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The Warsaw Voice » Other » November 18, 2009
Italy in Poland
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Futurism: An Incendiary Agenda
November 18, 2009   
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"It is from Italy that we launch through the world this violently upsetting incendiary manifesto of ours. With it, today, we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians. For too long has Italy been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We mean to free her from the numberless museums that cover her like so many graveyards."

These words come from the Futurist Manifesto by the Italian poet Tomasso Marinetti, which appeared 100 years ago on the front page of Le Figaro and so helped establish the world's first avant-garde movement.

Futurism was a reaction against "old art." In their ideological quest, Futurists turned to modern civilization and a glorified vision of city life where they pinned their hopes on the power of the masses and showed near-reverence for technology, such as the car, and then for the airplane in the second stage of the movement after World War I.

Marinetti, often referred to as the founding father of Futurism, and his followers including Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Luigi Russolo, Enrico Prampolini and Fortunato Depero believed that modernity was a chance for Italy's development.

They met at Futurist evenings, held mainly in theaters, where they read their own poetry, exhibited paintings and sculptures, and debated with the audience, representing a cross-section of society. The public reacted strongly, often throwing vegetables or even ending up in fights with the artists-much to the delight of the Futurists, who deliberately provoked such reactions. By shocking and shattering conventions they wanted to wean the community off their humdrum lives and bring out the creative instinct in them. As Marinetti said: "The Futurist movement represents persistent, organized and systematized encouragement to original creativity, even if it seems insane at first glance."

Speed, rush, motion, tempo-the Futurists painted images that could be seen from a speeding car or train window, or from a bird's eye perspective. The idea was to place the viewer in the center of an art work and to inundate them with a multitude of perspectives. The viewer was encouraged to live at a hectic pace that comes with a modern lifestyle, and breathe to the rhythm set by technological advances.

Futurism was a source of inspiration for later movements, such as Dadaism and Surrealism and its practitioners are considered by many as the precursors of performance art.

To mark the centenary of the Futurist Manifesto, Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Art recently held two exhibitions focusing on Futurism called Collezionare Il Futurismo and Carte Futuriste. The former featured 80 works from the collection of Paolo Roberto Salvadori, including advertisements and graphics, and the latter featured 15 drawings, tempera paintings and pastels by the most prominent Futurists, including Boccioni, Russolo and Prampolini.

Magdalena Błaszczyk
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