Situated in Germany at the Nazi Book burning site, the Parthenon of Books is a construction from 100,000 censored books. An Argentine artist, Marta Minujin created the Parthenon which is a full replica of the Parthenon in Athens which is among the world’s most famous structures. The 100,000 books used to construct the Parthenon of books were donations from individuals, and it gave people a chance to donate titles that they felt connected them. With the help of students from Kassel University, Marta Minujin selected over 170,000 books that had faced the ban in different countries from all over the world. The books were then attached to the steel structure with the help of plastic sheeting to help protect them from any damage.
The project was an inspiration of El Partenon de Libros, which was an earlier installation constructed in the year 1983 after the collapse of the Argentina civilian-military dictatorship. The main aim of the facility was to celebrate democratic freedom by presenting books that had been banned by the then junta. The installation was tipped five days after the exhibition and visitors were allowed to take the books.
The Parthenon of Books is essential as it symbolizes the resistance of any book banning, political oppression, and persecution of authors. The shape of the structure is a symbol of political ideals and aesthetics of the world’s 1st democracy. The Parthenon of books is relevant to Friedrichplatz in Kassel where During the Nazi-led campaigns against Un-German spirit 2000 books were burned. Therefore, the idea is to offer support to writers regardless of the content, to stand against any form of oppression that might intimidate writers, and to stand up for writers as there is no need to punish and persecute authors.
Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial
Also called the Nameless Library, Judenplatz holocaust memorial is located in Judenplatz which is the 1st district of Vienna. The library is the central memorial for the Austrian Holocaust victims, and it was designed by Rachel Whiteread who is a British artist. The monument was an initiative of Simon Wiesenthal who started the commission for a memorial which was meant to be a dedication to the victims of the Nazi fascism in Austria. It is made up of steel concrete, and the outside surfaces consist of library shelves whose insides face outside. The books are invisible as their spine meets the inside. Therefore, their titles are unrevealed. The shelves hold unlimited copies of books of the same edition which stand for a large number of victims as well as the concept of the Jews as the people of books. The memorial depicts an appreciation of Judaism as a religion of the book. However, it also can be interpreted as a representation of memory and loss caused by the genocide of the European Jews.
The Parthenon of Books and the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial are works of art standing for a cause. They are a cry for freedom, freedom from oppression and freedom from dictatorship. They represent the people whose voices could not be heard and a story of the victims of the Nazi fascism. For example, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial is a symbol of remembrance of culture religion and the social living of the Vienna Jews before destruction by the Nazi fascism. The art brings out the pain, loss, and memory of the victims. The countless books with unrevealed context represent their voices, the story of the victims and the Jews at large. It is a history that has been passed down to generations.
The artwork of the Parthenon of books, on the other hand, is a cry for freedom. It represents a nation that yearns to be heard and to read books that face the ban through the Nazi dictatorship. Its art represents the authors that feel oppressed and the people that cannot understand the banned books. The project aimed to recirculate the books to reach the people finally. This aim was finally accomplished on September 10, 2017, after an exhibition where Marta launched the redistribution of the books and they eventually found their way back to the public. The achievement of this work of art remains to be a lesson against censorship of books and persecution of authors.
The radical critical views of the two projects include resistance from political oppression whereby authors face wrongful prosecution. The second approach is the achievement of democracy which is explicitly represented by the Parthenon of books. This democracy extends to issues like freedom of expression and speech. The third idea is history whereby both arts stand for accounts that have been passed down to generations. The Judenplatz art represents memories of the Holocaust victims that lost their lives during the Nazi dictatorship. Lastly, religion is also an essential element because the Judenplatz memorial describes the doctrine of the victims.
While both arts represent a course, some aspects were not considered during their construction. For example, the Parthenon of books was meant to come to an end. It was a course aimed at an accomplishment. The redistribution of the books to the public brings an end to a history that could be better off passed from one generation to another for years to come. On September 10, 2017, Marta launched the redistribution of books after the Documenta 14 exhibition. According to Marta, this has been a significant achievement but historically, this is a failure as the books will not be there to tell the story of the fight. The fight against political oppression. The battle for democratic freedom.
The Judenplatz holocaust, on the other hand, had aspects that were against its construction but it is because of persistence that it is still there as a historical site. For example, there is the question of whether the Jews are the people of the book as the memorial seems to represent. From a different angle, this is stereotyping the Jews as only one group of people are represented-the intellectuals. This approach leaves out the rest of the Jews who are in different professional fields. The stereotype issue needs to be addressed for the library to represent the complete history of all holocausts.
Both arts have a connection as the two of them represent history. They tell a story of political oppression and hold memories of the pangs of dictatorship and tyranny. They both are an appreciation of history. However, the two projects also have distinct differences. The Parthenon of books aim was a project whose result was to redistribute the banned books to the general public. On the other hand, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial was meant to be a permanent historical site. It was expected to continue telling the story of the Jews’ lives lost during the Nazi fascism, the story of pain, loss, and memory.
Strengths and weaknesses
The two projects have their strengths and weaknesses. The power of the Parthenon of books was the ability to stand up against oppression while its fault was the inability to continue with its course in the sense that the final achievement of redistributing the books technically brought an end to the project.
On the other hand, the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial stands as a historical site, a memory of the lives lost and their stories untold. The ability to hold as a historical sight signifies its strength. The complains that the memorial is built above excavations, that would also serve as a memorial to the Viennese Jews persecution poses a weakness to this work of art as this might bring up talks for demolition. The unrevealed contents of the books also signify a fault as many people would love to know what is in those books. People who would like to understand the material and the stories of the lives lost and the Nazi dictatorship.