Day 395: Buenos Aires, Argentina
I am settling into apartment living and it means learning to live like a Porteño (citizens of Buenos Aires – as they live on the water). One thing that caught my attention is a massive line down the street and around the block…
Not for a music concert but a book fair!
I have never seen any city take the written word so seriously, it’s really amazing. It’s also why UNESCO named Buenos Aires the World Book Capital for 2011, a designation that changes cities every year and was previously held by Madrid, Alexandria and Montreal (yay Canada!).
Coinciding with the Book Fair and UNESCO honour was the unveiling of The Tower of Babel by Marta Minujin. She is likely Argentina’s most famous artist and is well known with the international avant-garde crowd.
She’s been around for a while, hung out with Andy Warhol and seems like a character. She is best known for her bizarre mattress sculptures but also holds performance art events called happenings.
The tower was created using 30,000 books. The United States embassy provided 1000 and Ecuador provided an impressive 3,500. As you walk up the tower you see books in every language that range from poetry to political.
The tower is 82 feet tall and as you climb it you hear a recording of Minujin’s saying book in different languages. She has said that like the original Tower of Babel her mission is to unite all people and questions the need to have different languages.
At the official opening she said
“A hundred years from now, people will say ‘there was a Tower of Babel in Argentina … and it didn’t need translation because art needs no translation.’”
Near the top I found a little piece of Canadiana with an old book called Canada – Then and Now and a childhood favourite The Berenstain Bears.
While Buenos Aires can be expensive, like most art events this one is free. The tower was installed in a public square and when disassembled the books will be given to the public.
Minujin says her artwork is inspired by the motto that “everything is art” and I am starting to believe that.