NEWTON — The latest art project set among The Grove’s tall trees is best described as a house of knowledge.
Artist Don Li-Leger likes to call his work “Encyclopedia House” because those books are the essential bricks for this temporary structure.
On Monday, Li-Leger and three volunteers were putting the finishing touches on the house, which is built of thousands of used, discarded and otherwise unwanted reference books – most of them donated to, and collected by, the Rotary club in South Surrey.
The art installation will stand for the month of October in the forested public space outside Newton rec centre.
“After that, it’ll all be recycled,” Li-Leger explained.
His formal description of “Encyclopedia House” calls for “an unusual art project” to make use of a plethora of no-longer-used encyclopedia sets, textbooks and other reference books that exist in the age of digital information.
At the site, collected books rest in boxes next to a sign that suggests the art project will address topics such as housing and fundamental needs, neighbourhood development, changing sources of knowledge, and recycling.
The books are affixed to each other with screws, making the structure sturdy enough to satisfy city officials, apparently.
“This house is very strong and stable, because the city really wanted it that way,” Li-Leger told the Now.
“It was initially a bit tough to get it passed by the city because they originally thought I was just building a big house, but the city has come around on this,” the artist added. “They’ve given a lot of freedom to Friends of the Grove, and I think the city has a lot of confidence in the group to do these kinds of community-building things they’re doing, and this is part of that.”
The house will be a focal point for several events this month, including Sources’ homelessness march on Oct. 16, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Oct. 17 and some reading groups with local children.
“There are lots of good projects here, but this seems to be one of the biggest so far,” said Steve Webster, who volunteered his time to help build the house over the course of about a week.
“At first, people who walked by here kind of thought that this was just a big book sale, with piles of books everywhere,” he added.
“We’re actually looking for a volunteer who has time to count them all.”
“I am confident that we already have all of the knowledge and resources that we need in order to create a safer and more vibrant community here in Newton,” David Dalley, of Friends of the Grove, told the Now.
“What we need is the imagine to envision the future we want, and the rest will follow. You can’t buy imagination or write it in to policy. It has to come from the people. This project is like taking the metaphorical books off the shelf and doing something imaginative, creative and fun with them. This art installation is the perfect metaphor for what is happening here in Newton.