Political artefacts, aesthetics and heritage: the Valley of the Fallen

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International Journal of Heritage Studies
Volume 26, Issue 3 2020
Political artefacts, aesthetics and heritage: the Valley of the Fallen
José Manuel Barros García
Pages: 253-266
Published online: 28 May 2019
When considering the values which define heritage, aesthetic value is usually one of the most important, nearly always linked to the idea of work of art and to concepts such as beauty or harmony. Furthermore, aesthetics and politics tend to be dealt with separately. However, the link between aesthetics and politics is key in order to manage the meaning of those artefacts made with the intention of altering the political environment (political artefacts), particularly when they could be (or when they have already become) heritage. This paper puts forward the idea that in order to fully comprehend the social effects of political artefacts, their relationship with aesthetics must be understood. The function of aesthetics in modifying the meanings and connotations of heritage, when the latter is considered to be negative from a socio-political point of view, is also examined. In order to exemplify this relationship between aesthetics and politics, the resignification of the Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos), the most iconic and important Francoist memorial in Spain, is discussed.