For ages, artists have been using art as a means to protest and fight against taboos, prejudices and bans. And for generations, artworks have been banned for various reasons — from political to religious, but never has it deterred the creators, but rather fuelled their creativity.
We all know many books have been banned from time to time for various reasons, in India recently few history books were banned, and so were books by secular authors, raising a new debate about censorship. There are thousands of books that have been banned around the world for some reason or the other. It is to protest this banning of literature that this artist decided to build a life-size monument with banned books. From Harry Potter to Anne Frank’s Diary, many world-known classics have been banned in countries for even the most bizarre reasons, and this project is meant to stand tall against such moves.
Argentinian artist Marta Minujín is erecting a replica of the Greek Parthenon with 100,000 copies of banned books as a symbol of resistance. The Parthenon of Books is being set up in Kassel, Germany as part of the Documenta 14 art festival. And it’s not only significant because of the scale of the project, the venue is equally important.
The installation is being built on Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, where some 2,000 books were burned by Nazis during the “Aktion wider den un-Deutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit). “In 1941, the Fridericianum—which was still being used as a library at the time—was engulfed in flames during an Allied bombing attack, and another collection of some 350,000 books was lost,”says the project website.
The Greek Parthenon also has its own significance. It was originally the temple of goddess Athena, on the Acropolis in Athens, which symbolised the aesthetic and political ideals of the world’s first democracy. Interestingly, it was transformed into a Church and a Mosque, depending on the Greek regime. The structure that is considered the zenith of the Doric order has been a temple, church and mosque in its lifetime that stands a ruin today.
However, this not the first time 74-year-old Minujín has built a Parthenon of Books to fight prohibition of books and prosecutions of its writers. She built her first piece in 1983 when she erected the monument with 25,000 books banned by Argentina’s military junta in a square in Buenos Aires, shortly after the regime was toppled.
Now to fully finish covering the scaffolding with forbidden books, the artist is asking people from all over the world to donate banned books. With the help of students from the University of Kassel, a list of forbidden books from around the world has been compiled and it contains over 70,000 book titles!
While some of these books are banned in one country, it may be circulated in others. One can visit the website of documenta 14 and see the list of books and can send in their donation.
“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. The banned books have been covered in plastic sheets and fixed on huge pillars supporting the monumental structure.