The Parthenon was built in the mid-5th century BCE and dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena the Virgin. However, this full-size German replica is constructed out of 100,000 banned books as a symbol of resistance to political repression.
Collaborating with students from Kassel University, Argentine artist Marta Minujín selected more than 170 titles banned in various countries across the world. The Parthenon of Books in Kassel, Germany is part of the Documenta 14 art festival.
Metal scaffolding mimics the form of the temple, which is then covered in books held by plastic wrapping. This protects them from the elements and allowing sunlight to filter through the building. The 100,000 banned books that make up the monument have been sourced entirely from donations. Thus allowing people from all over the world to contribute titles they feel a personal connection to.
But probably Germany’s most controversial book – Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” – will not figure on the Parthenon. And for a good reason: the Nazis were notorious censors of books. In fact, Marta’s work stands on a historic site where the Nazis burnt some 2,000 books in 1933 as part of a very broad campaign of censorship.
“Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people,” Heinrich Heine said in the 19th century.
According to Marta, the shape of the Parthenon was chosen because it symbolizes the aesthetic and political ideals of the world’s first democracy. But this is not the first time that Marta has created the Parthenon of Books. The artist also constructed a replica in Buenos Aires, choosing books banned during the military dictatorship from 1976 to 1983.
After five days of exhibition, the building of banned books was gently tipped to the side using two cranes, allowing visitors to remove the books and take them home. What are your thoughts on this structure? Did it make its point?
Also take a look at this clever campaign for erotic books that gets around censorship.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.