Literature vs Traffic at Nuit Blanche Toronto 2016

Nuit Blanche was held this year from sunset on October 1 to sunrise on October 2. This is a free, annual, city-wide event of contemporary art, where the intention is that people can experience contemporary (often performance and interactive) art in public spaces. Although I go every year to at least a few exhibits, I am not a huge fan of the people who show up drunk to blabber stupidly during an event, and it happens often at nbTO. Most of the bars that extended their serving hours until 4am were on Queen Street West where many exhibits were (makes sense). We stayed away from those areas, so it wasn’t bad.

Kelly and I hit Hagerman and Elizabeth to take in the art installation Literature vs Traffic that was part of Nuit Blanche, among other installations.



It’s always interesting to me what people will do to books in the name of art. They will burn them, carve them, eat them or, in the case of LvT, lay them down on a city street and illuminate them.

The objective of this anonymous art collective, Luzinterruptus, for this installation is (according to one of the guides the exhibit) to express the permanence of the physical book in a digital age, and to interrupt the flow of traffic and thereby demand attention be paid to literature.

a river of books overflowing into the physical pedestrian spaces and installed itself in the space allocated to cars, stealing precious space to the dense traffic in the area, in a symbolic gesture in which literature took control of the streets and became the conquerer (sp) of the public space, offering the citizens, a space (not as big as we would have liked) in which the traffic withdrew yielding ground to the modest power of the written word. ~ Luzinterruptus

You were allowed to return at 11pm or later to take whatever books you may like, essentially to begin dismantling the piece. It had been drizzling all night, so when Kelly and I arrived back at LvT just before sunrise, the books were less than inviting. Kelly picked up one small book, and while many were gone, many remained. Let’s hope the batteries, lights and books are properly recycled.

While I appreciate the effort, I wonder, though, if this kind of work actually reaches the intended audience. Are the people showing up to art installations not exactly the kind of people who appreciate printed books? I suppose if I had stood around and asked visitors what they thought before and after the installation (there was an “entrance” and an “exit” enforced during the time the books could not be touched), I would know the answer to that.

There were those who ripped, kicked, stomped and otherwise trample the books, which could indicate that in fact they don’t appreciate physical books and are looking to destroy old conventions that stand in the way of moving forward. I don’t know if that’s what this woman had in mind when she hunted down and kicked a specific book, but she carefully sidestepped the other books when she left, so I am going to guess, it was personal.

Ah, what an art grump I can be sometimes! Here is Literature vs Traffic at the end of the installation, just minutes before sunrise. Now lie scattered ripped pages, torn book covers and debris, and yet we, the book lovers who attended the sunrise, were still looking to save the books.


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