Air raids on civil populations during wartime occasion not only direct damages but also other significant transformations. These attacks impact cities’ distribution and structure, transport, architecture and the ways they are inhabited, as well as residents’ perception of safety or the health system. The aesthetics with which this violence is represented, along with the practices and techniques of documentation and historiography that deal with it, affect the way in which we view war and remember it. They affect our politics of memory. This form of aerial terror was first endured during the Spanish Civil War, in the bombing of Gernika, and was later exported to the rest of Europe during the Second World War. Tracing a genealogy of aerial war that stretches up to the present gives rise to a questioning of the relationships between modernity and technique and their impact on the construction of a democratic society.
This conference revises the present and past of aerial war by way of three case studies conducted by researchers and creators linked to history, photography, architecture and medicine. Firstly, Xavi Domènech and Ana Sánchez present their photographic and documentary project 1.322. Refugios antiaéreos en Barcelona (1,322. Air Raid Shelters in Barcelona) on the history of air raid shelters in Barcelona during the Civil War, structures that provided a model to subsequently defend the civil population in Europe. For their part, Enrique Bordes and Luis de Sobrón present their research project Madrid bombardeado 1936-1939 (Madrid Bombed, 1936–1939) on the bombings of the civil population in Madrid in the 1930s and their relationship to the city’s urban transformation. Finally, in his study Ataques a hospitales y personal sanitario como arma de guerra (Attacks on Hospitals and Healthcare Staff as a Weapon of War) Camilo Valderrama focuses on the aerial war strategies executed today, specifically in the Syrian and Ukraine conflicts, understood as human rights violations, placing the stress on attacks on civilian hospitals and the death of healthcare staff.
Enrique Bordes is, in his own words, “a doctor of architecture and comics”. He is a professor at Escuela TS de Arquitectura from the Polytechnic University of Madrid and specialises in drawing, photography, spatial art and visual narration. In his professional work as a museologist, which began in 1998 with a collaboration with Venetian studio Tapiro, he has developed projects in places such as Colombia and Japan, and with his work focused on urban narration he has participated in the Biennial of Young Artists from the Mediterranean in Athens (2003) and was a fellow at the Spanish Academy in Rome in 2015. In 2017, he presented the book Cómic: arquitectura narrativa (Ediciones Cátedra), which led to the exhibition he curated under the title ¡Beatos, Mecachis y Percebes! Miles de años de tebeos en la Biblioteca Nacional (Biblioteca Nacional, 2018).
Xavi Domènech is a professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and a specialist in social movements and political change during Francoism and the Transition to democracy, processes of naturalisation and memories of the Spanish Republic and Civil War. The different exhibitions and projects on memory he has curated notably include Quan plovien bombes. Els bombardeigs i la ciutat de Barcelona durant la Guerra Civil (Museu d’Història de Catalunya, 2007), Refugi (Estación de metro Universitat, 2008) and 1.322. Refugios antiaéreos en Barcelona (La Model, 2023). He is also the author of books like Quan plovien bombes (República de Paper, 2009) and Un haz de naciones. El Estado y la plurinacionalidad en España (1830-2017) (Península, 2020).
Ana Sánchez is a journalist specialised in cultural communication, film and historical memory. She is head of communication at the Academia del Cine Catalán and as a photographer and researcher she has explored the memory of aerial war in Barcelona and the solidarity network of shelters in the exhibitions 1.322. Refugios antiaéreos en Barcelona (La Model, 2023), Refugi (Estación de metro Universitat, 2008) and Quan plovien bombes. Els bombardeigs i la ciutat de Barcelona durant la Guerra Civil (Museu d’Història de Catalunya, 2007).
Luis de Sobrón is an architect who holds a PhD in the Conservation and Restoration of Architectural Heritage from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. He is currently a teacher and researcher whose work focuses on the urban form and its historical evolution, employing drawings of the city as an instrument of research and analysis. He has published a number of research articles around the planimetry of the expansion of Madrid and the original design by Carlos María de Castro in 1867, a case study on the influence of architectural tools of representation and ideation. With Enrique Bordes, he participated in the European Union’s project 1939. España exporta el terror aéreo a Europa.
Camilo Valderrama is a doctor who holds a PhD in Development Studies from Sussex University and an MA in Documentary Film from the Madrid Film Institute. For more than twenty-five years, he has worked on emergency health responses in countries afflicted by conflict or natural disasters in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Over the past decade, his work has focused on the humanitarian crisis in Syria, particularly health programmes for the populace in areas controlled by the opposition. He is currently making a documentary on the impunity that exists in relation to war crimes in the field of health.
Presentation of 1.322. Refugios antiaéreos de Barcelona
— By Xavi Domènech and Ana Sánchez
Presentation of Madrid bombardeado 1936-1939
— By Enrique Bordes and Luis de Sobrón
Presentation of Ataques a hospitales y personal sanitario como arma de guerra
— By Camilo Valderrama