Montjuïc is a long flat-topped hill overlooking the harbour of Barcelona from the southeast border of the city. From 1915 onwards it underwent a profound transformation turning it into the site of the 1929 International Exhibition. Aurelio Castro Varela delves into this turning point, examining the aesthetic role of infrastructures in delivering pleasure on the hill before and during the dazzling, monumental display that characterized the event. He elaborates on two distinct regimes of pleasure by theorising their material forms as functional to and expressive of specific ways of having fun. Thus, such enquiry concerns the ambient conditions, sensorial landscapes and architectural elements through which pleasure took shape in Montjuïc from the mid-nineteenth century to 1936.
“Changes, continuities and the public in Paral·lel and the 5th District in Barcelona (1914-19)” by Marc Geli
Paral·lel Avenue and the old 5th District formed Barcelona’s underworld in the early 20th century. PhD candidate Marc Geli investigates this area in the period 1914 to 1919. During these years of the First World War, the city experienced drastic changes due to Spain’s neutrality in the conflict. The arrival of foreign capitals allowed, among other influences, the change of the leisure offers, a more relaxed morality and the cosmopolization of Barcelona. Paral·lel Avenue and the 5th District became the epicenter of the entertainment industry across classes, but how far did this seeming equality of classes reach exactly? Along with an analysis of the change – as well as its continuities – of the traditional entertainment models, this research scrutinizes how accessible the new leisure offers were to all social classes or where boundaries emerged.
“Spiritism and occultist practices as popular entertainment around 1900” by Judit Vidiella
Judit Vidiella explores the connection between maritime trade and the freedom of conscience that placed port cities at the forefront of articulating new societal ideals among the population around the turn of the 20th century. She is interested in analyzing how Spiritism circles built proper networks of communication and ‘uncanny infrastructures’ (Geoghegan 2016), focusing on the fundamental role that female mediums played as active agents in the change of consciousness by means of their ‘inspired’ messages and socio-political practices.
Occultist practices became a massive entertainment in Europe, when the magic and the scientific lived together and spirituality was given a positivist and scientific touch and supposedly empirical evidence in public shows and performances. This opens a field of research about the ‘spectatorial regime’ (Crary 1992) that had spiritist séances in common with other forms of popular entertainment in the late 19th and early 20th century such as cinema, hypnotist and magnetizer’s exhibitions or café-concert shows.