Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Neo-Futurism - a new fascism?

Hola Compañeros
Just about to mail out the dada-south supplementary e-bulletin re neo-futurist event etc.
In passing though, a question, and this is asked with absolute oceans of respect for both you Joe and Rachel as artists, so it's not an attack etc BUT do the neo-futurist group see any need for distancing from some of the dodgier dimensions of il futurismo à la Marinetti - for example :
"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."
F T Marinetti, Futurist Manifesto [?]
From my 'just-barely-scraped-a-pass' art A Level of 34 years ago (!), i think I remember that il futurismo despised everything to do with tradition and the past to the point of being absolutely besotted by the ultra modern including science and industry (wouldn't they have loved eugenics) and were ultimately embraceable by elements of fascism, whereas the Dada-ists - while also being anti-art and passionately against bourgeois aesthetics - still had a clear pacifist and anti-colonialist stance.
"[Dadaism] : For many participants, the movement was a protest against the bourgeois nationalist and colonialist interests which many Dadaists believed were the root cause of the war, and against the cultural and intellectual conformity — in art and more broadly in society — that corresponded to the war."
Richter, Hans (1965), Dada: Art and Anti-art, Oxford Univ Press
Wasn't DaDa effectively a rejection of tradition in a far more liberationist way? Another question : how do you think the futurists and dadaists, united by their hatred of tradition, would have thought of being revived? Personally, I also hate the tyranny of tradition so just felt I had to ask these questions. Hope you don't mind.
My personal favourite italian-led art movement of 20th Century was the Hermeticist (l'ermetismo) movement of the poets Quasimodo, Montale and Ungaretti. Ungaretti's 2-worded Mattina (Morning) is my one of my favourite poems:
m'illumino d'immenso

(I fill with light of immensity)

Besos y ricuerdos and hope yer all well

Joe McConnell (DAO) x

A reply from Giuseppe Marinetti

Dear Joe,

Thanks for opening up the debate - it's a question I have been asked a lot and one that I have asked myself, as to whether the work of the futurists has any validity in the light of their conspicuous flirtations with fascism, via Marinetti's personal invitation from Mussolini to sit on the central council of the, then fledgling, Fascist Party in Italy. As it happened this formal association was short-lived as Marinetti objected so strongly to the Catholic Church being invited to join the caucus forming around the Fascist Party that he resigned in disgust. He hated all institutions and the church in particular...

So I think, sometimes, you have to dance with the devil - because as we know, the devil has all the best tunes...

My particular interest in Futurism stems from the fact that it is the first modernism (maybe even the first 'ism' of our modern age...) and that the raw energy and optimism of modernism has a particular relevance for our environmentally challenged and terrorised planet. We have succumbed, as a culture, to despair, and I have therefore looked to the futurists for inspiration with particular regard to
The Art of Noises manifesto (Russolo, 1912) and its call for the radical transformation of URBAN NOISE.

We are surrounded by noise (in all its' visual and aural forms) on a daily basis - traffic, road works, mobile phones, airplanes, radio, the internet, junk emails, street advertising, blogs, health and safety warnings, reality TV... The list is endless. Our challenge is to find a way to embrace this noise, to celebrate it, rather than to try and block it out. When we walk through a city, how many times do we actually open our ears to
listen to the everyday sounds around us, rather than plugging ourselves into an mp3 player or escaping into our own thoughts?

Russolo was right - either we embrace noise as a positive force or we will be drowned by it. No amount of laws can save us from
UNWANTED SIGNAL, it is a part of life itself; for there is no life without sound - even if we can't hear it...

You will find that when our manifesto is finally unleashed upon the world on February 20th, (a draft of it is online in this blog), that it has particular references to Dada and the Tristan Tzara manifestos, which in the current climate read like the fragmented language of junk emails. So, through the writing of the manifesto, Rowena Easton has tried to combine these aesthetics and
TRANSFORM this form of visual noise into something USEFUL and BEAUTIFUL.

Finally, why
Neo Futurism - shurely shome mishtake... Well, it's a joke of course, there can't be a new futurism, it's an oxymoron. So, it's nod to a time when the world seemed simpler, when the optimism of modernism and the benefits of technology went unchallenged. Too much of our current thinking is about self-loathing and nostalgia for innocence lost, that we need a way of looking forward again, of embracing our future. Hence Neo Futurism.

Hope this explains my position.

Joe Y.


  1. "So I think, sometimes, you have to dance with the devil - because as we know, the devil has all the best tunes"

    The tune in this case being: "I'll be hanging from a lamp post on the corner of our street"...

    No you do not have to dance with the devil when he is Benito Mussolini. No one had to then and no one has to now. You can choose to repudiate fascism and its legacy - there is still an active and popular fascist party in Italy - or not.

    If you choose not to repudiate it, you are condoning the invasion of Ethiopia, anti semitic laws, the suppression of political opposition, support from Nazi Germany and all that went with that.

    I'm sure you mean well. However, your reply is woefully complacent and historically illiterate. It confirms the fears of anyone who would feel an instant, visceral revulsion at the suggestion of lionising the Futurists. They also thought avant garde art was bigger than history.

  2. Giuseppe Marinetti17 February 2008 at 13:46

    Dear Anonymous,

    It's a shame you won't tell us who you are...

    There was no suggestion in my comment that I was condoning fascist politics. I'm sorry you inferred that. I simply meant, in my glib, off-hand fashion that the ideas and the legacy of the first modernists cannot be rubbished because of the politics of their leader, Marinetti. The work of Luigi Russolo, whose manifesto provides the inspiration for my project, has no such tainted associations, so we're getting a little off-topic here.

    I would say have been reading too much Walter Benjamin, and should lighten up a little.

    As for being historically illiterate, I could easily take offence, both as a Jew and as a Socialist, but since you don't understand either humour or the complexity of the human condition, I won't...

    Best Wishes,


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