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Futurism, Caroline Tisdall & Angelo Bozzolla (1996)

Chapter One – the Means of Futurism

A complex concept that has recently been introduced in the lectures is the notion of ‘Futurism’. This is a term that I am definitely not familiar with and I have never come across this term is previous work. However, from what I can gather, Futurism is a fundamental aspect within the overall research project which means that further research into this concept was required.

One thing I do know is that the founder of Futurism was Filippo Marinetti and he created the Futurist Manifesto which was published in the newspaper, Le Figaro, on 20th February 1909. In this he discussed a rejection of the past and the celebration of development. In order to familiarise myself with Futurism, I have begun reading ‘Futurism’ (1996) by Caroline Tisdall and Angelo Bozzolla. This chapter gives an overview of what Futurism is and how the concept developed.

The chapter begins by stating that Italian Futurism was the first cultural progression that specifically targeted a mass audience and that in order to successfully reach its audience effectively, the Futurists had to use “every available means, and invented others beside” (1996:7) So, the Futurists goal was target a mass audience, something which had not yet been done by a cultural movement thus far. In order for this to be a success, any platform that would allow recognition of the Futurists and their plans needed to be encapsulated, and if this was not possible or not available then new means would be created in order for the Futurists to achieve their goal. Their main aim was “to transform the mentality of an anachronistic society” (1997:7) as Marinetti and his fellow Futurists wanted to prepare Italy for the development of modern times. Relating back to an earlier point made with regards to the large audience that the Futurists wanted to reach, this goal was the key to Futurism.

Moving on, it is then stated that futurism is grounded in the renewal of human sensibility caused by the development and discoveries within science, before mentioning that Futurism wanted to involve “a public that was no longer rendered passive or submissive” (1997:8) Taking this into consideration, it appears that Futurism was concerned with the development of humans and the way that they participated. As it mentions an audience that is no longer passive, this takes me back to work I did in my first year with regards to active and passive audiences; a passive audience merely absorbed what they were being told, contesting an active audience that actively sought out new information for themselves rather than simply settling for what an institution of power presents them with. Therefore, in the development of Futurism, it appears that Marinetti was interested in the development of the human public. Concluding this point, the work of Marshall McLuhan is referenced and it is said that Marinetti predicted what McLuhan theorised fifty years previous; that the medium is the message and that no matter what is said, how it is said is equally as important.

The chapter progresses by discussing how Futurism became a political movement in 1915 as it became visibly clear that Futurism was beginning to invade all aspects of life, encompassing cultural, social and political factors. The reason that Futurism was invading social life was because of the mediums that were used to alert individuals to this new movement.  The reason that many mediums were used was because the entire point of the manifesto was to make it exciting. By doing this, it gave the impression that the Futurists were a huge organisation that had the power to encompass all disciplines. However, Marinetti knew that in order for Futurism to be completely effective, he needed to reach all levels of society and one way that Marinetti achieved this was by initiating Propaganda on the streets of Italy as it was controversial and garnered the attention that Futurism required.

From reading this preliminary chapter, it’s clear to me that Futurism is more than a concept; it’s a strategic movement of change. Although the chapter only discusses the basic foundations of Futurism, it leaves room for thought. I have no doubt that throughout other chapters the concept will be developed with regards to specific areas of society. It will be interesting to see how it is exemplified and how I can take this knowledge and apply it to my own research project.

Bozzolla, A & Tisdall, C. (1996) Futurism.  Thames and Hudson Ltd:London



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