The Futurist Manifesto, written in Milan by the poet Filippo Marinetti in 1909, vehemently rejected the past in favour of humanity’s technical triumph over nature. It celebrated industrialisation, machinery and speed, especially motor cars and aeroplanes.
Some of the declarations in the Manifesto make for strange reading – promoting aggression and violent change, and worshipping youth. ‘The oldest of us is thirty… When we are forty, other younger and stronger men will probably throw us in the wastebasket like useless manuscripts—we want it to happen!’
They dismissed galleries and museums as nothing more than cemeteries for art. They wanted art to be more than a frozen moment. Possibly influenced by cinematography, they claimed: Objects are not separate from each other or their surroundings… A tram is as much its passengers as the urban landscape it moves against.
An idea clearly illustrated in Umberto Boccioni’s Girl Running on a Balcony – which gives a series of images as movement through time.
A year later saw the publication of the Cubist Manifesto in Paris – which proposed moving around an object as a way of seeing the whole. What can seem at first glance incoherent portrait is in fact multi-layers meant to portray simultaneous views from different perspectives.
In 1913 a manifesto for future music was published. The Art of Noise claimed modern man accustomed to industrial noise is no longer moved nor inspired by music. Future composers, it said, will need to find a new sonic palette and new methods to stir emotion. Its influenced can be traced through experiments in the spliced taped recordings (montages of acoustic and electronic sound) of Musique Concrete, via the rise of the synthesiser and sampler into industrial techno, jungle and house.
Each of these revolutionary movements may have faded but for of World War I – which destroyed a generation and with it a whole way of life. The disillusioned survivors hungered for the new to replace the failures of the old. The result was the Jazz Age – a shock of the new in everything: art music, clothing, behaviour and attitude. Life lived at speed; seizing the day without thought for tomorrow. Youth and beauty was everything; as it still is. It was the start of our world.
Futurism lost its rightful place in history due to being associated with Fascism. Marinetti helped author the Fascist Manifesto in 1919 – the year after the war ended. After the bitter lessons of World War 2, Cold War and the Iron Curtain dividing Europe, it is hard to see Fascism and Communism for the great hopes they were considered to be.
The Futurist Manifesto pre-dated the Russian Revolution of 1917, which was seen as a call to arms for the international brotherhood of oppressed workers. Both Fascism and Communism were socialist collective ideologies based on rule by the many and equal sharing the fruits of labour. The main difference between them was fascism was a nationalist whereas communism was international.
Both wanted a new type of government where the state totally cared for its citizens who in turn gave themselves body and soul to the state. They argued only a single party state, under a strong benign leader, could hope to drive progress forward – offering better working conditions: reduced working hours, healthcare, education and a social safety net. A society where classes were no longer divided; where workers were represented, and every man and WOMAN could vote.
Fine words and noble ideals that were doomed to failure, as history demonstrated over the coming decades with the horrors of Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy, Nazi Germany and Stalin’s purges.
What they didn’t know was the very conception of Communism and Fascism were flawed from the outset by worship of the new Darwinian view of Survival of the Fittest. As the strong climb to the top, the weak go under. The good never reach the top, only the ruthless. Have you never heard the expression shit floats?
Democracy (rule by the people) is soon subverted to oligarchy (rule by the few) as the new elites acquire same power as the people they replaced. Oligarchy settles back into Plutocracy (rule by the super-rich) as the great and good of the party help themselves to bigger slices of the cake at the expense of the poor they claim to champion, and acquire the wealth and privilege of the aristocracy they replaced. Think of Russia in the 20th Century, from the Tsar to the idealist revolutionaries of Lenin and Trotsky back to the Red Tsar: Stalin. Then came the second revolution of Perestroika under Gorbachov and now there is Putin.
New brooms may sweep clean, but the same old muck soon settles right back down.