Futurism's contribution to twentieth century art is far beyond a stylistic augmentation to an existent visual vocabulary. Although Futurism shared a common pictorial language with Cubism, the Italian movement was concerned with conceiving and articulating a comprehensive art theory that placed at the center of its schema conceptual rather than formalist elements. Futurism's idiosyncratic attributes can be perceived not only in the abundance of notions it brought forward in its theory: simultaneity, dynamism, time, speed, but also, and more importantly, in its ability to comprehend the long lasting effects these new elements would have on all aspects of life. As early as the Founding Manifesto (1909) the Futurists revealed the essence of the changing times.
A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath -- a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot -- is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace (1)
The overt reference to technology and to its impact on contemporary life surpassed the urban concerns of other European artists. The awe for the city and its dynamic vivacity did not refer to leisure time or themes of industrial labor, although the latter subject matter had been explored by the pre-futurist works of these artists. The innovative artistic schema of the Futurists vehemently dismissed the validity of the 'senseless and snobbish worship of the past,' perpetuated and supported by 'guardians of old aesthetic laws.' Acknowledging that their movement 'was grounded in the complete renewal of human sensibility brought about the great discoveries of science,' and that 'the triumphant progress of science has made profound changes in humanity,' the Futurists stated that 'the gesture they would reproduce on the canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in the universal dynamism.' 'Indeed,' they declared in the 1910 Technical Manifest, 'all things move, all things run, all things are rapidly changing.' This concept of continual transformation not only redefined the meaning of time/space relationships, but also re negotiated previously unquestioned hierarchic rapport's within the artistic discourse.
The Futurists proposed an art that would be a dynamic short-lived structure that would acknowledge the 'coming into being of things,' and which would come into existence only when all component parts, the text, the creators, the viewers, and the environment would simultaneously become interdependent. Dismissing the notion of art-as-ideal, art-as-sublime-holy-inaccessible, art-as-tormented-purity-vow-solitude disdain for reality, Futurism disclosed a new model for art, one in which limits, borderlines, and divisions would be replaced by interdependencies and equal relationships.
I leave you with an explosive gift, this image that best completes our thought: 'Nothing is more beautiful than the steel of a house in construction.' (2)
1.) 'First Futurist Manifesto', in Futurism & Futurisms, Exhibition Catalogue, Pontus Hulten editor, (Milan: Bompiani, 1986),p. 514
2.) 'The Birth of a Futurist Aesthetic', in Marinetti Selected Writings , R.W. Flint, editor, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1973), p. 81.
Irina D. Costache (March, 1995)
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