Attending Luzinterruptus: Literature vs. Traffic was a different experience than I had originally thought. After volunteering on the project and researching a bit about the organization itself, I was really excited. For the first time in my life, I was going to get to be a part of an urban intervention. I was going to make social change. While that of course was ultimately true, I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I expected.
My friends and I arrived at Liberty Street ten minutes before 8pm. Unbeknownst to us, at 8pm Luzinterruptus permitted people to start taking books for themselves. Obviously I support this idea because I advocate for free reading and what it represents for society. What I didn’t expect was that I never even got to see the installation in all its glory because bodies were blocking the lights. People swarmed over the installation, stepping over books they did not want. We even climbed up the State Theater to try and see a glimpse of the promised spectacle from a higher window and all we saw were people.
This was all well and good, as Luzinterruptus was trying to promote their message. Free thought, the written word, and the importance of literature were all shining through in the book frenzy. While I was upset I never got to see an illuminated Liberty Street, I understand why that ended up being a good thing for the project.
Be that as it may, I can’t give you a full review of Literature vs. Traffic. What I can do is tell you about my volunteering experience. I was skeptical about giving up 6 hours of my Saturday – a game day, no less – to spend time in a room with people I had never met before. It was a cold and rainy day, so getting to Ruthven also was not fun. But when I arrived, the staff was welcoming and very apparently excited to have us there. The free t-shirts were also a bonus, but that’s beside the point.
My friend and I sat next to a very enjoyable couple. They were both alumni and still lived in the Ann Arbor area. The man – Joe, I think his name was – had a gorgeous leather-bound book saved off to the side because he was wrestling with the idea of gifting it to his nephew. His wife, Lisa, was discussing cookbooks with my friend, who had hoarded seven of them by the time our shift was over. Our goal was to put 20,000 lights into the pages of 10,000 books, which we accomplished in two days as opposed to the expected five.
Overall, Lisa and Ben were what made my experience memorable. I was happy with myself for choosing to volunteer my time for Luzinterruptus, a group whose goals I fully support. While I didn’t get to see the installation itself, I’m really glad I was able to contribute.