I am rereading the Molesworthy, and the end of the article has me thinking. It is dealing with the idea that art periods, such as dada, revive themselves, as a form of a sort of check and balance system to keep the traditional art instituions in bound. I am not sure I accept this- history in and of itself repeats itself- societal events wax and wane according to who is in power, economic conditions. This wax and waning approach reminded me of a book by George Kubler- The Shape of Time. In it Kubler presents a radical approach to the problem of historical change. Using ideas in anthropology and linguistics, he pursues such questions as the nature of time, the nature of change, and the meaning of invention. The result is a view of historical sequence aligned on continuous change more than upon the static notion of style—the usual basis for conventional histories of art. The ideas of periods is replaced by ideas of fluidity and response to circumstance, that would in and of itself resemble earlier events.
I'm also thinking about ideas of authorship and anonymity- happenings seem to assimilate the everyday into an event, its less about the individual artist. The thinking is that the artist removes himself from the work. Ok. I get that, but in the documentation of the work links itself right back to the artist. The idea of art not being an object? I think of a performance as an object that has been created, an act that calls itself anti-art is pointing itself right back to the act, which for me, cycles right back around to- ART.
Just my meanderings at this point.
In reference to the difference between futurism and dada-
Futurism favored violence, incited a response grounded in a negative reaction, and in this way mirrored a world ripe for the eventuality of war. They were obsessed with movement, technology and power. War was seen as a way of reaching an end, that the futurists endorsed.
Dada, on the other hand came as response to the destruction of war. If a society could be so misguided as to seek answers athrough and let such anhilation happen, the question is posed- What else are they wrong about? War became a metaphor for a whole structure that was headed in a direction that Dada wanted to remove itself from. Their work was anti-work in that it opposed the oppression, and the idea of the laborer, or the artist working for or producing to support a social system- capitalism.
Though the Molesworthy reading talks of these periods reviving themselves as a reaction to a capitalist art domain, I think that their real lifespan is limited to the context in which this sort of anti- art was new. Once it has been done, it ceases to really have the ability to continue to incite the same shock value and reaction.
[ Soldiers! ]
[ Forward March! ]
Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud , (pow) zew
Zew zew zew zew Kathud Kathud (boom) zew Kathud Kathud Kathud Kathud
[Hit the deck!] Tromp Tromp
Zew zew zew thwack Oh shit!
[ Oh God, No! ] Thud.
zew ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta ta zew zew ta ta ta ta ta ta ta pow pow
(boom) ta ta ta ta(booom) ta ta ta zew zew thack Ahhhhhh! Pow pow BOOOOOM!
ta ta ta ta ta [ Corporal get your men out of there... Oh God!]
ta ta taa
ta ta ta ta ta
pow pow zew pow pow pow(boom) zew pow (boom) zew zew zew zew thwack ahhhhhh!
Boom Boooom! BOOOOOOOM!
Zew zew ta ta ta ta
zew zew zew ta ta ta zew zew
pow ta ta ta (boom) pow pow pow pow pow.
(boom) (boom) zew zew (boom) (boom) ta ta zew zew zew ta ta ta ta
zew Thwack!! [ AHHHHHHFUUUUCK!! ] (boom) [ Ah Fuck! ]
[ Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! Ah Fuck! ]
[ Help Me!!!! ]
[ My leg... Please? ]
[ Oh God!!! ]
[ Help Me! ]
Zew zew zew BOOOOOOOM!
[ Oh God Please… Help Me! ]
This was a poem I had written for Constance Hunting's poetry class in unergrad. I was heart broken to see that Marinetti had already done it. I guess nothing is original. But my intention was to place the words on the page to analogously express the breaking of form and structure that is inherent in the break down of social relations and ethoses resulting in war. Which I see Marinetti hadn't done... so pblththththththththth! His poem concerning the noise of war still seems more mature.
|AUTHOR:||CLAIRE BISHOP & BORIS GROYS|
|TITLE:||BRING THE NOISE|
|SOURCE:||Tate Etc. no16 30-43 Summ 2009|
|COPYRIGHT:||The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited. To contact the publisher: http://www.tate.org.uk/tateetc/|
Futurism & The Art of Participation: As well as being noted for their avant-garde painting, the Futurists' performances were legendary for their intent to provoke and scandalise the public. Often encouraging audience interaction, they led the way for participatory art, from Dada, Situationism and Allan Kaprow's happenings to the present. To coincide with Tate Modern's 'Futurism' exhibition, TATE ETC. brings together two art professionals to explore this history
When we talk about participatory art today we often think of it as consensual and collaborative, but when you look back to the Futurist artists their notion of participation was designed to provoke, scandalise and agitate the public. You get a good sense of this in the printed material of the time, such as the Variety Theatre Manifesto of 1913. It included suggestions for disrupting the audience such as "spreading a powerful glue on some of the seats so that male or female spectators will stay glued down and make everyone laugh"; "selling the same ticket to ten people, traffic jam, bickering and wrangling"; "offering free tickets to gentlemen or ladies who are notoriously unbalanced, irritable or eccentric and likely to provoke uproars with obscene gestures, pinching women or other freakishness"; and 'sprinkling the seats with dust to make people itch and sneeze'. Are these infantile provocations, or were they aligned with Futurism's political agenda?
If you read the descriptions of the events that the Futurists organised, you notice that they always tried to antagonise with gestures, actions and speeches. One of their most famous declarations was 'War, the World's only Hygiene'. Such behaviour provoked anger and even disgust in the public, and aimed to destroy the long-held benign contemplative attitude of the spectator which had been the standard position of art audiences in the nineteenth century. The goal was to involve the audience in an event that was organised and ultimately controlled by the artist -- even if this involvement took an adversarial form. Better to antagonise the audience than let it remain neutral.
CLAIRE BISHOP I think it's important that they're using performance as a way to do that, and specifically using variety theatre as a model for the serate (the evening performances). First, the serate were characterised by non-sequential episodes of different types of performance, such as variety theatre or cabaret (theatrical events, poetry readings, manifesto readings, etc); secondly, variety theatre is a lower-class mode of entertainment, and has a greater degree of interaction than conventional bourgeois theatre. To quote Marinetti in the Variety Theatre Manifesto again: "The variety theatre is alone in seeking the audience's collaboration. It doesn't remain static like a stupid voyeur but joins noisily in the action, in the singing accompanying the orchestra, communicating with the actors in surprising actions and bizarre dialogues." Elsewhere, he talks about people smoking in the auditorium, as it creates a unifying ambience between the stage and the audience.
At the beginning of the twentieth century people still maintained the tradition of a romantic understanding of art that was characteristic of the nineteenth century. The goal of art was to provoke deep emotions in the soul of the spectator -- such as love and admiration. The viewer was supposed to be overwhelmed, especially if it was true, authentic art. However, at the end of the nineteenth century it became quite clear that people remained mostly completely neutral and unaffected by art. This was especially true of the new democratic audiences that were not trained to love it. So the Futurists tried to provoke again deep feelings in the audience -- but feelings of hatred, resentment and disgust, rather than admiration and love. However, the goal remained the same romantic goal: to disturb the peace of the audience's mind, to let it be overwhelmed by powerful emotions, albeit negative ones.
