THOUSANDS OF DONATED FORBIDDEN BOOKS WERE USED TO FORM THE PARTHENON BY ARTIST MARTA MINUJÍN ON THE SITE OF DOCUMENTA 14 IN KASSEL
At this year’s documenta 14, recognition as one of the most visually striking works went to the installation piece by 74-year-old female Argentinian artist, Marta Minujín, who brought together banned books from all over the world and covered them with a Parthenon-shaped steel structure. Back in 1983, Minujín created ‘El Partenón de libros’ or ‘The Parthenon of Books’ in Buenos Aires after the fall of the military regime. Seven years before the incident, the freedom of the people of Argentina was exploited with a large number of forbidden publications being censored and burnt by the military government that was ruling the country at the time. Minujín wanted The ‘Parthenon of Books’ to serve as a monument of the democratic ideology that books are tools that help to transmit the ideas and beliefs that propel humans from different generations to continue to think and develop their thoughts. At the 1983 exhibition, five days after the opening, Minujín brought in two cranes to tip the structure slightly to one side, allowing for people to go in and take home the banned books for free.
MINUJÍN USES THE WORK TO EXPRESS THE TENSIONS HAPPENING IN TODAY’S EUROPE, WHICH COULD EVENTUALLY LEAD TO FUTURE CENSORSHIP OF INFORMATION AND CONFLICTS.
In October of 2016, ‘The Parthenon of Books’ was reconstructed on the Friedrichsplatz grounds of Kassel, one of the cities chosen as a documenta 14 venue. The place where Minujín recreated her monumental work is a space in Fridericianum, one of Europe’s first art museums and libraries that houses over 100,000 books under its roof. It is also the place where several historically significant events took place, from the incident where the Nazis burnt 2,000 books back in 1933 as a part of “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un- German Spirit) to the time when the Fridericianum building was attacked by air bombs in 1941 causing the structure and books to be destroyed. These incidents in the space’s history depict the effect of political conflicts that led to the destruction of countless books. For this exhibition, Minujín put together activities that welcomed the donation of banned books of every language from publishing houses, writers and the general public for the construction of The Parthenon of Books.
documenta 14: Learning From Athens” was held in two cities (Athens and Kassel) of two countries (Greece and Germany). Different aspects of history were revisited, excavated, analyzed and critiqued by artists through their different points of view. Athens, as the city that gave birth to the philosophy that became the foundation of democracy, is now suffering immense economic disruption that has affected the entire European Union, including the influx of refugees, which is a crisis all European nations are facing. While Minujín’s The Parthenon of Books does not directly address these issues, she uses the work to express the tensions happening in today’s Europe, which could eventually lead to the future censorship of information and conflicts. What Minujín hopes is for the physical presence of the massive amount of books she incorporates in as a part of her artistic expression to serve as a representation of cultural and racial diversity including the freedom of expression that should not be obstructed or censored, no matter what time in history or place on earth we live.
TEXT: AROON PURITAT