As part of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, anonymous Spanish collective Luzinterruptus staged their Literature vs. Traffic installation, shutting down one of the city’s busy streets and overflowing it with 10,000 books. Previously installed in Madrid, New York, and Melbourne, the piece is a commentary on the normally clogged, traffic-ridden city arteries. By allowing the street to flow with the written word, the city is giving back a vehicle-free space, if only for an evening. Typical of their thought-provoking work that often deals with themes of environmentalism, each book was illuminated by small lights, creating a twinkling effect that bounced from the pages of the literary river.
With books donated by Salvation Army, a squad of over 50 volunteers worked tirelessly over 12 days to pack Hagerman Street in downtown Toronto with pieces of literature. “Thus, a city area which is typically reserved for speed, pollution and noise, will become, for one night, a place for quietness, calm and coexistence illuminated by the vague, soft light coming out of the lighted pages,” the artists explain via their website. “The books will be there for those who want to take them so the installation will recycle itself and will last as long as users want it there. Cars will eventually fill their space but for many of those who walked by this place that night, the memory of those books that took that same space will improve their relationship with these surroundings.”
Spectators were encouraged to engage with the participatory artwork and to take books home with them, which left the piece dismantled after about 10 hours. Beyond the implications about traffic and congestion in urban areas, the installation also revalues the printed book in an era that is going increasingly digital. By looking through the physical material and selecting their preferred reading materials, the discarded books were reclaimed by new owners.
All images via Lola Martinez.