Marinetti is quite clear that mass audiences are not to be found through books, and he writes that 90 per cent of the Italian public go to the theatre. So there's a deliberate choice of live performance as a mode of reaching people, which is then backed up by a media campaign, with press releases and reviews being sent out almost immediately after the event.
And it is important to remember that the Futurists often presented themselves as clowns. They painted themselves in different colours, shouted unintelligible words, created 'noise music'. In their own way, they were reviving the medieval tradition of Commedia dell'Arte. The Russian Futurists did the same, using the Russian medieval folkloristic tradition of lubok -- a kind of comic strip. They also painted their faces, put big wooden spoons in their pockets instead of handkerchiefs and walked through the streets, frightening passers-by.
But did the Russian Futurists back this up with media attention as well?
Absolutely. David Burliuk was especially good at that. He briefed the press before the events took place and organised the scandals. If the scandals didn't take place, he created the illusion of them for the journalists.
But they were not allied to a political position in the way that the Italian Futurists were allied to an agenda of nationalism.
Not at all. I wouldn't say that Russian Futurism was completely free of nationalism, because it was informed and influenced by icon painting, primitive painting, folkloristic poetry and a celebration of Russian provincialism. The Futurists wanted to reveal very deep archaic, even archaeological, layers in the national culture. But they were neither militaristic nor state-orientated. Rather, there was a certain political affiliation between Russian Futurism and Russian anarchism. And the tradition of political anarchism was very strong in Russia.
One could talk about two phases of Italian Futurism: an early one up to about 1917, and after that when it is more aligned to fascism and the work becomes more mediocre.
That's true to an extent, but already by 1909 you see the first manifestation of all the fascist themes in Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto. You have this promise of a new, strong, modernised, industrialised Italy coming on to the European scene. It's absolutely impossible to imagine any Russian Futurist poet or painter at that time praising the state, or wanting it to be mobilised and militarised.
But this is also partly a result of Italian art being dominated by such a strong historical tradition since the Renaissance -- and wanting to escape from that tradition.
Yes, there is no question about that. On the other hand, Russian art was as dominated by academicism and naturalism as any art of that time.
The three things that characterise Futurism for me are the politics, the provocation and the use of the media. It is rare to find these in equal measure in subsequent art.
BORIS GROYS BORIS GROYS
Futurism tried to create a total, even totalitarian, space a space that one cannot escape. It is like the carnivalistic space that was later described by Mikhail Bakhtin. If you are a part of this, you cannot escape being beaten, being insulted, being pissed on, etc. You are pushed into the active position because there is no way out of it. As a spectator you find yourself having to defend yourself against the artist, and in doing so you become a part of the artwork. I think that was a real innovation -- making the neutral, spectatorial position impossible, including the spectator by excluding the possibility of being outside.
That's a very good way of putting it. I'm interested in how Italian Futurist performance then develops into Dada, because you can see the same patterns emerging in what took place at the Dada nightclub Cabaret Voltaire (founded by Hugo Ball), but without a defined political position; indeed, they refuse existing positions by embracing nihilism and meaninglessness. One (late) Dada event is worth mentioning in particular, since it breaks with the tradition of cabaret performance. In April 1921 André Breton, Tristan Tzara and others organised a tour around the church of St Julien le Pauvre in Paris -- or rather, around its churchyard, which at the time was used as a rubbish dump. In the flyer for the event they billed this as one of several planned tours that wished "to set right the incompetence of suspicious guides" by leading "excursions and visits" to places that have 'no reason to exist'. Instead of drawing attention to picturesque sites, or places of historical interest or sentimental value, the aim was to make a nonsense of the social form of the guided tour. Like the Futurists, the Dada group also made good use of advertising and press releases to garner media attention (for example, one event in early 1920 had promised an appearance by Charlie Chaplin). A major difference from Futurism occurs when Breton comes to analyse this event (which he saw as a failure and as inducing collective depression): he no longer felt the need to scandalise the public. This becomes an important moment in the transition from Dada to Surrealism. Breton is now not interested in provocation, but in the construction of a moral position.
Well, Dadaism was also akin to a certain kind of political anarchism. This is especially clear if one reads Hugo Ball's Flight out of Time. After becoming increasingly disillusioned with political anarchism, he also leaves the Dada movement. But in any case there was a difference between Futurism and the Dadaist Cabaret Voltaire or Surrealism. Futurist activities mostly took place in open public spaces. With Cabaret Voltaire you bought tickets and would go willingly to participate, as was the case with those who experienced the tumultuous reaction to Dalí and Buñuel's screening of Un Chien Andalou.
I can't imagine there being a similar reaction today to a work of art. Maybe these reports of outrage in the face of avant-garde production in the 1920s are idealised. But maybe it is also the case that viewers would attend such events precisely for the pleasure of responding with outrage to provocation.
There have been different sensibilities. If you read, for example, the diary entries of people from across the centuries about their experiences in front of art, what is interesting is that some were so impressed by a Raphael or a Leonardo da Vinci painting that they fainted, or would lose their appetite, or couldn't sleep. In descriptions of the events at Cabaret Voltaire, there are many examples of people who fainted or needed medical help. Also in the Russian audience of the same time, some people almost lost consciousness when Mayakovsky allegedly said: "Pushkin should be thrown out from the ship of contemporaneity."
Do you think there's a connecting emotion? One is out of shock and the other out of pleasure?
For a very long time people believed that there were certain religious, spiritual, moral and aesthetic values that lay at the basis of human civilisation, society, even everyday life. They thought that if these were put in question, attacked and lost, then the very basis of their existence would dissolve, everything would collapse and they just would not survive this general catastrophe. Today, nobody believes that ideal values build the fundament of our civilisation, so one can faint only at the news about a financial crisis. Earlier one believed that one could be killed by art -- in a certain magical way. Then art overcomes a distance between the spectator and itself and reaches and penetrates the spectator somehow. At the beginning of the nineteenth century you were supposed to create something so beautiful that the spectator could not escape the spell of this beauty. Or something so terrible, so ugly and repulsive that he or she could not escape the shock. But I won't say that the goal here is different. The goal is to create something that is so powerful that it undermines the capability of neutral, peaceful contemplation.
When looking at participatory art of later decades, such as the happenings, we can see that they are also coercive. For example, in some of Allan Kaprow's happenings the script defined the action and everyone participated together, with no space for critical reflection. This is slightly different from the Situationists' approach to collaborative events; some accounts exist that analyse and examine the déive. The Situationist group, particularly as theorised by Guy Debord in the 1960s, wished to suppress art -- but in order to realise it as life. We could see this as another way of eliminating a spectatorial position. It's not about one group who do, and another group who watch or observe, contemplating the products of others. Throughout the 1960s we find different modes of participation taking place in art, all done in the name of various types of emancipation. With happenings in France, produced and theorised by Jean-Jacques Lebel, it is a sexual emancipation of the body; with Kaprow participation is figured more as a kind of existential awakening that would enable participants to have a more perceptive, responsive approach to the world.
