Italian Futurism and a programme for
cultural renovation
EKSO - Cultural Association Europe
Helsinki, 15.10.2014
Marja Härmänmaa, University of Helsinki, Finland
F.T. Marinetti (1876 -1944)
Marinetti: biography 1
• Born in 1876 in Alexandria (Egypt)
• Finished high school baccalaureat in Paris
(France) in 1893
• Master’s degree in law in Genoa in 1899
• Between 1895 and 1907 his brother and
parents died
-> remarkable inheritance
• In 1909 The Futurist manifesto
Marinetti: biography 2
• 1915-1919 participated in WW I
• 1919 participated in the founding of Fascism
• 1923 married Benedetta Cappa Marinetti
• Daughters: Vittoria, Ala, Luce
• 1929 member of the Academy of Italy
Marinetti: biography 3
1935 participated in the Ethiopian war
1942 volunteered to serve on the Soviet front
1943 followed Mussolin to Salò
1944 died in Bellagio (Italy)
Marinetti’s memorial plaque
Marinetti’s literary production
• Manifestos (dozens of)
• Novels and short stories
– Mafarka il futurista (1909)
• Plays
• Poems
• Social and political writings
– Futurismo e Fascismo (1924)
• A cook book
– La cucina futurista (1932, Marinetti e Fillìa)
What Futurism?
• A so-called historical avant-garde movement
– Cubism, Surrealism, Dada
• Not only an artistic movement
• Aimed at an all-encompassing revolution
– Arts
– Society
– Politics
– Human being
Futurism: a short history 1
• 1909 The Futurist Manifesto
• 1910 Manifesto of the Futurist painters
(Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, Balla, Severini)
• 1911 Manifesto of the Futurist musicians
• 1912 Manifesto of Futurist woman (Valentine
de Saint Point)
Futurism: a short history 2
• 1912 Manifesto of Futurist sculpture
• 1914 Manifesto of Futurist architecture
• 1915 The Futurist Synthetic Theatre (Carrà,
Settimelli, Marinetti)
• 1916 Manifesto of the Futurist cinema
(Marinetti, Corra, Settimelli, Ginna, Balla,
Futurism: a short history 3
1917 Manifesto of Futurist dance (Marinetti)
1918 Manifesto of Futurist political party (Marinetti)
1930 Manifesto of Futurist cuisine (Marinetti)
1930 Manifesto of Futurist photography (Marinetti,
• 1933 La radia – Futurist radio (Marinetti, Masnata)
• 1937 Manifesto of Futurist ceramics (Marinetti,
The Two Futurisms
• The heroic Futurism (1909-1915)
– Avant-gardist
– Antagonist
– Artistically important
• The ”second” futurism (1915-1944)
– Anachronistic
– Conformist
– ”Mass movement”
The Futurist manifesto, 1909
The Futurist manifesto
• Introduction
– Inspiration for writing the manifesto (car accident)
• Ideological programme
– 11 points
• Final
– explanation
The Futurist manifesto 1
1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the
habit of energy and fearlessness.
2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential
elements of our poetry.
3. Up to now literature has exalted a pensive
immobility, ecstasy, and sleep. We intend to
exalt aggressive action, a feverish insomnia, the
racer’s stride, the mortal leap, the punch and
the slap.
The Futurist manifesto 2
4. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been
enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing
car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents
of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on
grapeshot is more beautiful than the Victory of
5. We want to glorify the man at the wheel, who hurls the
lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its
6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and
generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the
primordial elements.
The Futurist manifesto 3
7. Except in struggle, there is no more beauty. No work
without an aggressive character can be a masterpiece. Poetry
must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces, to
reduce and prostrate them before man.
8. We stand on the last promontory of the centuries!… Why
should we look back, when what we want is to break down
the mysterious doors of the Impossible? Time and Space died
yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have
created eternal, omnipresent speed.
9. We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism,
patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers,
beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.
The Futurist manifesto 4
10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind,
will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian
11. We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure, and by
riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in
the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of
arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy
railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung
on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the
rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives;
adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested
locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous
steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose
propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an
enthusiastic crowd.
Futurism and the past
• Technological development had created a new
• The most glorious period of humanity ->
worship of the contemporary world
• The past had no value or meaning ->
Against ”passatismo”
• ” Futurism represents the modern human’s
most aggressive reaction to everything that is
not part of his own time” [Pär Bergman]
• ”passatismo”
• History and the past
• Literary and artistic tradition
• Other political parties
– Especially Socialismi
• The Catholic Church and the Pope
• Cultural and social institutions
– Museums, academies, libraries
– Marriage, family
Modernizing Italy
• Destruction of the historical monuments
• Abolition of museums
• Filling the Venetian canals with asphalt
”Noi affermiamo che la magnificenza del
mondo si è arricchita di una bellezza
nuova: la bellezza della velocità.”
