Future's Past:The Italian Futurism and its Influence, January 2011

Lo studiolo rosso, Casa Balla

In June 2009 the department of History & Theory at the Bezalel academy of Art & Design in Jerusalem, celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first Futurist manifesto with an international conference, from which stemmed this monographic issue of Bezalel journal History & Theory: the Protocols dedicated to the Futurist movement.

The following issue seeks to present the reader with a current and original selection of academic papers and essays by some of the best experts on the subject. Therefore this issue contains texts in Hebrew, English, and exceptionally in Italian as well – which explore three key aspects of the Futurist Movement: its significance in early 20th century Italy, its international spread and its influence in art and thought.

While literature and plastic arts stood at the center of Futurist’s activity, music, cinema, architecture, and typography as well, attracted the attention of the artists and intellectuals belonging to Marinetti’s circle. In thinking of the movement’s spread and future influence a categorical distinction must be made between its interaction with other contemporary avant-garde movements – such as the Russian Cubo-Futurism, the English Vorticism, and the Jewish intellectual movements that were active in Central-Eastern Europe and Palestine – and its influence on later movements, especially those which emerged following the second world war, in the context of a legacy that was linked with the Fascist experience.

The “spirit” of futurism and its reactionary aspects are explored in the first five articles. Moshe Elhanati’s article “Faust’s Flight on the Devil’s Robe”, analyzes the “accident” as a futurist concept that represents modernity, while Salvatore Cingari’s article "Marinetti: Irrazionalismo e politica nell'avanguardia futurista” explores the futurist ideology and its relation to irrational and anti-rational philosophical trends. Futurist ideology also stands at the center of Pil & Galia Kollectiv’s article “In the Intersection of the Angles of a Table, There is More Truth Than in All the Tangle of Muscles: Futurism as Anti-Humanist Critique”, which explores the current futurist discourse in art and thought with a critical reading of Jacques Rancière's and Franco Berardi’s assaults on the futurist ethos, and Tom McCarthy’s attempt to redeem the movement’s image. The two last articles in this section explore the movement’s lasting influence in art – Asher Salah in his article “Dangerous Relations: Cinema and Futurism”, analyzes the futurist cinema, or more precisely its absence, as a significant aspect of the movement’s activity, while Yael Kaduri’s article “Music and Futurism: On Whats Between Them” explores the “noise” music, its aesthetic aspects, relation to visual art, and the issue of space and time.

The last three articles in this issue deal with its influence in the plastic arts – outside of Italy in the early decades of the twentieth century, and inside Italy later on. Igor Aronov’s article “Futurism: the Meeting of East and West”, deals with the development of the Russian Futurist movement, which in difference to the worship of technology that epitomized the Italian movement, posited primitivism as the ultimate expression of human creativity, and as an origin from which a perfect future culture could emerge. Aviv Livnat’s article “On Futurism in the Polish-Jewish Scene” analyzes the complex influence the movement had in the 1920’s Polish context through its manifestations in both politics and art. Finally Michele Dantini, in his article “Horses and Other Herbivores: Futurist Traces and Disputed Identities in Contemporary Italian Art, 1969-2010”, explores the relation between contemporary Italian art and the legacy of Futurism, with a critical analysis of paintings of horses, donkeys and zebras, which, as Dantini asserts, represent an attempt to reconnect with the avant-garde ethos of Futurism.

Futurism and its influences are also discussed in the essay section “in-context”: with Melania Gazzotti’s exploration of the innovative aspects of futurist books – emphasizing both the content and the graphical aspect – while focusing on their many typographic innovations, Sergio Bianconcini’s discussion of Giacomo Balla’s house, and Amitay Mendelssohn’s critical analysis of the futurist influences in Efrat Natan’s work Swing of the Scythe from 2002.