Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism
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In 1909 the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti published the founding manifesto of Italian Futurism, an inflammatory celebration of "the love of danger" and "the beauty of speed" that provoked readers to take aggressive action and "glorify war--the world's only hygiene." Marinetti's words unleashed an influential artistic and political movement that has since been neglected owing to its exaltation of violence and nationalism, its overt manipulation of mass media channels, and its associations with Fascism. Inventing Futurism is a major reassessment of Futurism that reintegrates it into the history of twentieth-century avant-garde artistic movements.
Countering the standard view of Futurism as naïvely bellicose, Christine Poggi argues that Futurist artists and writers were far more ambivalent in their responses to the shocks of industrial modernity than Marinetti's incendiary pronouncements would suggest. She closely examines Futurist literature, art, and politics within the broader context of Italian social history, revealing a surprisingly powerful undercurrent of anxiety among the Futurists--toward the accelerated rhythms of urban life, the rising influence of the masses, changing gender roles, and the destructiveness of war. Poggi traces the movement from its explosive beginnings through its transformations under Fascism to offer completely new insights into familiar Futurist themes, such as the thrill and trauma of velocity, the psychology of urban crowds, and the fantasy of flesh fused with metal, among others.
Lavishly illustrated and unparalleled in scope, Inventing Futurism demonstrates that beneath Futurism's belligerent avant-garde posturing lay complex and contradictory attitudes toward an always-deferred utopian future.
the Futurists to the new technologies of transportation and speed. If Marinetti’s earliest encounters with the “demon of speed” were rife with a sense of the train’s unruly explosive force and danger, he subsequently embraced these qualities as a cure for the “mortal boredom” and disempowerment of the individual within an increasingly regulated, anonymous mass society. By 1907, in writing about the Brescia automobile races, Marinetti extols the thrill of speed as an intensifier that opens onto an
be traced back as far as his early articles and theater reviews for Gil Blas and La Revue Blanche. In 1900, in an essay analyzing the riots in Milan of May 1898, Marinetti employed the phrase “psychology of crowds,” which was also the title of an enormously influential book by Gustave Le Bon (Psychologie des foules ). 5 No doubt drawing on Le Bon’s book, but also perhaps on the contemporary work of the Italian social theorist and irredentist Scipio Sighele (who became a close associate),
observed in beings belonging to inferior forms of evolution
reservoir of colossal energy rather than as an inert, indestructible mass. For Le Bon, “Matter represents a stable form of intra-atomic energy; heat, light, electricity, etc., represent instable forms of it.” In addition, he argued that, “By the dissociation of atoms
applied with delicacy, but without fuss, so that the linear boundaries are respected as guideposts, but also transgressed. The paper retains an ever-visible presence as the ground for the grid that redoubles it, while also providing a literal border beyond which the pattern proliferates.