Our team member Marc Geli has published an interesting interview on Pleasurescapes in Barcelona. For the Catalan magazine „Ab Origine“ he met three local stakeholders to talk about the myth and leisure at the forgotten margin of the Paral·lel.
His conversation partners are experts on the history but also the present of the Paral·lel. The researcher Enric H. March has recently published the book „Barcelona Freak show“ about the history of travelling „sideshows“ like clowns, musicians, illusionists, „human phenoma“, and wax museums in Barcelona. Jordi Rabassa is a historian and local councilman. Also present was Pablo Perez from the Arnau Itinerant Project, which is trying to reclaim the old Arnau Theatre as a building and in its use for the neighbourhood.
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.
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.
Based on an initial pan-Hamburg mapping of major entertainment venues (see below), Alina Just zooms in specific Hamburg pleasurescapes between the 1890s and the 1960s to explore the relations between spatial urban configuration and alternate social appropriation. Key questions of hers are: Which infrastructures and spatial conditions facilitated the establishment of urban landscapes of pleasure in Hamburg since the turn of the 20thcentury? How did political and economic strategies of urban planning interfere with public pleasure culture or, vice versa, how did early entertainment entrepreneurs shape urban development actively? Which program offers and audiences circled in which areas and locations of public pleasures and how did this influence the image and reputation of specific quarters? Case studies delve into the Hamburg neighborhoods of St. Pauli, Veddel, Rothenburgsort and Billwerder, as well as an amusement park in the formerly neighboring city of Altona.
Laurenz Gottstein and Alina L Just have conducted a comprehensive mapping of historical address data to identify Hamburg’s pleasurescapes of the past. The maps visualize the spatial entertainment hub of Reeperbahn that evolved in proximity to the port and its maritime practices, but they also shed light on largely forgotten entertainment quarters from the early 1900s. Eventually, we see how entertainment structures mirror the different historical stages of urban development, and that Hamburg’s cityscape of pleasure culture used to be much more diversified.
The names of the categories are based on the original terms in the address books. With the help of historical maps and street directories we placed the points as accurately as possible. Because many street names have changed since 1910, the addresses given here may be confusing. They reflect the official status at that time.
Vincent Baptist’s PhD research centers on the following questions: How did spaces of notorious entertainment develop and disappear in the port city of Rotterdam over the course of the long 20th century? And how can the legacies of Rotterdam’s pleasurescapes be linked to current practices of urbanization in the port city, such as gentrification and touristification? Three pleasurescapes are investigated in particular, namely Zandstraatbuurt, Schiedamsedijk and Katendrecht, which respectively succeeded each other in Rotterdam throughout the period 1880-1975. Focusing on combinations of spatial and experiential aspects, as propagated by the new ‘pleasurescape’-term, case studies on these pleasure districts are conducted by linking each of the neighborhoods to certain experiential themes (nostalgia, safety, gentrification) and different types of cultural sources (literary, visual, oral). Ultimately, the three neighborhoods are also further linked together through an overarching analysis of the residential displacement patterns and unrealized planning projects that arose in the wake of Rotterdam’s discontinued amusement offers.
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.
On 26 November you can meet part of the Pleasurescapes team live in Berlin. Our Hamburg researchers Lisa Kosok and Alina Just will present our project at the „Stadt nach Acht“ („City after Eight“) Conference. Together with Lars Amenda they will talk about our project and historical perspectives on key agents of entertainment culture in the pleasurescape of Hamburg St. Pauli. Tickets for the conference with many interesting talks on nightlife are available online.