Summary - TST 44


TST 44


Contemporary art and industrial heritage in Metropolitan Bilbao. A necessary binomial

Key Words: industrial obsolescence, collective memory, industrial heritage and contemporary art.

[ Abstract ]

The metropolitan area of Bilbao, in the Basque Country (Spain), was one of the epicentres of industrialisation in southern Europe between the 19th and 20th centuries. After the oil crisis in 1973 and the subsequent industrial reconversions that took place in the 1980s, it began a decline that led to the closure of a large part of its industrial fabric and the obsolescence of its important rail freight network. This shipwreck of a socio-economic system based on heavy industries caused a real catharsis. The drift towards a new post-industrial stage meant, in addition to a socio-economic transformation in which the tertiary sector, led by tourism, the hotel industry and the cultural industries, was reinforced, an urban and landscape mutation of the first order. In order to promote a rapid transition between eras, a massive demolition of obsolete industrial, port and railway installations was carried out, under the cover of a clean-cut institutional policy, without a thoughtful process and disregarding the recommendations of the technical experts in the field consulted. In short, there is no institutional commitment to protect, enhance and disseminate the rich and heterogeneous Basque industrial heritage.

It is from this research problem that the doctoral thesis presented here was forged. The hypothesis suggested is that art can influence a social and political change in the protection, valuation and management of industrial and railway heritage, making society aware of its fragility and value. On the one hand, the real current situation of Basque industrial heritage is analysed on the basis of the concepts: industrial obsolescence, management, urban-landscape transformation, reuse of heritage and revitalisation of memory. On the other hand, it analyses 6 artistic works in which intervention is made in the industrial and railway heritage. The thesis presented in this article aims to contribute to revitalising collective memory, to claim the heritage and historical value of industrial remains as testimonies of a crucial period in Basque history, to influence management policies and to socialise the problem of the obsolescence of industrial heritage through art.