October 9, 2018

A street paved with words


In yet another example of the power and versatility of books, a street in Ann Arbor, Michigan will be paved by books.

Photo via Ann Arbor News

Yup, you heard me right: On Tuesday October 23rd, Liberty Street will be covered by 10,000 glowing books as part of the “Literature vs. Traffic” art installation, as reported in Ann Arbor News. In theory, if that sounds outrageous, imagine what it looks like when you see it in person. The mysterious arts collective at the helm is Luzinterruptus, who have performed this installation illegally twice already, in Madrid and New York City. Their first legally sanctioned installation was in Melbourne.

This time they’re setting their sights on Ann Arbor and teaming up with University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities and will make it happen for one night only. Luzinterruptus’s literary paved antics carry an important message. It’s surely a sight to behold–books strewn and glowing across an entire city street–but the meaning behind all this is the ecological and economical price of large cities and the battle between pedestrians and vehicles. “In most of the world’s largest cities it is still hard to find real, workable solutions,” claims a representative of the collective. “Despite the efforts on the part of some cities to reduce downtown traffic, they can only go as far as to create a car-free day in order to have an idea as to how we would live without them.”

Luzinterruptus’s message is simple and hasn’t changed since their first installation:

“We want literature to take over the streets and conquer public spaces, freely offering those passersby a traffic-free place which, for some hours, will succumb to the humble power of the written word. 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.”

All 10,000 books are donated by local residents, libraries, and community organizations. According to UM Institute for the Humanities curator Amanda Krugliak, the public is free to walk among the books and “take some home to preserve a small piece of the temporary installation.” The installation does what the best books do: They demand the reader’s attention, pulling them away from the breakneck pace of a workday, for a breather, a moment to read and understand what we’re all going through. Like the books that encompass it, “Literature vs Traffic” saves communities by giving them a chance to stop and take notice.

Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.