Well, everything is always about emancipation. The whole modern European culture is about emancipation. But I think the question is: emancipation from what? If you look at the late 1940s and 1950s, then it is emancipation from totalitarian space. Everything was about existentialism, about finding your true self and so on. Then suddenly in the 1960s one has a wave of a reprocessing of the totalitarian past and domestication of the totalitarian experience inside a stable framework of liberal democracies. Then it is understood as emancipation from individualism, from the isolation of the individual under the conditions of the Western bourgeois society.
So what happens to provocational participation or even "domesticated" participation (as you call it) under regimes other than liberal democracy? In the West, participation is invariably placed in opposition to a society of the spectacle. It is worth comparing it with participatory art in Latin America (under right-wing military dictatorships) and in eastern Europe and Russia (under communism). The examples from Argentina in particular, such as the performances produced by Oscar Masotta and Oscar Bony in Buenos Aires in 1966 and 1968, are quite violent and harbinger more recent work by, say, Santiago Sierra. We could also cite an action by Graciela Carnevale that seems to replicate modes of oppressive social experience that the dictatorship has put in place. Carnevale's action, which took place at the end of the 'Cycle of Experimental Art' in Rosario in 1968, involved locking the viewers in the gallery; she had covered the windows of the space with posters so that they couldn't see out, and walked off with the key. It was then a question of waiting to see what would happen; how would the viewers release themselves from this situation? Carnevale was producing a moment of incarceration which had no clear outcome. Eventually, it was somebody on the outside who broke the window and allowed people to escape, rather than someone on the inside. When I've talked about this piece in public, some audiences have been horrified that an artist would do something this coercive in the context of a series of works of experimental art. In eastern Europe there's a different mode again because of the specific relationship between public and private space and the fact that the work is produced in the context of communism.
... which is a completely different context in which to make art.
The Moscow-based Collective Actions Group (active from 1976 onwards) is a good example of participatory art under communism. Performances usually involved taking a group of spectator-participants out of Moscow on a train for a few hours, to the remote countryside -- often to snowy fields that were reminiscent of Malevich's White Square paintings. There, some of the participants would be subjected to an enigmatic experience that subsequently became a focus of discussion and analysis by the group. These analyses are gathered together in an eight-volume publication called Trips to the Countryside, edited by the main theorist of the group, Andrei Monastyrsky. I know that you took part in a number of these events, such as The Appearance (1976), in which the participant-spectators were asked to wait and watch for something to appear in a distant field. Monastyrsky then took a photo of you all watching, and later explained that you had all appeared for him. You argue that these kinds of events create a space of critical distance and spectatorship -- in short, a space of liberal democracy -- which did not exist under the conditions of communism. Under communism, everyone was a participant, and there was no "outside" space for spectatorship and critical analysis.
I think what should be very clearly said from the beginning is that communism is not a dictatorship. The concept of dictatorship presupposes the existence of a civil society which is independent of the state, which is something other than the state -- and is suppressed by the state. In the Soviet Union nobody was suppressed, because everybody was always already a part of the state apparatus. Everybody worked for the state. The relationship between Soviet state and Soviet population was not a political relationship -- not even a relationship of political suppression. It was a relationship between employer and employee. That is all. In the Soviet Union to be oppressed one has to create at first the possibility to be oppressed. One has to emancipate oneself to create a different space -- outside of the totalitarian space -- and then get oppressed. And that is what the participants of the Collective Actions Group did. In this sense the practice of this group is opposite to Western participation art. From Cabaret Voltaire to the happenings of the 1960s, artists tried to escape liberal democracy, individuation, aesthetic distance. It was a desire for totalitarian experience like the Romantic desire of the sublime. But in the case of participation art it is the experience of losing your individuality, dissolving your subjectivity in the ecstatic, Dionysian, totalitarian space -- the experience of the political sublime. As Hugo Ball says: "To experience the demise of an individual voice in the general sonoric chaos." Going to these happenings was like going to the Swiss mountains in the nineteenth century. To experience totalitarian frisson, but under the secure conditions of the Western state. In Moscow at the time we were living this frisson all the time. So in this situation one rather tries to construct artificially the position of spectator that does not exist in the society as a whole.
So the Collective Actions Group was trying to construct distance and externality?
To construct distance, construct spectatorship, construct the space of liberal democratic indecision -- because the Soviet state was already a huge participatory installation. Inside this space we were trying to create an artificial space of liberal democracy based on the separation between artist and spectator by going to this kind of desert, white desert. So it's space of nothingness. Not part of the state-occupied space. A private space, ultimately. However, it is clear that there is an intimate relationship between destruction and participative art. When a Futurist action destroys art in this traditional form, it also invites all the spectators to participate in this act of destruction, because it does not require any specific artistic skills. In this sense fascism is much more democratic than communism, of course. It is the only thing we can all participate in. So the Western participation art is a manifestation of nostalgia for an impossible dream of total destruction. And at the same time it is an act of total consumption, because the revolution of the 1960s was a revolution of consumption. Consumption is also an act of destruction. And what was a Soviet society? The Soviet society was a society of production without consumption. There was no spectator and no consumer. Everybody was involved in a productive process. So the role of Collective Actions and some other artists of the time was to create the possibility of consumption, the possibility of an external position from which one could enjoy communism. It was not a dissident position, not a position against the Soviet power. Only a very small group of dissidents were really against the Soviet power, but they actually didn't know what to do
If we are talking about destruction and participation, then a recent work comes to mind, a video by the Polish artist Artur Zmijewski called Them (2007). It revolves around a series of painting workshops between four different ideological groups: the young Jews, the young socialists, Polish nationalists and the Catholic church. Each group produces a symbolic image of their beliefs; each image is then amended by the other groups. The only rule of the game is that everyone can interfere with, amend, adjust, or destroy anyone else's image. Needless to say, it ends in complete conflagration, and the final shots show the studio full of smoke and the participants leaving the building. I think Zmijewski does actually want to achieve a progressive space of encounter, but he does this in a perverse way, by making the four groups confront each other. However, it is of course all stage managed -- in the style of reality television -- so he remains sovereign even though the events are not scripted and it is left open to people to play the game that he sets up.
I think sovereignty is a really relevant word here because the artist-sovereign controls the territory on which this destruction takes place. We have the same thing in the French Revolution, we have the same thing with the Russian Revolution -- Robespierre and Lenin controlling the space where the spontaneous collective destruction takes place.
