Futurism


Futurism
   A literary, artistic, and cultural movement founded in the first decade of the 20th century, futurism combined genuine artistic radicalism with a love of violence, power, and speed that led futurist thinkers and writers to extol the virtues of war and to embrace Fascism as their political creed. The essence of futurism was its celebration of the beauty of modernity. Aracing car could be as beautiful as a race horse, electric pylons as beautiful as trees or mountains. Literature and art should not, in short, be restful or contemplative, but should capture the noise, bustle, drama, and violence of industrial cities. In the words of the futurist manifesto published by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1909, the futurists wanted to “sing” of “the vast crowds energized by work, pleasure, or protest,” to depict the “vibrant nightly fervor of the arsenals and workplaces lit by violent electric moons,” the “bridges arched across rivers like gigantic gymnasts,” and the “locomotives . . . like enormous steel horses in a harness of tubes.” Despite the vigor and exuberance of Marinetti’s prose in the manifesto, these tasks were fulfilled more memorably by artists such as Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carra, and Giacomo Balla than by the writers associated with the futurist cause. Ideologically, the futurists subscribed to the antidemocratic philosophy of violence and power worship traceable to Friedrich Nietzsche and popularized by Georges Sorel. Like the dadaists, they were hostile to traditional and classical forms in art, architecture, and esthetics. “The sound of a racing car engine is more beautiful than the greatest symphony” was a part of the futurist manifesto. Giovanni Papini, the editor of Leonardo, was the most prominent Italian thinker to fall under the sway of such ideas. Marinetti’s manifesto, however, expressed the political thinking animating the futurists succinctly: “We want to glorify war—the world’s only form of hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gestures of the anarchists, the fine ideas for which men die, and contempt for women.” With a philosophy such as this, futurist intellectuals mostly became enthusiastic Fascists, although their ardor cooled as Benito Mussolini’s regime became increasingly institutionalized and conservative in the 1930s.
   See also Fascism; Literature.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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