The Parthenon of Books

A rousing political art piece by Marta Minujin will be on display in Kassel, Germany as part of documenta 14, an ongoing exhibition and place for debates on contemporary culture and its current sociopolitical contexts.

Documenta, which occurs every 5 years, has broken into two sites – one in Kassel, one in Athens – for the 2017 exhibition. On the decision to split into two sites, the documenta Facebook page has stated “The main lines of thinking behind this move are manifold. They have to do with the current social and political situation both in Europe and globally, which motivates artistic action. Further, they indicate the need to embody in documenta 14 the palpable tension between the North and the South as it is reflected, articulated, and interpreted in contemporary cultural production.”

The Parthenon of Books binds together a history of censorship experienced by Minujin, German citizens, and global histories of censorship. Minujin felt the oppression of military dictatorship in in the 70s and early 80s, and as a response to the fall of the military junta in 1983, she collected books that were previously banned and created a replica Parthenon. Bringing this idea to Kassel ties in the censorship from the Nazis during WWII, and the current Parthenon of Books sits on a site where Nazis burned books by Jewish and Muslim writers in 1933.

One of the most amazing details of the exhibitions is in the process of how the books were gathered. Together with students from Kassel, Minujin compiled a list of over 170,000 banned books that was then whittled down to a list of 170. They asked the public for donations of these books, which will eventually be redistributed to the public. The symbolism of the use and distribution of the once-banned-books by the public should not be lost on the audience at large.

The rebellion in the construction of a banned book parthenon is inspiring, reminding all of us that we must fight for what we believe in, and what is right. The temporality of the project – it will only be on display of 100 days before deconstruction – is an intense display of the strength and similarities in our communities worldwide.

Read more on documenta 14 and Marta minujin.

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