Art Movements: Futurism

Art Movements: Futurism

In direct opposition to nature, the Italian Futurists prized human ability over nature. Oddly, as negatively as some of the group’s ideas would be portrayed, what the sought to impart was a sort of over-wrought humanism.

What’s interesting is that, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti conceived of his Futurist tenets while figuring that his beliefs were transferable to any art medium, but just as importantly to actual life and politics. There’s an over nationalism displayed amongst the pages of the Futurist manifesto, first written by Marinetti in 1908 and re-printed in a French newspaper the following year.

Having his ideas so well disseminated, Marinetti coaxed his adherents to write what amounted to position papers on the application of Futurist tendencies in any and every art medium – including literature in all its forms of which Marinetti most frequently worked.

Futurism was not to be an insular thing. And on a trip to London, a place Marinetti felt embodied the sped up nature of the new world, Wyndham Lewis became fascinated with the movement. His work under the banner of Vorticism exemplifies the feel of a quick moving canvass and a rush towards the future, unknown or not.

Incapable of completely grasping what was to occur over the next few decades, Marinetti’s advocating for violence as an updated form of Darwinism would eventually morph into Italian Fascism – Marinetti was a Mussolini supporter.

In addition to all this prefiguring of the following, violent decades accompanied by mechanized warfare, Marinetti and his cohort almost summoned science fiction (a rough approximation of a robot shows up amidst one of Marinetti’s plays) as well as punk rock years prior to anyone being able to dream either up.

In his plays, Marinetti cherished the disapproval of critics and fans alike – he apparently dismissed all critics as useless, even fighting a dual with one he found too bothersome to dispatch in any other fashion. But the Futurist figurehead went so far as to attend his own plays in-order to cause disturbances: whistling, yelling, provoking others. And in this way, Marinetti and the Futurists can be seen as a proper antecedent to the London punk scene in which people in the crowd would ‘gob’ or spit on performers, who then would be necessitated to respond in the same way.

That last bit seems a bit discouraging to anyone accustomed to proper society. But if Marinetti can advocate for the destruction of public libraries, as he did in the Futurist Manifesto, it seems anything can pass for the theoretical backing of art.