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A Study on the Concept of Futurism

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The Italian Futurist, Poet F.T. Marinetti Founder of Futirism

Futurism (1909-1944) was perhaps the first movement in the history of art to be engineered and managed like a business. Since its beginning, Futurism was very close to the world of advertising and, like a business, promoted its product to a wide audience. For this reason, Futurism introduced the use of the manifesto as a public means to advertise its artistic philosophy, and also as a polemic weapon against the academic and conservative world. The poet F.T. Marinetti, founder of the movement, wrote in his first manifesto of February 1909,

“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. We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. . . We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.”

Futurism, as opposed to Cubism, an essentially visual movement, found its roots in poetry and in a whole renovation of language, and featured the concept of the New Typography. Since 1905, Marinetti had promoted from the pages of his magazine Poesia (Poetry) the idea of verso libero (free-verse), which was intended to break the uniformity of syntax of the literature of the past. Then, just after the launch of the Futurist movement, verso libero evolved into the parole in libert (words-in-freedom), the purpose and methodology of which were outlined in a manifesto dated 1913 and bearing the long title Destruction of Syntax/Imagination without Strings/Words-in-Freedom. In this manifesto Marinetti stated:

“Futurism is grounded in the complete renewal of human sensibility that has generated our pictorial dynamism, our antigraceful music in its free, irregular rhythms, our noise-art and our words-in-freedom . . . . By the imagination without strings I mean the absolute freedom of images or analogies, expressed with unhampered words and with no connecting strings of syntax and with no punctuation.”

These last lines of the quotation were already included in a previous manifesto of May 1912, Technical Manifesto of Futurist Literature, where Marinetti proposed that writers “banish punctuation, as well as adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions.” Actually, an elimination of punctuation had already been practiced by Mallarm in his poems “Un coup des Ds jamais n’abolira le Hasard,” published in Paris in 1897 in the magazine Cosmopolis. However, this magazine had very little impact, even within literary circles. It was published as a book only in 1914, and until that year it was almost unknown. Marinetti’s theories, on the other hand, thanks to the wide circulation of his manifestos, were widely circulated since 1912 and influenced the work of hundreds of writers and poets throughout Europe, including Guillaume Apollinare (in his early calligrammes, like Lettre-Ocean), Blaise Cendrars, Reverdy, etc. In The Destruction of Syntax manifesto, Marinetti wrote:

“I initiate a typographical revolution aimed at the bestial, nauseating idea of the book of passist and D’Annunzian verse, on seventeenth Century handmade paper bordered with helmets, Minervas, Apollos, elaborate red initials, vegetables, mythological missal ribbons, epigraphs, and roman numerals. The book must be the Futurist expression of our Futurist thought. My revolution is aimed at the so-called typographical harmony of the page, which is contrary to the flux and reflux, the leaps and bursts of style that run through the page. On the same page, therefore, we will use three or four colors of ink, or even twenty different typefaces if necessary. For example: italics for a series of similar or swift sensations, boldface for violent onomatopoeias, and so on. With this typographical revolution and this multicolored variety in the letters I mean to redouble the expressive force of words.”

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