August 21, 2017
Modernisme, Art, and Anarchy in the City of Bombs
Explosively charged and violently disparate terms such as Modernisme (Modernism), Anarchy and Culture–or cultural resistance–find a common space in the City of Bombs, as fin-de-siècle Barcelona was aptly nicknamed. The repression of culture and language, economic inequality and the police state that was Barcelona in that tragic era is reflected in its principal aesthetic movement, Modernisme. By the time of the Universal Exposition of 1888 Modernisme had become fully cemented in Barcelona as a revolutionary trend in architecture, art and literature. Catalan Modernism’s foremost artist, the writer-painter Santiago Rusiñol, has been misrepresented as being an apolitical, solipsistic bohemian, distant from the daily struggle of the working class, a dandy practicing art for art’s sake. This reputation does not correspond to the complex, nuanced, even subversive reality of his aesthetic investigations–visual and literary–, which reveal an engagement with radical political tendencies such as anarcho-syndicalism and socialism. Modernisme’s ambiguous involvement with anarchist ideals was often troubled and contradictory, but never dispassionate and always explosive in its aesthetic and political approximation; quite possibly it was equally successful in helping to sow the seeds for future revolution by using words and images as efficiently as dynamite to shake the foundations of bourgeois society, giving in to destructive desires and igniting the fuse of social unrest in an extremely volatile Barcelona.
Eduardo Ledesma is a graduate student in Spanish and Portuguese at Harvard. His academic interests include 20th and 21st century Ibero-American literature (in Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese) as well as film and new media studies. He is currently working on his dissertation, which explores the intersections between word and image in experimental poetry, from the avant-gardes to the digital age. Eduardo is also an avid runner, and enjoys immensely running the Boston Marathon every year.
(Posted October 2011)