Argentinian conceptual artist Marta Minujín has just installed The Parthenon of Books in Kassel, Germany as part of the Documenta 14 art festival. Created from 100,000 banned books, this architectural replica of the Parthenon in Athens is a work in progress, with the public being asked to continue bringing volumes with them when visiting the exhibition.
Working with students from Kassel University, the artist identified 170 books from around the world that were at one point banned or are banned in some countries while circulating freely in others. The public was then asked to donate these texts, which were wrapped in protective plastic and hung from the structure. By placing censored material on a replica of the Parthenon—a structure symbolizing democracy—the Argentinian artist asks us to consider the role of politics in attempting to influence thought.
To build on this concept, The Parthenon of Books sits on a space where 2,000 books were burned by the Nazis as part of the so-called Action against the Un-German Spirit. It’s a stark reminder that the written word has consistently been used in actions of censorship throughout history.
This is not the first iteration of The Parthenon of Books. Minujín first realized the piece in 1983, when she erected 25,000 books banned by Argentina’s military junta in a square in Buenos Aires. The new incarnation has been under construction since October 2016, with the official opening in June 2017. It’s possible for visitors to become part of the artwork by checking the list of banned books and bringing along a text for inclusion in the work, which will be on display until September.
“In her mass-participation projects, Minujín rediscovers the initial value of a collective treasure; she melts shared capital back down into cultural currency without remainder. She lays down the verticality of public edifices that embody confiscated cultural knowledge and a hidebound heritage,” writes curator Pierre Bal-Blanc. “She dilapidates the fortune these myths represent. By literally tilting these symbols, Minujín not only gives new meaning to these monuments, she offers them a new sensuality.”