A river of books winds through Toronto

Toronto’s ‘Nuit Blanche’ (a night time arts festival) was the perfect event for anonymous art group Luzinterruptus to make an appearance. The artists — who cite light as their medium of choice and darkness as their canvas — fit right in at the moonlit fest. The ‘sleepless night’ where art and artists take over the streets set the stage for the group’s latest urban intervention, which saw them transform Hagerman Street into a twisting bayou of books.

The team’s make-shift river is entitled ‘Literature vs. Traffic’, and has previously been staged in Madrid, New York and Melbourne (the latter being its first legal realisation). Luzinterruptus were invited to stage the intervention as part of Nuit Blanche’s ‘And the Transformation Reveals’ programme, commissioned by Camille Hong Xin.

In each of its iterations, the paperback stream is installed as a silent protest against the effects of traffic on urban living, and the ongoing battle between pedestrian and automobiles. For a single night, locals are given respite from the noise, speed and pollution to have them replaced by words, poems and the soft, eerie light that has come to define Luzinterruptus’ work. For the past five years, ‘Literature vs. Traffic’ has been advocating the same message: “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”.

Luzinterruptus worked for 12 laborious days alongside more than 50 volunteers to set the  10,000 books (donated by the Salvation Army) in place. On October 1 the piece was complete, and books took full control of the street. Passersby were encouraged to dive in, to find treasures, to sit and savour the stories — free to take any that caught their eye. By completely transforming the bedrock of the street — and in such a remarkable way — the installation forces locals to shift their perspectives on the city around them and to question the best use of our increasingly compressed urban spaces, and the effect of these on our lives. The river was self-dismantled over ten hours, leaving only a few lingering volumes at dawn which were collected by the city’s street maintenance service.


image by CNW group/city of toronto

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