Yes. I find it hard to be able to identify what kind of authorship takes place in a work such as Zmijewski's, where an artist sets up the rules of the game and watches it unfold, but without directing the action precisely, where the participants are given some agency. But then, of course, the artist's editing is highly selective. All the footage of the action is recovered into a 30-minute film that has a clear narrative and point of view.
Well, the artist as sovereign, as king, is not meant to do anything. He just symbolises and controls the place where everybody else does something. S/he authorises what these other people are doing. And is the ultimate author.
I think the Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is another person who is operating within the terms of Futurism today. He provokes and uses the media in a comparable way, although I believe he is lacking the political position that is so important to Futurism. One example is his work called Southern Supplies FC (1991). He put together a football team composed entirely of black immigrants and inserted them into a football league. They played matches, but ended up losing every game as they weren't very good. More important than the collaborative aspect of the work, and the use of the real-time system of a football league, is the image that circulates of this all-black Italian football team. This is very ambiguous politically; on the one hand, it's progressive (why not have an all-black football team?), on the other hand, the players are all wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the word Rauss (a play on raus, the German for "get out"). The word denotes a fictional sponsor, but also tells the uncomfortable truth of what many anti-immigration nationalists might think when seeing the picture. So it's a troubling image that cannot be read clearly one way or another.
We started by saying that the Futurists were extreme, but also very clownlike -- and Cattelan fits into this scenario very well. The Futurists didn't have any fear of looking laughable. And it was maybe a real emancipation, because contemporary art became very serious and so concerned with its public image. As well as Cattelan I would also include Oleg Kulik, whose early actions involve behaving like an aggressive dog, biting people and embarrassing them in the street -- but being a clown-esque entertainer at the same time. That also reminds me very much of the Futurists.
Yes. But, again, I think the thing that's lacking in all of these examples, which deal with provocation and media attention, is that none is aligned to an identifiable political position.
BORIS GROYS That's right. I think the connection here is only nostalgic. As I said, it's kind of playing with totalitarian sublime, but with totalitarian sublime that is already not dangerous.
Was Futurism the first of the right-wing avant-gardes?
Well, German Expressionism was partially affiliated to National Socialism in its early days.
It raises the question of which of the array of artistic positions we see around us today, globally, could be considered right-wing -- and is the art market?
Liberal democracy and market economy are not right-wing. I think we have to wait for that. Communism was from the beginning not unlike liberal democracy, because both of them are caring about the material wellbeing of people in the first place. That is why the war between them remained the Cold War. To create a true space of political participation one has to sacrifice his privacy -- ultimately his life. But who is ready to sacrifice anything at all today? Well, we have that now in Islamic fundamentalism. But in Western culture the tradition of pure sacrifice is predominantly a right-wing fascist tradition -- the only alternative to the liberal bio-politics that proclaim life to be of the highest value. In fact, we can see Futurism is a kind of artistic re-enactment of terrorism. There is a long tradition of Italian terrorism actually -- from the nineteenth century -- as there is a tong tradition of Russian terrorism. So that's two cultures where classic terrorism actually emerged, and also was conceptualised. So we can see Russian and Italian Futurism as a kind of nostalgic re-enactment of nineteenth-century terrorism... But against contemporary terrorism the artists have no chance in competition. The Futurists wanted to be like hurricane Katrina -- not like a shelter against it. Their every work can be understood as non -- constructive, nonobjective, senseless. Today, artists complain that they have no practical impact on society, that their projects fail, that they cannot change the world. But, fundamentally, every work is senseless and every project fails. The only difference between artist and non-artist is that the non-artist can not make the failure of his/her project a part of the next project -- and the artist can. Art is a wonderful place where you can reflect on the failure of utopia -- repeating this failure time and again. It is something that is almost impossible outside of art.
Is it? I'm not sure.
It is. It is impossible because, outside of art, failure has no value. If you fail, you just fail. But in art your failure becomes almost automatically an artistic achievement. At least you can always sell it as such.
Yes, I think that's true. I'm just a little resistant to it, because it sounds too easy.
Yeah, but it also applies to Futurismr, because all their actions failed. Neither did they create a new Italy, nor did they create a modern lifestyle...
But they gave momentum to a political project which did achieve changes and which did modernise...
And what happened? Mussolini came to power. And what happened after that? Mussolini failed. And now we don't like Mussolini, but we love Futurism because Futurism was not only a part of the fascist movement, it was also an aesthetic anticipation of the failure of the fascist movement. Futurism already reflected on the clown-esque, the absurdity and senselessness of the fascist action. It already prefigured and reflected on its kitsch aspects and complete ineffectiveness in real life. In this sense, I would say that Futurism created the aesthetics of fascism. At the same time it has shown the impossibility of this aesthetic and anticipated its failure -- and that's why we now can love Futurism even if we cannot love fascism.
Claire Bishop is associate professor in the history of art department at CUNY Graduate Center, New York.
Boris Groys is professor of philosophy and art history at ZKM, Karlsruhe, and global distinguished professor at the NYU, New York.
'Futurism' Tate Modern, 12 June-20 September, curated by Matthew Gale (head of displays and curator of modern art) with assistant curator Amy Dickson.
Costumes by Fortunato Depero for his ballet Machine of 3G09 (1924)
Gerado Dottori A Futum st Serata in Peruglo (1914) Ink or paper 21× 28. cm Courtesy Archive [Incomplete text in journal]
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in Paris in the 1920s
David Burliuk posing for a photograph in New York (c. 1920) Courtesy torway [Incomplete text in journal]
Poeter for the tour around St dullien le Pauvre church in Paris led by André Breton and Tristan Tzara as part of the Dada Sessor of 1921
Tristan Tzara reading to the crowd at St Julien le Pauvne church, Paris (1921) Courtesy BibllotFèqte Litré [Incomplete text in journal]
Hugo Ball resulting Korowons in a Cubist cost, me at the Cabarez Voltaire, Zürich (1946) Gelatin Silver print 71.5 × 40cm
The side of Hugo Ball's night to Lb Cabaret Voltaire as photogaphes in 1935 Courtesy Foundation Arp Courtesy [Incomplete text in journal]
Sol Goldberg's photograph of participants in Allan Kaprow's Women licking jom off of a cor, from his happening Housenold (1964) Courtesy [Incomplete text in journal]
Inside and outside views of Graciela Cannevale's action as part of the 'Cycle of Experimental Art', Rosaric, Argentina (1968) Courtesy [Incomplete text in journal]
Collective Actions Group's performance the Appoorence in the courtesy side outside Moscow (1976)
Still from Artur Zmijewski's © [Incomplete text in journal]
Oleg Kulik's performance The mod Dog or Last Tabco Cuorded by Alene sorber (1994)
Maurizio Cattelan Southern Supplies FC (1991) Colour Photograph, collage 11 × 100cm © [Incomplete text in journal]
Filippo Tomasso Marinetti [Incomplete text in journal] spaghetti in the late 1930s © [Incomplete text in journal]
11th January 1913
A reply to those dishonest journalists who twist phrases to make the Idea seem ridiculous;
to those women who only think what I have dared to say;
to those for whom Lust is still nothing but a sin;
to all those who in Lust can only see Vice, just as in Pride they see only vanity.
