Conceptual artist Marta Minujίn has successfully achieved her mission to create a replica of Greece’s Parthenon using books. But not just any books.
As part of the 100-day art festival Documenta 14 in Germany, the 74-year-old Argentinian reached out to students from Kassel University who helped the artist identify over 170 titles deemed controversial that have been banned around the world at one time or another.
Among the titles featured are Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and Cecily von Ziegesar’s Gossip Girl to name a few.
Minujín put a call out to the general public to donate from the list of titles to help her reach her epic target of 100,000 books needed to build the replica to the dimensions of the Parthenon that stands tall in Athens.
Completed with the assistance of cherry-pickers, the Parthenon of Books located on Friedrichsplatz in Kassel was constructed using the donated books, plastic sheeting and steel. The site is of course no coincidence, purposefully positioned on the site where the Nazis burnt 2,000 books, predominately by Jewish authors and those against fascist ideals, on 19 May 1933 as part of the ‘Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist’ (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit).
One controversial title which the artist has unsurprisingly chosen not to feature as part of the installation is Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
According to Minujίn, the replica is a symbol of the ongoing persecution of freedom of speech and was inspired by “the aesthetic and political ideals of the first democracy” in ancient Greece, which was a society that encouraged learning, thought and philosophy.
This is not the first Parthenon of Books constructed by the artist. In 1983, she built a similar structure titled El Partenón de Libros in her home country of Argentina following the fall of the civilian-military dictatorship. In a similar way, the installation was put together using books that had been banned by the ruling junta and after five days was tipped to one side, with visitors encouraged to pick one to take home with them.
The current installation in Germany will run until 17 September, with a million people expected to visit.