After hundreds of volunteer spent hours putting lights into 10,000 used and discarded books, the books found their way onto the aptly-chosen Liberty St., paving a section of the road with the illuminated written word demonstrating the power of free thought.
Unfortunately, I missed the actual art installment of the books opened up, peacefully resting on the road. By the time I arrived, a giant crowd of people was pushing their way through the street that was blocked off, on a giant Easter egg hunt for used books. I think it is interesting to think about the installment and how it went from a project people admired from a distance to one they actually got to bring home with them, taking a piece of this major art installation with them to read and remember forever, or until the the words fade from memory, if the words even get read in the first place. Many people walked away with armful of new books ready to be read. I wonder how many people will actually read every book they picked up.
This art installment made me rethink our interaction with art and how we engage with it. As a volunteer who spent three hours taping the lights into the books and having fun looking at all the books floating through my hands, it was kind of painful watching people trample over the open, illuminated books carelessly as they searched for a book that appealed to them. The event title “Literature vs. Traffic” seems very appropriate. People would pick up an open book, look at the title, and then throw it back down onto the ground. While the installation demonstrated the power of the written word, it also showed that some words are valued more than others.
I’m sure seeing the books untouched and just chilling on Liberty St. was a powerful and cool thing to witness. And I’m glad people got to enjoy the wide variety of books that was donated for this project and give them to new eyes. However, I definitely think I got more out of this project by volunteering than by walking through the streets, and I thank Luzinterruptus and the University of Michigan Humanities department for bringing this to Ann Arbor.