Lust, when viewed without moral preconceptions and as an essential part of life’s dynamism, is a force.
Lust is not, any more than pride, a mortal sin for the race that is strong. Lust, like pride, is a virtue that urges one on, a powerful source of energy.
Lust is the expression of a being projected beyond itself. It is the painful joy of wounded flesh, the joyous pain of a flowering. And whatever secrets unite these beings, it is a union of flesh. It is the sensory and sensual synthesis that leads to the greatest liberation of spirit. It is the communion of a particle of humanity with all the sensuality of the earth.
Lust is the quest of the flesh for the unknown, just as Celebration is the spirit’s quest for the unknown. Lust is the act of creating, it is Creation.
Flesh creates in the way that the spirit creates. In the eyes of the Universe their creation is equal. One is not superior to the other and creation of the spirit depends on that of the flesh.
We possess body and spirit. To curb one and develop the other shows weakness and is wrong. A strong man must realize his full carnal and spiritual potentiality. The satisfaction of their lust is the conquerors’ due. After a battle in which men have died, it is normal for the victors, proven in war, to turn to rape in the conquered land, so that life may be re-created.
When they have fought their battles, soldiers seek sensual pleasures, in which their constantly battling energies can be unwound and renewed. The modern hero, the hero in any field, experiences the same desire and the same pleasure. The artist, that great universal medium, has the same need. And the exaltation of the initiates of those religions still sufficiently new to contain a tempting element of the unknown, is no more than sensuality diverted spiritually towards a sacred female image.
Art and war are the great manifestations of sensuality; lust is their flower. A people exclusively spiritual or a people exclusively carnal would be condemned to the same decadence—sterility.
Lust excites energy and releases strength. Pitilessly it drove primitive man to victory, for the pride of bearing back a woman the spoils of the defeated. Today it drives the great men of business who run the banks, the press and international trade to increase their wealth by creating centers, harnessing energies and exalting the crowds, to worship and glorify with it the object of their lust. These men, tired but strong, find time for lust, the principal motive force of their action and of the reactions caused by their actions affecting multitudes and worlds.
Even among the new peoples where sensuality has not yet been released or acknowledged, and who are neither primitive brutes nor the sophisticated representatives of the old civilizations, woman is equally the great galvanizing principle to which all is offered. The secret cult that man has for her is only the unconscious drive of a lust as yet barely woken. Amongst these peoples as amongst the peoples of the north, but for different reasons, lust is almost exclusively concerned with procreation. But lust, under whatever aspects it shows itself, whether they are considered normal or abnormal, is always the supreme spur.
The animal life, the life of energy, the life of the spirit, sometimes demand a respite. And effort for effort’s sake calls inevitably for effort for pleasure’s sake. These efforts are not mutually harmful but complementary, and realize fully the total being.
For heroes, for those who create with the spirit, for dominators of all fields, lust is the magnificent exaltation of their strength. For every being it is a motive to surpass oneself with the simple aim of self-selection, of being noticed, chosen, picked out.
Christian morality alone, following on from pagan morality, was fatally drawn to consider lust as a weakness. Out of the healthy joy which is the flowering of the flesh in all its power it has made something shameful and to be hidden, a vice to be denied. It has covered it with hypocrisy, and this has made a sin of it.
We must stop despising Desire, this attraction at once delicate and brutal between two bodies, of whatever sex, two bodies that want each other, striving for unity. We must stop despising Desire, disguising it in the pitiful clothes of old and sterile sentimentality.
It is not lust that disunites, dissolves and annihilates. It is rather the mesmerizing complications of sentimentality, artificial jealousies, words that inebriate and deceive, the rhetoric of parting and eternal fidelities, literary nostalgia—all the histrionics of love.
We must get rid of all the ill-omened debris of romanticism, counting daisy petals, moonlight duets, heavy endearments, false hypocritical modesty. When beings are drawn together by a physical attraction, let them—instead of talking only of the fragility of their hearts—dare to express their desires, the inclinations of their bodies, and to anticipate the possibilities of joy and disappointment in their future carnal union.
Physical modesty, which varies according to time and place, has only the ephemeral value of a social virtue.
We must face up to lust in full conciousness. We must make of it what a sophisticated and intelligent being makes of himself and of his life; we must make lust into a work of art. To allege unwariness or bewilderment in order to explain an act of love is hypocrisy, weakness and stupidity.
We should desire a body consciously, like any other thing.
Love at first sight, passion or failure to think, must not prompt us to be constantly giving ourselves, nor to take beings, as we are usually inclined to do so due to our inability to see into the future. We must choose intelligently. Directed by our intuition and will, we should compare the feelings and desires of the two partners and avoid uniting and satisfying any that are unable to complement and exalt each other.
Equally conciously and with the same guiding will, the joys of this coupling should lead to the climax, should develop its full potential, and should permit to flower all the seeds sown by the merging of two bodies. Lust should be made into a work of art, formed like every work of art, both instinctively and consciously.
We must strip lust of all the sentimental veils that disfigure it. These veils were thrown over it out of mere cowardice, because smug sentimentality is so satisfying. Sentimentality is comfortable and therefore demeaning.
In one who is young and healthy, when lust clashes with sentimentality, lust is victorious. Sentiment is a creature of fashion, lust is eternal. Lust triumphs, because it is the joyous exaltation that drives one beyond oneself, the delight in posession and domination, the perpetual victory from which the perpetual battle is born anew, the headiest and surest intoxication of conquest. And as this certain conquest is temporary, it must be constantly won anew.
Lust is a force, in that it refines the spirit by bringing to white heat the excitement of the flesh. The spirit burns bright and clear from a healthy, strong flesh, purified in the embrace. Only the weak and sick sink into the mire and are diminished. And lust is a force in that it kills the weak and exalts the strong, aiding natural selection.
Lust is a force, finally, in that it never leads to the insipidity of the definite and the secure, doled out by soothing sentimentality. Lust is the eternal battle, never finally won. After the fleeting triumph, even during the ephemeral triumph itself, reawakening dissatisfaction spurs a human being, driven by an orgiastic will, to expand and surpass himself.
Lust is for the body what an ideal is for the spirit—the magnificent Chimaera, that one ever clutches at but never captures, and which the young and the avid, intoxicated with the vision, pursue without rest.
Lust is a force.
above copied from: http://www.391.org/manifestos/valentinedesaintpoint_futuristmanifestooflust.htm
Before the launch of YouTube in 2005, there were few easy methods available for ordinary computer users who wanted to post videos online. With its simple interface, YouTube made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to post a video that a worldwide audience could watch within a few minutes. The wide range of topics covered by YouTube has turned video sharing into one of the most important parts of Internet culture.
