A Perspective on Futurism

Posted Dec 7, 2003
Last Updated Nov 2, 2011

Emerging from Italy in the year 1909 Futurism was to take precedence over artistic values for the next four decades. These values not only dominated the time period preceding WWI, they have also reached into the 21st century, touching today’s culture and influencing many works of art created today.

Futurism was founded and declared in 1909 by anarchist and master of public relations, Filipo Tomaso Marienetti (1876-1944). Upon declaring "The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” and its printing on the front page of the "Le Figaro” a Paris news publication, Marienetti set into public eye his views on art. This art, influenced heavily by the machine age, was to propose several avant guard and violently strong views on the direction of modern art and culture. Although this futurist movement affected poetry, literature, sculpture, photography, and performing arts, the most enduring form of the original movement was and still is the painting.

An analysis of futuristic artworks will show emphasis on 5 major experiments, each representing the way of life in Italy during this period of social, political, cultural, and administratively corrupt society. Machine and war inspired experiments such as "movement and speed” which incorporated the use of harsh thrusting dynamic lines. The futurist’s perception and augmentation of "color and light” captured the reflection and reverberation of light in any environment--with special regard to those affected by the use of machine. Another study, "plastic dynamism” would stress observation and perversion of form. Experiments in the "interpretation of subject matter” became popular due to their characteristic merging of different elements within a frame of reference, and their arrangement as one whole collage or piece. And finally, a view already popular and often confused with late cubism, was "prismatic” or, the shattering of form portraying heavy use of triangularity and distortion. In futurism the modulation of these views are all characteristic of the impact machines have had on Italy and its society.

During this time, contaminated by corrupt leaders, anarchist, fascist movements and the hint of war, Marienetti evolved such experiments to illustrate the perversion of life on a daily basis. The hint of despair, degradation of women, the glorification of war, and the role machines take on the shape of human life, can all be found in works of this period.

These elements that have so shaped the experiments found to be popular in futurist works, have thus influenced such opinion in regard to works that have preceded this extremist’s era. Intolerance brewed for all that is "old and worm ridden.” This attitude called for the destruction of museums and artworks... essentially calling for the removal of history from modern day life. They regarded perennial works defiling to the mind and genre of futurism. Intolerance grew, typical of a society with demands characteristic of such instability. A society so closely affected by machine and based on efficiency and speed. The endeavor was to associate futurism as the representative art of the fascist movement in Europe. Such views by the standards of 21st century American culture would be thought negligent. These views however, characteristic of many leaders preceding WWI are easily found in one form or another in today’s culture. A few ideas such as close-mindedness, impatience, extremity, laziness and others are all clearly in direct connection with futurist values.

In retrospect I feel that futurism has not affected my life on a personal level. I have however, noticed certain characteristics in my daily routine that I do consider capable of comparison with the values of futurism. Although my impatience, extreme attitude, short fuse, or close-mindedness seem clearly derived from a futurist outlook, I would more so associate them with human nature. In my opinion humans are, by nature always wanting a bigger piece of the pie, seeking the most efficient route to accomplish a task at hand. At the same time I do question an American’s outlook on modern living vs. one whose life is less packaged and surrounded by accommodations to which we have become so accustomed. In perspective, I view American culture to be more capable of comparison with the values of futurism than for instance a Third World country. I would assume that culture and lifestyle found in such a country might display a less potent form of these compared views, but retain a sense of simplicity due to its lack of technology.

Futurism is an essential factor helpful in understanding the worldwide proliferation machine has instilled on human culture. The impact ensued by the place of machine in everyday life; an impact on art and society, this impact, of which humanity can never rid itself.

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