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Artist Creates Replica of Parthenon from 100,000 Banned Books

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - Documenta 14

Photo: Roman März

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.

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - Documenta 14

Photo: si.leika

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.”

Conceptual artist Marta Minujín created a replica of the Parthenon from 100,000 banned books in her The Parthenon of Books installation.

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - Documenta 14

Photo: lctanner

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - Documenta 14

Photo: alexgorlin

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - Documenta 14

Photo: ahoisparky

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - kassel

Photo: jingyinc

Marta Minujin - Parthenon of Books - kassel

Photo: voework

Documenta 14: Website | FacebookInstagram
h/t: [Colossal]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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