An early example of the social impact of YouTube was the success of The Bus Uncle video in 2006. It shows a heated conversation between a youth and an older man on a bus in Hong Kong, and was discussed widely in the mainstream media. Another YouTube video to receive extensive coverage is guitar, which features a performance of Pachelbel's Canon on an electric guitar. The name of the performer is not given in the video. After it received millions of views The New York Times revealed the identity of the guitarist as Lim Jeong-hyun, a 23-year-old from South Korea who had recorded the track in his bedroom.Charlie Bit My Finger, one of YouTube's most-viewed videos.
Charlie Bit My Finger is a viral video famous for formerly being the most viewed YouTube video of all time. It had over 245 million hits as of November 2010. The clip features two English brothers, with one-year-old Charlie biting the finger of his brother Harry, aged three. In Time's list of YouTube's 50 greatest viral videos of all time, "Charlie Bit My Finger" was ranked at number one.
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We embrace those unreached or unmoved by conventional theater-inspiring them to thought, feeling, and action.
Every week we use a unique collaborative process to write rehearse and perform a new iteration of our signature late night show Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind.
Every year we produce at least four other World Premiere shows that are written or devised by our ensemble members.
Since TML opened this theater has produced more than 6,000 two-minute plays for TML, and more then 60 full length plays or site-specific theatrical events.
We are proud to keep our ticket prices affordable, and Thursday Nights at The Neo-Futurarium are always pay-what-you-can.
As a group, we are dedicated to:
Strengthening the human bond between performer and audience. We feel that the more sincere and genuine we can be on stage, the greater the audiences identification with the unadorned people and issues before them.
Embracing a form of non-illusory theater in order to present our lives and ideas as directly as possible. All our plays are set on the stage in front of the audience. All our characters are ourselves. All our stories really happened. All our tasks are actual challenges. We do not aim to "suspend the audience's disbelief," but to create a world where the stage is a continuation of daily life.
Embracing the moment through audience interaction and planned obsolescence. In order to keep ourselves as alive on stage as possible, we interweave elements of chance and change — contradicting the expected and eliminating the permanent.
Presenting inexpensive art for the general public. We aim to influence the widest audience possible by keeping our ticket prices affordable and our productions intellectually and emotionally challenging yet accessible.
Book Review: 100 Artists' Manifestos: From the Futurists to the Stuckists
Published Date: 18 January 2011
100 ARTISTS' MANIFESTOS: FROM THE FUTURISTS TO THE STUCKISTS
Selected by Alex Danchev
'WE INTEND to glorify aggressive action, a restive wakefulness, life at the double, the slap and the punching fist": so hymned FT Marinetti in The Foundation And Manifesto Of Futurism in 1909, instituting a century of cultural polemics and aesthetic controversies.
This ingenious anthology collects many of the most significant and influential such documents, offering a primer in the key concepts of 20th century art and a (slightly skewed) historical overview of the major movements. From the Futurists it unfurls forward into Dadaism, Surrealism, the Soviet Supremacists, the Situationist International and Fluxus, always with an eye to the "revolutionary", experimental and avant-garde inflections.
These are works that witnessed how "cultured" Europe had torn itself apart in war, and attempted to renegotiate what culture might mean. Each is accompanied by lightly erudite biographical and contextual notes, and Danchev is unafraid to be sceptical about some of the contributions - he is, for example, distinctly unimpressed by Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 Manifesto.
The inclusion of Dogme highlights one of the problematic editorial decisions about this volume. Although it is entitled "Artists' Manifestos", that definition is engagingly, and necessarily, loose: it includes film-makers (such as Dziga Vertov's ground-breaking WE, Derek Jarman's art-school notes and Werner Herzog's Minnesota Declaration), architects (from the Bauhaus and Le Corbusier to the more baroque and extravagant Charles Jencks, Rem Koolhaas, Coop Himmelb(l)au and Lebbeus Woods) and various conceptual artists.
The last field offers some of the strongest and most unusual pieces: I was very taken by Mierle Ukeles' Maintenance Art Manifesto, in which she justifies work that might otherwise be taken for simply "cleaning" museums. The reason it isn't just janitorial labour is that there was a manifesto to outline its political engagement. Likewise, there are striking pieces by early female Futurists, such as Minna Loy and the outrageous, fascinating Valentine de Saint-Point, author of the Futurist Manifesto Of Lust.
Even though many of the movements heralded in these pages had a literary dimension - not least Futurism itself - there is an absence of literary manifestos.
Obviously, for the book not to be twice the size, some omissions are to be expected, but manifestos by the OuLiPo, the McOndo and Stewart Home's Neoism would have reflected and balanced the major themes of the "artistic" manifestos. It might also if it had concluded with the Manifesto Of The International Necronautical Society by Tom McCarthy and Simon Critchley - have provided Danchev with an ending in keeping with his primary interest in the avant-garde. (McCarthy's Booker shortlisted novel, C, is a homage to Marinetti among other things).
As it is, Danchev has to end with the wearisome Stuckists, the group opposed to the Young British Art of Emin, Hirst and others in the Saatchi collection. I could understand having one of their pronouncements (the Founding, Manifesto And Rules Of The Other Muswell Hill Stuckists is the wittiest, denouncing "YBA" as "You'll Believe Anything" and features the most succinct definition of their position; "to be unconventional is to conform" - which always reminds me of a student when I was at college who ran for the student union under the slogan "be a rebel, wear a blazer"), but three?
It means the book peters out, rather than affirming the ongoing relevance of artistic rebellion. Another odd absence is Jean Dubuffet's manifesto for Art Brut, usually translated as "Outsider Art", which has many of the common features of radical manifestos, especially the sense that "art" has become etiolated in the hands of professional artists. Dubuffet referred to those "unscathed by artistic culture". The clarion call throughout this book is "Art is Dead, Long Live Art".
The book deals well with the irony that major artistic movements - such as Pop Art, the "land art" of Richard Long, to an extent Abstract Expressionism, and certainly the oeuvre of Picasso - did very well without manifestos; and that many manifestos failed to deliver an artistic product equal to the ambition of their rhetoric. Often their aspirations, to be fair, were far greater than creating art: Futurism, Dada, Surrealism and the Situationists were all convinced they were revolutionising reality, taking their cue from Marx's dictum that philosophers had only described, not changed, the world. As Barnett Newman said: "Instead of creating a magical world, the surrealists succeeded only in illustrating it". Often the manifesto was the work of art, a paradox that might give some comfort to Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
Nevertheless, caveats aside, this is an inspiring book, and often much funnier than one might expect (Marinetti, for example, banned pasta for the greater good of Italian life and art). The key word is Marinetti's passatista, which might be translated passé-ism, the overbearing and stifling adherence to the past and past models. In an age of perpetual fashion recycling, three-second fads and timid epigones, we need more attacks on passatista. Danchev's book might just inspire a new wave of rebels.
|TITLE:||The Future of Futurism|
|SOURCE:||Art Monthly no329 5-8 S 2009|
|COPYRIGHT:||The magazine publisher is the copyright holder of this article and it is reproduced with permission. Further reproduction of this article in violation of the copyright is prohibited.|
ON 15 OCTOBER 1908, A YOUNG, SELF-AGGRANDISING AND WEALTHY ITALIAN POET CALLED FILIPPO TOMMASO MARINETTI crashed his new Fiat sports car into a ditch on the northwestern edge of Milan while avoiding an errant cyclist. No one was hurt much in the incident, though the four-cylinder Kaiserpreis Replica was quite badly damaged.
