The Italian Futurists

A trail of bread crumbs

Italian Futurism emerged in 1909. The turn of a century and in the midst of an incoming war; with the utilisation of mass media, the Futurists orchestrated possibly the most aggressive and political art movement of the 20th Century. Instigated by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and published by Le Figaro, the Futurist Manifesto merged both political and artistic agendas with Marinetti’s own ambitions for the country: subsequently proving that you can indeed control the masses.

Marinetti believed that widespread anxiety as well as demolition would aid Italy to emerge a stronger whole. He aimed to empower the country with veneration of its own, and worship of a strong and powerful leader; with a trajectory of Fascism.

The manifesto spoke to the public about the rejuvenation of Italy. Instructing them to declare the end of the past to make way for the future; to do this Italy had to eradicate all things historical, and embrace new technology and the machine.

“We want no part of it, the past. We are the young and the strong futurists.”

Of the artwork produced during this time period, characteristics such as the introduction of explosively charged compositions, and movement created through re-doubling of elements and harsh diagonal strokes, gave the impression of power and speed. In contrast to the classical traditional style, this revolution of dynamism, within art and design, hinted at the beginnings of Art-Deco and displayed a support of the incoming war.

The film, Metropolis, created in 1927 and directed by Fritz Lang, screams futurism. Idealising an ultramodern city of the future as ‘utopia’ or paradise; this was very in tune with what Marinetti was promoting. On the other hand, Nineteen Eighty Four, written in 1949 by George Orwell, looks at a bleak conclusion to the introduction of a mechanical age, by showing the futility of the human against technology. This is further re-enforced by The Matrix, however this came much later, 1999.

The way subject matter was utilised changed with the invention of the futurists. No longer focusing on capturing the object itself, the artist sought to embody it the way the mind would view; from all angles. In effort to capture the ‘experience’ of an object the visual element became distorted and in essence, destroyed. Also, with the introduction of technology came innovative play with the moving image; Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude descending a staircase #2’ in 1912. Abstraction of a moving subject within a still image rejected the traditional rules of non-movement. This particular painting was even rejected by the Cubists for being to ‘futurist’.

Futurism’s end is distorted by the outbreak of the First World War in1914; with a duration of only five short years, Italian Futurism’s influence and impact on design still lives on. Neville Brody is one contemporary designer who exhibits aspects of futurism in his work. Particularly with his style of typographical experimentation; this is rather than sharing the futurist’s philosophy or attitudes. Brody specifically named Marinetti as an inspiration but also found stimulus from Dada, Pop art and Punk.

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