Parthenon of Books


March 2016

Klaske Havik's posts House of Books woken a sort of visual memory that took me a while to identify and recover.
In the years that followed the 1974 Revolution in Portugal, the country received several political refugees from Chile and Argentina. I met a few of them during my childhood, mostly artists and journalists, who seemed heroic to my eyes. And remembering this period now and reading about books and words and buildings, I remembered something I saw at the time when, in Argentina, after an ill-fated military Dictator, democracy was again part of the vocabulary: a black&white photograph of a huge Parthenon made of books.

Parthenon of Books by Marta Minujín, 1983[/caption]

The  conceptual artist Marta Minujin proposed a work that, at least, must have made an indelible impression on the thousands of people who had the privilege of passing by the intersection of 9 de Julio and Santa Fe by the end of 1983. It was the Parthenon of Books.

The idea was to reconstruct with books the monumental Greek building. More precisely, to rebuild it with 30,000 copies of the books banned by the military regime. This figure, not at all casual, sought to represent the 30,000 people 'made disappear' by that regime. After three weeks of exposure, people could dismantle the work and keep the banned books for themselves.

As Minujín said, “Democracy without books is not democracy.”. History has prove this too many times. She kept working on other large-scale public installations that address themes of democracy, internationalism, freedom, and peace through the medium of books, namely theBabel Tower of Books, and Agora of Peace. Further reading:


Susana Oliveira