tool to a nostalgic object. Deconstructing and repurposing both the form and the content of the dictionary provides an alternative: By bringing together “work as meaning” and the memory in objects, I seek to create spaces and experiences that allow the viewer, myself included, to create meaning, a space in which to contemplate.
1 The Xenotext Experiment: an Interview with Christian Bök by Stephen Voyce 2007
Eric is an interdisciplinary artist based on Pender Island BC. Lesage’s practice explores the intersection of craft and conceptual art, ideas of labour, and the handmade, through process-based installations. His work challenges modern notions of productivity that place a higher value on product over process, and invites the viewer into a space of thoughtful contemplation. These ideas are manifest in his decade-long project Re: definition, a large scale installation of a single deconstructed dictionary woven into multiple panels. Previously, Lesage was Artistic Director of the artist-run center La Maison des artistes, he has exhibited at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and Raw:Gallery, and he has collaborated with the ITWÉ collective on Manifestipi at The Forks and Saint Boniface Cathedral. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of l’AGAVF and the CARFAC BC and CARFAC National.