This article originally appeared on VICE France.
Last month, the basement of Palais de Tokyo, in Paris, was stripped bare in order to host the world's first "bookfighting" event, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Unsure as to whether the world needed such an event at all, I decided to check it out. The first thing I saw upon entering was a big pile of books, which sat in the middle of a cage that had been divided by a white line. It then dawned on me that bookfighting is basically just dodgeball with books. For the next five hours, about 40 weirdos took turns running around the cage and throwing books at each other—all in the name of "art."
French artist Yves Duranthon came up with the concept of bookfighting in 2009, after reading Yuichi Yokoyama's Combats. "A group of samurai attack the main character, who takes refuge in a library and defends himself by throwing books at them," he explained. "I wanted to see books fly too."
The whole thing began as a game between friends but Duranthon now describes bookfighting as a "combative sport and a way of re-staging culture through the manipulation of books."
Claiming to have been influenced by Dadaism, surrealism, and Situationism, Yves Duranthon sees bookfighting as a metaphor for the general cultural shift towards digital reality. Duranthon also claims he doesn't not feel any nostalgia for the book format which he considers as nothing more but "a code."
"Younger participants seem very uninhibited about mishandling the books," he said. "Older people have a huge problem with bookfighting: They don't like the fact that we're mixing sports and culture. They often try to remind me about book burnings, saying I'm damaging culture. Handling a book is a sacred act, and to do it in such a physical way becomes problematic for them."
I don't know about you, but I suddenly got the urge to throw a book at someone's face, too.