Argentinian artist Marta Minujín recently unveiled her installation, “The Parthenon of Books,” in Kassel, Germany, coinciding with the Documenta 14 art festival. The piece, constructed using 100,000 previously banned books, is an architectural homage to Athens’ iconic Parthenon. This ongoing project invites visitors to bring and add more books to the structure during their visit.
In collaboration with students from Kassel University, Minujín curated a list of 170 books, each having faced bans in certain regions while freely available in others. After receiving public donations, these books were encased in protective plastic and adorned onto the framework. Drawing parallels between the Parthenon as an emblem of democracy and censored literary works, the installation provokes thoughts on how politics often seeks to control narratives.
Adding depth to the narrative, Minujín’s installation stands on grounds where Nazis once burned 2,000 books in an event named the Action against the Un-German Spirit. This poignant location serves as a reminder of the recurring bouts of censorship throughout human history.
Interestingly, “The Parthenon of Books” is not a new concept for Minujín. In 1983, she constructed a similar piece using 25,000 books banned by the Argentinian military junta in Buenos Aires. The current structure began its creation in October 2016 and officially opened in June 2017. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the artwork by contributing banned books from a provided list, ensuring the structure evolves until its display concludes in September.
Curator Pierre Bal-Blanc notes, “In her participatory artworks, Minujín rekindles the inherent worth of shared treasures, converting communal assets into cultural capital seamlessly. By reimagining and repositioning monuments that represent sequestered cultural wisdom and tradition, she reinterprets their significance and infuses them with renewed allure.” Through “The Parthenon of Books,” Minujín has masterfully woven a commentary on censorship, culture, and collective memory.