Artist Plans to Recreate the Parthenon With 100,000 Banned Books
BY Kirstin Fawcett
November 7, 2016
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.
Marta Minjuin's Parthenon of books will be on display for 100 days starting on June 10, 2017 in Kassel, Germany.... https://t.co/wx17mVstDy
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.
A 5-year-old boy's playful mistake may end up costing his parents a small fortune. As ABC News reports, the boy knocked over and destroyed a valuable piece of art on display in the lobby of the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas. Now, the city's insurance company is asking them to pay for it.
The parents were preparing to leave a wedding reception as their son was filmed running around the building's lobby. At one point in the security footage, he can be seen stopping to embrace a sculpture, titled Aphrodite di Kansas City, which causes it to fall towards him and onto the ground.
According to Overland Park's insurance company, the piece was damaged irreparably by the fall. It had been listed at a price of $132,000, and a few days after the incident, the parents received a claim asking them to cover the entire cost.
“You’re responsible for the supervision of a minor child […] your failure to monitor could be considered negligent,” the letter read.
The couple disputed the accusation, instead blaming the community center for not better securing the sculpture. As for the chances of the Aphrodite di Kansas City being repaired or rebuilt, local artist Bill Lyons said it isn't likely. He spent two years creating the original piece, and after declaring it permanently destroyed, he told ABC News he doesn't have the drive or capacity to make a new one.
It isn't just rambunctious 5-year-olds who have been known to ruin expensive art. Grown-up museum visitors, whether they're tripping over untied shoelaces or getting in position for the perfect selfie, can be just as destructive.
Debuting in 1964, Brant Parker and Johnny Hart’s The Wizard of Id took a page from the macabre humor of cartoonist Charles Addams. Ruling the kingdom of Id, a pint-sized tyrant uses humor to disarm a medieval cast made up of a jester, an executioner, a thief, and the titular magician, whose spells don’t usually impress. Although Hart and Parker both passed away in 2007, their black humor lives on. Take a look at some facts behind the throne, including the time Jim Henson almost brought it to television.
1. THE IDEA FOR THE STRIP CAME FROM A DECK OF PLAYING CARDS.
Johnny Hart was already a successful syndicated cartoonist (the Stone Age comedy B.C.) before he and former Disney animator Brant Parker decided to collaborate on a different project. Hart was flipping through a deck of playing cards in 1964 when he came across a peculiar illustration used for the king. Drawing on it to create his own diminutive despot, Hart wrote most of the jokes for Id while Parker illustrated it.
2. THE SYNDICATE THOUGHT THE TWO ARTISTS WERE DISGUSTING.
Although Id would eventually be syndicated to over 1000 strips across the country, Hart and Parker first had to get past the gatekeepers of cartoon distribution operating out of New York. Traveling to the city to show them samples, the two worked late into the night and called to tell executives they were ready. They didn’t know the syndicate would be coming to their hotel room, which was a mess of papers, food, and beer bottles. Caught off-guard, the men looked like transients. “We think you guys are disgusting,” one executive said, “but we love the strip. We’ll take it.”
3. THE SHORT JOKES WERE BASED ON JOHNNY HART.
In a visual juxtaposition, the king of Id’s height is inversely proportional to his power. Parker said the character’s stature was based partly on Hart, who used to fend off jokes about his own height. "The king became short because we used to kid John about being short and a lot of the short gags began to slide over into the strip," Parker said. "He just kept getting smaller, and as he shrunk, the nose got bigger and bigger."
4. A LITTLE GIRL GOT THEM TO DROP A CHARACTER.
Most of the humor in Id is centered around the morbid dynamics of Middle Ages politics, which is not normally an opportunity to offend current sensibilities. But early on, Parker and Hart created a karate teacher from Japan who was perceived by some as a stereotype. When Parker received a letter from a young Japanese-American girl who was being teased at school as a result of the character, the creators decided to drop him from the strip.
5. JIM HENSON WAS GOING TO PUT IT ON TELEVISION.
An avowed fan of comic strips and of The Wizard of Id in particular, Muppets creator Jim Henson met with Hart in 1968 to discuss a possible collaboration. Henson wanted to create an Id television show that would use puppets against an animated backdrop. Hart agreed, and in 1969, Henson was able to shoot test footage featuring himself as the voice of the Wizard. But executives at Publishers-Hall, which had taken over syndication of the strip, were having trouble enticing networks into producing a series. By the time ABC showed interest, Henson had moved on to Sesame Street and other projects. Wizard of Id got translated into animation in 1970 as part of a Chuck Jones variety series titled Curiosity Shop.
6. HART TURNED DOWN FEATURE FILM OFFERS.
Possibly disappointed in the outcome of the Henson project, Hart wasn’t very receptive to offers to adapt Id into other mediums. He reportedly shunned Steven Spielberg and Norman Lear when they called about adaptations. Producer Andrew Gaty managed to interest Hart in 1987, though his plans for a live-action feature—possibly starring Danny DeVito as the king—never came to fruition.
7. IT WAS A (STRANGE) VIDEO GAME.
In 1984, users of the ColecoVision home computer system were able to pick up a software program with an unwieldy title: The Wizard of Id’s Wiz Math. The edutainment program allowed players to brush up on math skills by solving problems faced by Spookingdorf, the tortured and jailed cast member of the strip. By solving math problems, players could navigate Spookingdorf out of his dungeon. The game was produced by Sierra, which later became known for its King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry franchises. A typing game, WizType, was also released.
8. BLONDIE AND BEETLE BAILEY CELEBRATED THE STRIP'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY.
When The Wizard of Id passed the half-century milestone in 2014, the entire comics page came out to celebrate. Hi and Lois featured a portrait of the Wizard in a panel, while Blondie and Family Circus made subtle references to the anniversary. (As modern-day strips, it would be difficult to regard a medieval strip with more overt acknowledgment.) In Beetle Bailey, the perennial screw-up shared a cell with the eternally suffering Spookingdorf.