REVIEW: Luzinterruptus: “Literature vs. Traffic”

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.

REVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

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.

PREVIEW: Luzinterruptus “Literature vs. Traffic”

Tomorrow from 5-11pm you can walk down a Liberty Street paved with illuminated books. As a part of Luzinterruptus’s Literature vs. Traffic installment, 10,000 discarded books have been recycled for the best possible purpose: to remind us of the importance of free thought, the written word, and our own community. As a grass-roots project, the participation of volunteers (myself included!) was essential. People from countless different backgrounds met at Ruthven to flatten the books, tape 20,000 tiny lights inside their pages, and move them to their exhibit site. Ann Arbor joined Toronto, New York, and Melbourne in featuring this specific project, but Luzinterruptus is an urban intervention guerrilla group all the way from Madrid, and they have created similar projects around the world.

Join us tomorrow night to see the Literature vs. Traffic installation in person. Pick up a free book. Enjoy Ann Arbor’s culture, memories, and people.

PREVIEW: Luzinterruptus: “Literature vs. Traffic”

For lovers of words and free thought, books are brilliantly powerful objects that seemingly glow in their eyes. Now, thousands of glowing books are literally paving the Ann Arbor roads for one night and one night only. On Tuesday, October 23, Liberty Street is shutting down for “Literature vs. Traffic,” a project put on by the anonymous Spanish public art installation group Luzinterruptus. After a week of hard work by the volunteers who are attaching the lights to 100,000 discarded books, Liberty Street is turning into a powerful, illuminated pathway for passerbys to ponder on (and even take a few books home) from 5-11pm on October 23.