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In 1909, Tommaso Marinetti published his Manifesto of Futurism, in


response to the French avant-garde movement occurring at the time and
the rigid social and political landscape in his home nation of Italy. His work
inspired the far-reaching movement of Futurism, stirring the ideas behind
painting, poetry, performance, cinema and literature (among other artistic
forms) and focusing on the need for violence, aggression and change in
the shifting 20th century landscape in Europe. This was Marinettis attempt
to shock Italy into change, with the general population rejecting the ideas
of Modernism and attempting to restrain the invention of the automobile
and the beauty of speed (Marinetti 1909).

Marinetti was born in Egypt in 1876, where his parents had been invited to
act as legal advisers to take part in modernization programs for foreign
companies. His parents were involved in a de facto relationship (more
uxorio), with his mother introducing him to Italian and European classic
poetry as a young child. When Marinetti was seventeen he published his
own high-school newspaper for which he was nearly expelled, for
publishing Emile Zolas scandalous novels in. After completing his degree
in law at the University of Pavia in 1899 he decided to pursue a literary
career and began experimenting with many artistic forms including poetry
and theatre.

Marinetti drew much of his influence from Abbaye de Creteil, a


phalanstere community (a building designed to house a utopian

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community) founded in 1906 which allowed for individuals to participate


in literary and artistic creativity while escaping the corruption of the
Western World. The Abbaye de Creteil wished to create an art dealing
with the relevant subjects of modern life: crowds, man and machines,
even, ultimately, the city itself (Robbins 1964), and these ideas were
pursued and reflected in Marinettis Manifesto of Futurism. The invention
and introduction of the automobile also sparked the development of
Futurism with Marinetti being involved in a car crash with 2 cyclists in
1908. This event was heavily referenced in the manifesto and drew
parallels between the cyclists and an Italy that was grounded in the past
and not prepared for the future.

The Italy Marinetti lived in was a country barely 50 years old, with
backwards social and political ideals compared to its European
counterparts. Marinettis goal was to make his compatriots aware that
Italy has been too long the great second-hand market (Marinetti 1909)
and that it was their responsibility to restore Italy to a modern cultural
power where freedom and fearlessness paved the way for great art and
action. A large proportion of Marinettis manifesto was focused on
shocking Italy out of the past and into the future by destroying museums,
libraries, academies of every kind and fighting moralism, feminism,
every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice (Marinetti 1909).

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Another driving force for the Futurist movement was Marinettis


connection with violence and aggression, particularly in the pre-World War
I era where the working classes were rising up and rioting against the grip
of the nobility in societies like Italy. In Marinettis manifesto he directly
states that we will glorify the war (Marinetti 1909) and that freedombringers must bring destruction, as it is the worlds only way of cleansing
itself. He also romanticized ideas worth for dying for and scorn for
woman (iterating his distaste for the feminist movement). These
grounding ideas made Futurism a highly politicized movement (often
associated with the rise of Facism) in the twentieth century and saw the
merging of artistic and political ideals to drive Italy into the future (and
then expanding to the rest of the world). Futurists would often hold
evenings where art was displayed, followed by politically charged rhetoric
being shouted at the audience with the hope of inspiring riots and
aggression to destroy the status quo and eventually reinvigorate Italy as a
new, modern power.

Manifesto of Futurism takes the structure of first-person narrative, with


Marinetti describing the sights, sounds and smells he encounters on a
night spent with friends arguing about the confines of logic and
blackening many reams of paper with our frenzied scribbling (Marinetti
1909). His use of language is incredibly detailed, and he heavily integrates
personification and metaphors into his writing, bringing to life his modern
experience and realisations of the encroaching future. The second part

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of the manifesto takes a list form, stating the goals of his proposed
movement; some taking the form of direct actions and others employing a
reflective form focusing on the faults of the past and the cultural
normalities it has created. The final part of Marinettis article reads like a
call-to-arms, with Marinetti focusing on the liberating feelings of living a
life grounded in the sensations of the present and the future with
extensive use of exclamations and rhetoric. The manifesto as a whole acts
as a denouncement of the political and social values of an entire nation,
which expanded into an international movement through its transgressive
ideals and its hope for an invigorated future which struck down objects of
the past and utilitarian movements.

The Futurist movement resulted in drastic changes in method and


creativity across many artistic forms, with Marinetti himself being heavily
involved in the futurist movement in theatre. Marinetti stressed the idea
that the old-age drama of the theatre that were depressing, monotonous
processions (Marinetti 1915) were to be replaced by synthetic theatre
which in a few minutes, with a few words and gestures could present
ideas, symbols and sensations that would rouse the audience to action.
These ideals coincided with the politically charged direction of the Futurist
movement and ensured that at its core, Futurist works would cause
aggression and outbreak in the working classes. Futurist painters were
slower to develop their subject matter and methods with painters
undertaking Divisionism in their works during 1910 and 1911 and

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extending into Cubism in later years. The focus of these works of art were
on the individual and his place among the modern world, with works often
looking at experiences and sensations between the human mind and
constant movement (speed) e.g. Boccionis The City Rises and Ballas
Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash.

The Manifesto of Futurism still holds similarities to the ideals of todays


world, with movement still being the focus of many artistic works.
Marinettis manifesto did however present many ideas such as his support
of war and acts of violence, which were received as aggressive, egotistic
thinking. The Futurist movement did however change the social and
political landscape of Italy, and gave power to the individual to express
freely and embrace the new, modern age.

References
Marinetti, Tommaso. 1909. Manifesto of Futurism. In Le Figaro, p. 7-11
Marinetti, Tommaso. 1915. The Futurist Synthetic Theatre. In The Drama
Review, 15(1) : p. 142-146
Robbins, Daniel. 1964. Albert Gleizes, 1881-1953 : a retrospective
exhibition. In Exhibition of Albert Gleizes at the Guggenheim Museum p.
123-131