Italian Futurism – 1909 – 1944 ‘Reconstructing the Universe’

Italian Futurism - 1909 - 1944 'Reconstructing the Universe'

‘Inspired by the markers of modernity – the industrial city, machines, speed and flights – its adherents celebrated disruption and sought to revitalize what they determined to be a static, decaying culture and an impotent nation that looked to its past for its identity’. (The culture we are living in now has almost resorted back to this in a way – there is a lot of re-making and re-using of old ideas, concepts, art, music etc. However I think because we have come more into an advance digital age this is the main change within identity of an era).

Futurism was founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. His manifesto goes as follows: We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed. We want to glorify war — the only cure for the world — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

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The futurists experimented with the fragmentation of form, the collapsing of time and space, the depiction of dynamic movement and dizzying perspectives. The recent exhibition at the Guggenheim was a perfect location for the ‘Reconstructing the Universe’ show. The architecture of the building lends itself to the presentation of that multidisciplinary idiom – the argued Futurist ‘reconstruction of the universe’.

The exhibition turned the museum into a ‘total work of art’.

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Another Futurist goal – ‘to locate the spectator at the centre of the artwork’, the rotunda presentation surrounds the viewer and so succeeds in doing this. Their response to Picasso’s aesthetic revolution took the form of a mode of painting based on the dynamism and simultaneity not only of space but also of states of mind, through which they intended to synthesize ‘what one remembers’ and ‘what one sees’.

Umberto Boccioni, ‘States of Mind: Those Who Go’ 1911

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This painting seeks to represent a simultaneity of environments and mental states – a depiction of the psychological states of people at a train station who are saying farwell, departing and staying behind.

 

Giacomo Balla ‘Radial Iridescent Interpretation (Prismatic Vibrations) 1913-14

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