Our city streets have become clogged with cars. Driving through them is often a nightmare of just-missed traffic lights and drivers who often bend (or break) the rules of the road in an effort to get to their destination just a little bit sooner.
But what if instead of cars, the roads were filled with books? Books of all kinds, from books about art to children's books to thrillers. What does the city and traffic scene look like then?
It would look a lot like this Toronto street after the art collective Luzinterruptus filled it with 10,000 books.
This art installation, titled "Literature vs. Traffic," has previously shut down streets in Madrid, New York and Melbourne, and serves as commentary on the too-congested streets of the city. According to the collective, the installation offers a reprieve from the normal hustle and bustle:
We want literature to take over the streets and become conquering the public space, offering free to those who walk, a place free of traffic, which for a few hours, succumb to the modest power of the written word.
Thus, a conventionally reserved for speed urban space, pollution and noise, will become for one night in a place of tranquility, relaxation and conviviality. Illuminated by a soft diffused light from the illuminated pages.
The books were donated by the Salvation Army and included some "gems" from private donations, according to the collective. It took 50 volunteers 12 days to assemble the installation, shifting through the donated books and then illuminating the pages with tiny, twinkling lights.
Yes, twinkling lights. The installation opened on the night of Oct. 1, and the small lights created the sensation of fireflies along a river. Except instead of being reflected by water, the light illuminated pages of literature, text books and the like.
Hagerman Street, the site of the installation, is one of Toronto's busiest streets. Writing about the briefness of the installation, Luzinterruptus said, "In the end, the cars will again take their place, but for many of those who passed through there that night, the memory of that once occupied this space [with] books, will make your relationship with this environment [improve]."
And passed through they did. The installation drew sizable crowds across the night. Observers were encouraged to walk through the books and get up close once again with the printed word.
People were so encouraged to reconnect with books that Luzinterruptus expected people to just take books from the "river" home with them. "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." This participatory aspect of the installation only supported its environmental message.
In the course of 10 hours, the installation went from a steady river of books to...
... a trickle of its former self. What books were left at dawn were retrieved by Toronto's street cleaning services. The video below provides a time-lapse view of the installation.