Artist Plans to Recreate the Parthenon With 100,000 Banned Books

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Conceptual artist Marta Minujín is building a life-size replica of the Parthenon, but she’s using banned books instead of marble blocks. As Smithsonian reports, the artist has issued a public call for people to donate 100,000 prohibited titles toward her project. Next spring, the final product will stand in a public square in Kassel, Germany, where Nazis once burned thousands of “un-German” books.

Minujín is creating the large-scale installation for documenta, a global arts exhibition that’s held in Kassel every five years. This year’s title is “documenta 14: Learning From Athens.” Keeping with the theme, the show will kick off in Athens on April 8 and open in Kassel on June 10.

This isn’t the first time Minujín’s work has challenged the repression of knowledge and free speech. In 1983, she created a similar public work, El Partenón de Libros, after Argentina’s military dictatorship fell apart. Made from 20,000 books forbidden by the junta, it stood along a central street in Buenos Aires. Instead of simply dismantling it, Minujín had two cranes tip it sideways and instructed onlookers to collect and keep the books.

Minujín's new Parthenon will be larger and more ambitious than her last. It will also recall a different political injustice—when German Nazis burned around 2000 books on May 19, 1933, during the “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” (Campaign against the Un-German Spirit).

Still, the underlying theme remains the same. Like the original 1983 work, Minujín's new Parthenon will set “an example against violence, discrimination, and intolerance,” said Adam Szymczyk, artistic director of documenta 14, in a press statement quoted by the American Library Association.

The new Parthenon of banned books will go on display in Athens on June 10, 2017. After 100 days, it will be dismantled, and the books distributed among onlookers. Want to contribute a title? Documenta 14 posted instructions online for donating once or currently banned works.

[h/t Smithsonian]