Marinetti and his mechanic -- for in the early days of motoring a sports car and its driver needed one -- were rescued, oddly enough, by two real racing drivers, Vincenzo Trucco and Vittorio Giovanzani of the Isotta Fraschini factory, out for a morning test run on public roads. Motoring accidents were a more novel aspect of life then than they are now, but this one was to have a very particular effect on the history of modenist art, on the cultural response to the development of industrial and governmental modernity. Thanks to Marinetti's re-casting of the incident, a bit of a do on the Via Domodossola was turned into a seminal motif in the emergence of Futurism. The car was vital to Futurism; indeed, to contemporary sceptics it was perhaps, as Percy Wyndham Lewis scoffed in the first issue of BLAST, little more than 'a hullabaloo about motors'.
'The Futurist Manifesto', first published in December 1908 in the little magazine Poesia but gaining most of its subsequent notoriety through its front page publication in the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro in February 1909, used Marinetti's crash to symbolise the violent collision of dynamic industrial modernity with a passive, sentimental and slow-moving past
We know all about Futurism, or we think we do: the first modernist movement to issue a manifesto; the first modernist movement to endorse without qualification the effects of industrial modernity upon the human body and psyche; a celebration of speed, power, technology, violence and masculinity; eventually an aesthetic programme that rejoices in war -- 'the hygiene of society' -- which after 1918 quickly degenerates into support for Mussolini's right-wing ideas. Its visual art is that of Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini; the art of the dynamics of bodies in space and time, fragmented into the shattered, interpenetrating planes of 2-D painting, reconstituted in attempts to render the stasis of sculpture as mobility of both subject and spectator; the art of manic dancers and scurrying dogs, straining horses and rattling trams, surging trains, swooping aircraft and bustling metropolises.
On the margins there are abandoned experiments with the technologies of modernity as the bases of new arts that might synthesise experience rather than focus it within the rhetorics of specific media: Luigi Russolo's 'machine music'; Anton Giulio Bragaglia's chrono-photography; Bruno Corra and Armaldo Ginna's proposed hand-painted, abstract films with their debt to the various notions of music and colour that circulated in the 1910s. Futurism, so alembicated, looks from here, and indeed -- if you were a Purist -- looked, as early as the 1920s, like a compendium of all the mistaken assumptions and investments that modem artists could make about and within the times in which they lived: wrong politics, wrong aesthetics, wrong rhetoric both in content and in application. If Modernism is propelled, as TJ Clark argues, by a dialectic of horrified fascination with modernity, then these macho boys were at the far end of fascination, where the experiments with language transformed it into Fascismo.
However, we have now reached the centennial year of Futurism's founding, an apparently necessary point for its reappraisal and explanation. Futurism had, of course, already entered the academy well before this, become part of what its participants would have understood, with extreme revulsion, as the 'passéist' pursuit of art history, researched by dull professors such as myself, removed from the sphere of everyday life with all its vibrancy, its danger, to be contextualised and analysed to a slow death. The centennial becomes a point at which this research, in its own distilled forms, is made available to the wider public, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of that public which read Le Figaro, which across Europe howled and hooted at Marinetti's lectures and the calculated outrages against theatrical convention that were the futurists' serate. What once was shock and provocation is now absorbed as peer-reviewed knowledge or experienced as mild amusement within the Centre Pompidou, the Scuderie del Quiri-nale in Rome and finally at Tate Modern. The other thing which happens, in the course of this explanation, is that the institutions doing the explaining attempt to make Futurism relevant; they demonstrate that the movement has significance for our time. Furthermore, the demonstration of this connection between then and now is a compelling motive for the project. Without such demonstration the movement might remain immured in the less visited stacks of the libraries in the academies.
That this should be the fate of Futurism, its future if you like, is not a unique event; modernist art is continually trawled through and made palatable to the post-modern. We might see the process as beginning with the first historical examination of Dada, 'Dada: Dokumente einer Bewegung', a show that toured Europe in 1957. A show originating, then, at much the same moment, and perhaps arising from the same cultural and historical pressures as spawned the wider culture industry and economies organised around mass consumption and commodity capitalism. The result of such exhibitions was that artists of the postwar neo-Avant Garde were able, as Benjamin Buchloh put it, to perform an archaeological labour to discover the artists relevant to their own practices. There were, however, continuities around such exhibitions even as they emphasised historical difference: in the 1950s some first generation Dada artists were still active, some of the assemblage artists who seemed to owe the greatest debt to Dada -- Louise Nevelson and Richard Stankiewicz, for example -- had encountered the movement's works a decade earlier and even had teachers associated with it. The flood of assemblage works that came in the late 1950s and early 60s from the likes of Dieter Roth, George Herms, Bruce Conner and Robert Rauschenberg, quickly anthologised and given historical continuity in William Seitz's 'The Art of Assemblage' show at MoMA in 1961, arises only in part as a consequence of curatorial and institutional reclamation.
Shows of modernist art such as 'Dada: Dokumente einer Bewegung' became the curatorial model for historical scrutiny, even as their content was increasingly distanced from contemporary practice and the ideas of the neo-Avant Garde. Who, among contemporary artists, would acknowledge a substantial debt to Futurism, except out of expediency or ignorance? However -- and this is a point which the touring 'Futurism' exhibition exemplifies, but is equally true of a number of recent surrealist exhibitions, notably 'Subversive Spaces' at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester (see review AM325) -- rather than acknowledging a radical historical difference, and working from that phenomenon as a fit motive for intellectual and aesthetic scrutiny, such projects increasingly sought to elide difference. Instead, ways were found in which the 'sameness' of the historical to the present might be stressed in order that the content might be safely absorbed, and absorbed primarily as spectacle since it was no longer directly relevant to the activities of contemporary artists. So, rather than we as subjects experiencing any radical call of otherness from the alienation of the past, the past must be safely homogenised with us, be made like us, to neuter any threat Historical culture is acceptable only in terms of progress and achievement, in terms of its immediate use value. To be accommodated within the society of the secretariat the history of culture must be something more than a historical or intellectual exercise. Such histories must be diverting, that is they must contribute to the overall spectacle of contemporary culture. But like Shakespeare performed in a council estate with amateur actors and a patronising professional director, they have also, however indirectly, to contribute to the management of population and to the project of social change -- or rather to the amelioration of the pernicious effects of the society in which they are produced.