Futurism and speed
• The most salient characteristic of the modern
• New means of transport and communication
– Trains, cars, wireless telegraphy…
• ”everything moves fast”
• A superficial world
– No time for thinking
Umberto Boccioni (1882 – 1916):
”Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio” (1913)
Carlo Carrà (1881-1966):
”I funerali dell’anarchico Galli” (1910-1911)
Umberto Boccioni: ”La città che sale” (1910)
”Distruzione della sintassi – Immaginazione senza fili – Parole in
libertà” (Marinetti, 1913)
• New telegraphic style
• Abolition of the tenses and the use of the
• Abolition of punctuation
• Metaphors and analogies
• Mathematical signs and onomatopoeic words
• Objective representation of reality
• Visual poetry
Marinetti (1915)
Marinetti: Zang Tumb Tuuum (1912)
• "Messina improvisation rehearsal of a city that is about to
go on stage indifference of the author sugars and joys of
the atmosphere swing of serenades (3 baritones, 2
tenors) chilly fury of the ivy on the shacks flexibility of
concrete balanced on the cunning of anger lava pomp of
an apartment = alcove + canopy + picture gallery +
bagged kitchen in a shack (8 sq.) "
• ”Messina improvvisazione prova generale di una città che
sta per andare in scena indifferenza dell’autore zuccheri e
gioie dell’atmosfera altalena di serenate (3 baritoni 2
tenori) accanimento freddoloso dell’edera sulle baracche
flessibilità del cemento armato in equilibrio sulle furberie
rabbie della lava fasto di un appartamento = alcova +
baldacchino + galleria di quadri + cucina insaccato in una
baracca (8 mq)”
• ”Un automobile [sic!] da corsa col suo cofano
adorno di grossi tubi simili a serpenti dall’alito
esplosivo… un automobile ruggente, che
sembra correre sulla mitralia, è più bello della
Vittoria di Samotracia.”
Futurismi and machine idolatry
• Arts must be in contact with the modern
– The social role of arts and artists
– From the ivory tower to the ”piazza”
• Arts must glorify technology and be inspired
by it
• The most interesting achivements in the 1930s
The Winged Victory of Samothrace, 2nd-century BC
Fortunato Depero (1892-1960):
Motociclista, solido in velocità, 1923
Tullio Crali (1910-2000):
Incuneandosi nell'abitato, 1939
Machine idolatry and literature
• Paolo Buzzi (1874-1959):
– Gli aeroplani (1909, The Airplanes)
• Corrado Govoni (1884-1965):
– Poesie elettriche (1911, Electric Poems)
• Luciano Folgore (1888-1960)
– Il canto dei motori (1912, The Canto of the
§ 10
• ”Noi vogliamo glorificare la guerra – sola
igiene del mondo – il militarismo, il
patriottismo, il gesto distruttore dei libertarî,
le belle idee per cui si muore e il disprezzo
della donna.”
Futurism and woman
• Complicated issue
• Woman = love
– Harmful for the modern man
• In the Manifesto Marinetti condemns
• Futurism encouraged the emancipation of
– Futurist women (Valentine de Saint Point, Maria
Ginanni, Benedetta)
Futurism and war
• Aestheticization of war
– ”rosse vacanze del genio” – the red holiday of the genious
– ”la sola igiene del mondo” – the sole hygiene of the world
• Marinetti fought in three wars
• War sealed the destiny of Futurism
– Futurism = Fascism
– A decades’ long silence
The anatomy of the Futurist cultural
• Farewell to humanism
• Glorification of technology –> the mechanical
• Destruction of all the evidence of the past
• Glorification of war instead of peace
• Aggressive instead of calm
Why such aggression?
• Marinetti was a nationalist
– Italy must become a culturally and politically
important country
• Sceptical towards the international situation
• Glorification of war and technology
• Will to renovate Italy’s cultural life
Italy slave of her past
“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.” [Marinetti, The
Futurist Manifesto, 1909]
Glorification of technology =
”You don’t need me to tell you that Patriotism
means above everything else fortifying national
industry and commerce and intensifying the
development of our intrinsic qualities as a race
in the forward march of our victory over
competing races.” [Marinetti: “The Necessity
and Beauty of Violence”, 1910]
Scepticism towards the
international situation
“Italy must always maintain within itself a dual
passion for either a possible proletarian
revolution or an even more likely patriotic war.”
[Marinetti, “The Necessity and Beauty of
Violence”, 1910]
Futurism: propaganda or
• The problem: Marinetti has been taken too
• New style and discourse for a new era
Futurism: now!
• Marinetti example of a modern ”public figure”
– Ability to market and propagate Futurism
– Editorial work
– Performances, exhibitions
• The annihilation of time and space
– Simultaneity 100 years before the Internet and cell phones
• Futurist cuisine
– Aestheticization of eating
• Marinetti’s linguistic renovation
• Hopefully we don’t need another Futurist cultural programme
Thank you!

Viesti historian nollapisteestä