Change, material culture and festivals in Galician rururban landscape

The bandstands present in most Galician parishes are privileged witnesses of the changes in the social, cultural and economic ecosystems in which they are located. Despite their centrality and symbolic importance in the space/time of local festivals, most of them are currently in disuse and, perhaps for this reason, have not been the object of academic interest for researchers who have studied popular festivals in the region. On the other hand, some heritage-led associations have been calling for action to recover the memory of these buildings, especially those legacy bandstand considered to have heritage value.

This project addresses these sensibilities, but focuses on a different typology of bandstands (palcos), those that were built from the 1970s onwards to accommodate the new orchestral ensembles of the time, and which are often reviled in heritage debates as examples of urban “ugliness” and, therefore, exempt from value and/or in need of protection. As vestiges of a particular vernacular material culture, this project takes the palcos resulting from the so-called “desarrollismo” as a lens through which to explore the profound changes in the built environment of local festivals in Galicia from the last third of the 20th century to the present day.

To approach this object of study, the PALCOS project takes a perspective that is halfway between the materiality turn in the humanities and social sciences, the study of the festival as a device for the production of the common, and the transdisciplinary space that emerges from the dialogue between anthropology, contemporary archaeology and artistic research. Based on a multidisciplinary methodological approach (using tools from ethnography, contemporary archaeology and artistic practice), this project aims, firstly, to map and catalogue the palcos and campos da festa in Galicia. Secondly, it will analyse the morphological and functional evolution of the palcos and the built environment of the campo da festa in order to achieve a better understanding of the relationship between the shape, size and location of these structures and the evolution of the festival itself, as well as the Galician bands and orchestras that participate in them. Thirdly, the results of the project will serve to problematise and broaden the very notion of cultural heritage, (de)focusing the gaze on certain heritage objects that are systematically excluded from the practices and discourses of cultural heritage valorisation. Fourthly and finally, this project will enable the development of a new line of work at Incipit based on an interdisciplinary methodology linking ethnography, archaeology and artistic research, embodied in the future Laboratorio de Accion y Experimentacion Etnográfica (LAEE).

Ultimately, this project seeks to contribute to the knowledge of Galician popular culture through the study of the phenomenon of local festivals in rururban environments, taking into account both their materiality and the symbolic importance given to them as elements that shape relations of sociability and belonging to the territory.