Manifesto of Futurism  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Futurist Manifesto, written by the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, was published in French in Le Figaro on February 20, 1909. It launched an art movement, Futurism, that rejected the past, celebrated speed, machinery and industry and sought the modernisation and cultural rejuvenation of Italy.

Contents

Context

The Manifesto allows a sharper comprehension of a cultural evolution in Italy at the beginning of the 20th century, meant as an intellectual avant-garde to what would a few years later result in the birth of Fascism.

Relationships between Futurism and Fascism honestly are not generally admitted (among the many distances, between them there is World War I), but the extreme violence of this manifesto could help explaining why Fascism had the opportunity of successfully using its typical nationalistic style and look.

Contents

The limit of Italian literature at the end of "Ottocento" (19th century), its lack of strong contents, its quiet and passive laisser faire, were fought by Futurists (see art. 1, 2, 3) and their reaction includes the use of excess, which will prove the existence of a dynamic surviving Italian intellectual class.

In the period in which industry is growing of importance in all Europe, Futurists need to confirm that Italy is present, has an industry, has the power to take part into the new experience, will find the superior essence of progress by its major symbols: the car and its speed (see art. 4). Nationalism is never openly declared, but is evident.

Also, futurists intend confirming that literature will not be overtaken by progress: it will absorb progress in its evolution and will demonstrate that progress had to be the way it is because Man will use progress to sincerely let his nature explode, which is made of instincts. Man is reacting against the potentially overwhelming strength of progress, and shouts out his centrality. Man will use speed, not the opposite (see art. 5 and 6).

Poetry, the voice of spirit, will help Man to consent his soul be part of all that (see art. 6 and 7), indicating a new concept of beauty that will refer to human instinct of fight.

The sense of history cannot be left aside: this is a special moment, many things are going to change into new forms and new contents, but man will be able to pass through these variations, (see art. 8) bringing with himself what comes from the beginning of civilisation.

One of the most particular articles is article 9, in which war is defined as a sort of need for the health of human spirit, a purification that allows and benefits idealism. Some have said that this definition by Futurists will have influenced mass movements that a few years later will consist of totalitarism, mainly in Italy, Germany and, in a different form, Russia.

The heavy provocation included in article 10 is a logical consequence of the whole above.

It has to be noted that this manifesto appeared well before any of the facts of this century that commonly are immediately recalled as a potential concrete meaning of this text, had happened. And many of them could not even be imagined yet. The Russian Revolution of 1917 is the first of those revolutions "described" by article 11, but it happened several years later.

For those who know Italian language, the violent breaking effect of the manifesto can be even more evident, noting that not one of the words here used is casual; if not the precise form, at least the roots of these words recall those more frequently used in Middle Age, particularly in Rinascimento (Renaissance).

Full text

This is the English translation of a document written in 1909 by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and issued to provide a concise collection of Futurists' thoughts, beliefs and intentions, in a declaratory form.

  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.
  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 Samothrace.
  5. We want to hymn the man at the wheel, who hurls the lance of his spirit across the Earth, along the circle of its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with ardor, splendor, and generosity, to swell the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  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.
  10. We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.
  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.

See also




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