One of the ways in which this air of relevance is achieved is through the inclusion of specially produced contemporary work, no matter how strained the connection between it and the other exhibits might be. For the 'Futurism' show, originating at the Centre Pompidou, this contribution took the form of a room commissioned from the 'techno' DJ Jeff Mills, whose 'imagination draws on technology, Utopia, mechanisation and futuristic cinema', to quote the gallery guide. Perhaps some resonance was intended between the technological impulse of futurist music as espoused by Russolo and Balilla Pratella, but then no proper attention was paid to that music in the exhibition. As for 'futuristic cinema', Mills had probably seen Fritz Lang's Metropolis once and no doubt been deeply affected by it; futuristic cinema indeed, but hardly futurist. Since only a few of Ginna's abstract drawings for Accorda Cromatico, 1909, survive, and his Vita Futurista, 1916-17, is incomplete, while Bragaglia's Tha"is, 1916, is rarely screened, it is unlikely that these were formative influences. The fact that discussion of futurist cinema -- and especially futurist theorisation of 'cinema' as part of a wider intermedial experience in The Variety Theatre, 1913, and The Futurist Cinema, 1916 -- was missing from the exhibition, rendered Mills' installation even more pointless. The real importance of this material was demonstrated by its exclusion from a scholarly catalogue which otherwise did much to compensate for the shortcomings, and peculiar biases, of the exhibition itself.
Another mode of homogenisation is the marginalisation of those aspects of activity that might threaten contemporary perceptions of normality. We might crudely summarise this as the insistence on facility at the expense of difficulty. However, this principle of easy understanding is not underpinned by disseminated, if simplified, knowledge, but by a spectacle that accords with dominant discourses. One of the most significant points of historical difference between Futurism and the present is its exponents' understanding of time, especially as it evolved in the wake of their encounter with Henri Bergson's work, at least as it was read by the Parisian Avant Garde. This rapid evolution was emphasised at the Pompidou perhaps because the curators, with their secondary rubric of 'Le Futurisme à Paris', needed to stress the influence of French artists on Italians. Bergson's notion of individualised, interiorised, private time was fundamentally at odds with the post-Newtonian regime of standardised, mensurated, public temporality on which the modern era, and its new art forms such as cinema, was structured. While the Parisian curators tried to develop this issue, with tours led by the historian of philosophy François Azouvi, in London there was no such commentary. Bergson's theory of time might be complex, but it is vital to any proper understanding of modernist art, especially art made in Paris in the 1910s. We might imagine that, living in an age in which time and space are contracted and rendered ever more flexible by new, increasingly personalised technologies, there is some commonality between Bergsonian thought and our own experience. Perhaps one of the reasons for the neglect is that there is a real difference exposed by such a parallel, which is that the flexibility of contemporary live-work practices remains grounded in a public, institutionally regulated sphere (that of late capitalism) in contrast to the private, individual regime of Bergson's subjects. In the modern regimen space/time is simply collapsed; in the Bergsonian its compression is subjectively experienced. Today's flexibility of time and space is shown to be no more than a sophisticated development of the efficiencies achieved through Taylorism and Fordism; not only is such a comparison difficult, it is also unpalatable.
However, it is with the outrageous radicalism of Futurism that contemporary attempts at homogeneity are made to look ridiculous. Look at the seminal moment of Futurism -- Marinetti's car crash -- and at the opening points of the first manifesto, the essential guidelines to the movement: 'We want to sing about the love of danger, about the use of energy and recklessness as common, daily practice.' This distils, surely, into 'irresponsibility', the very antithesis of the ethos of modern life in the West, where speed is controlled, where smoking is banned, where drinking is heavily regulated -- indeed, we are urged in advertisements for alcohol to 'drink responsibly' -- where danger to the self and others is minimised at every turn, so that life may be ever further extended and the cost of the individual to the corporate state minimised. Nowhere is this difference clearer than in Futurism's credo on speed: 'We believe that this wonderful world has been further enriched by a new beauty, the beauty of speed.' You doubtless remember the rest about a racing car being 'more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace', though we might not recall why that statue of Nike was thought so beautiful and significant in the early 20th century.
The futurists loved fast cars; not only did Marinetti own a commercial development of an early race car, he wrote what must be the first modernist poem to celebrate a motor race, the 1907 Coppa Florio or the Coppa Velocità of the following day, held in Brescia; Balla made a series of monochromatic paintings of speeding cars, beginning with Racing Automobile, 1913. This fascination surfaces early in Marinetti's poetry, notably the collection Destruction, 1904, which includes a poem entitled 'The Demon of Speed'. As Christine Poggi has recently noted, this work has a particular association with Symbolism and Emile Verhaeren's Les campagnes hallucinées of 1893, and the artists of popular culture, making images to promote early motor races, often delved into Symbolism's morbid obsessions to articulate the link between speed and fatality. The link to Symbolism is also useful in emphasising Futurism's own fascination with death and with individual agency. Whereas other forms of modern transport (train, tram, pantechnicon) rob the subject of agency in relation to the speed of its own body, and its capacity for self-destruction, the car (and later the single-seat aeroplane) offers itself as what Jeffrey T Schnapp calls an 'engine of individuation'. Futurism distinguishes, politically, between the modern movement of the masses and the modern movement of the individual; in the latter the death-drive reconstitutes the subject even as it threatens its destruction.
In all these aspects (and we haven't got to the political relation of anarchism and Fascism that is articulated in the movement's evolution), Futurism represents the absolute antithesis of our times. We express horror at a single death in neo-colonial warfare or in a 'dangerous' sport. Within 'enterprise culture' the taking of physical risks is strangely anauiematic Indeed, there is a certain revulsion towards the need for speed even among those academics -- Schnapp, Poggi, Sara Danius -- who theorise it in Modernism. But rather than stressing sameness, shouldn't we own up to difference, to its allure and its dangers? Rather than limiting engagement with Futurism to its presentation as eccentric spectacle, we need to understand its responses to history. This is not so that we might not make the same mistakes -- after all, the historical moment of the futurists will not come again -- but rather because Futurism's provocation to industrial and governmental modernity, like that of Dada, in its successes as much as its failures, might offer subjective paradigms that counter the anaesthetising cocoon of the administered society.
Futurism is important to our time because of its almost intolerable difference, its estrangement, not because -- neutered by academics and curators -- it achieves a comforting similarity. Drive carefully...
CHRISTOPHER TOWNSEND is professor in the department of media arts, Royal Holloway, University of London.
Futurism was devised by Didier Ottinger of Centre Pompidou, Paris, where it ran from 15 October 2008 to 26 January 2009. It travelled to Scuderie del Quirinale, Rome, from 20 February to 24 May, where it was curated by Ester Coen. It is at Tate Modern, London, from 12 June to 20 September, curated by Matthew Gale.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti Zang tumb tuuum 1914 book cover
Gino Severini La Danse du 'Pan-Pan' au Monico 1909-11/1959-60
Umberto Boccioni Unique Forms of Continuity in Space 1913