On the 9th of September at h 19.15 EYE is back with its series of the experimental and avant-garde cinema. E*cinema academy is starting a new year of exciting film programs curated by EYE and by Dutch universities and academies. The kick-off episode is Futurism, a compilation program illustrating the historical context of this Italian artistic movement and its follow ups, plus the Dutch premiere of the only Futurist film that ever survived: Thaïs by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1917, 35 min). The evening will include other film titles illustrating the history of Futurism; futurist music arrangements and performances by A SPECIAL Professor Russolo (www.russolo.nl); and a lecture by Anna Abrahams, the experimental film programmer of EYE.
Photos: Professor Russolo/ Film still “Thais”/ Film still “Conversation with Boxing Gloves”.
A classic Italian “diva film,” Thaïs (1917, Italy) follows a Slavic countess and seductress of the same name. Out of regret for seducing her best friend’s husband, Thaïs commits suicide in a dramatic final scene in which…
The film’s prologue states that it includes images by Futurist painters to strengthen the classic narative in order to evoke in the viewer stronger emotions than those created by mere film images. The film contrasts naturalist outdoor views of horse riding, horse carriages and motor cars, in particular a car crossing a river on a small ferry, with indoor views with sets designed by renowned Futurist painter Enrico Prampolini. As the film progresses and Thaïs becomes more and more irrational, the geometric and symbolic motives of the sets take an increasing importance and the film becomes almost abstract.
According to some sources the film was initially 70 minutes long but the only version which seems to survive, with French inter-titles, is only 35 minutes long. There are about 30 inter-titles including quotations from one of Beaudelaire’s poem from Les fleurs du mal : La mort des pauvres (The death of the poor). There are also two titles introducing Acts 3 and 4 (which confirms that part of the film is lost). By filming melodramatic action, dancing, Prampolini’s futurist paintings and Beaudelaire’s modernist poetry, Bragaglia has created a new form of artistic expression. It will influence, among others, German expressionist film makers.
Screening copy from the collection of George Eastman House.
CONVERSATION WITH BOXING GLOVES (by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder), part of the film program, is a reinterpretation of a segment from the 1916 futuristic film VITA FUTURISTA which explores futurist ideas like simultaneity, dynamics and double exposure. By layering images of the filmmakers and choreographers Andrea Lerner and Rosane Chamecki boxing while facing the camera, the artists’ movements become so skewed over time that the viewer can not longer tell if they are boxing with or at each other.
Other film titles of the program on the hand-out:
Hand Out Futurism
Some notes about Futurism:
‘Before us, art consisted of memory, anguished re-evocation of the lost Object (happiness, love, landscape), and therefore nostalgia, immobility, pain, distance. With Futurism art has become action-art, that is, energy of will, aggression, possession, penetration, joy, brutal reality in art (e.g. onomatopoeia; e.g. noise-attuner [intonarumori] = motors), geometric splendour of forces, forward projection. Consequently art became the Present, the new Object, the new reality created with the abstract elements of the universe. The hands of the traditionalist artist ached for the lost Object; our hands suffered agonies for a new object to create. That is why the new object (plastic complex) appears miraculously in yours.’ (Marinetti)
In 1909 the “Futurist Manifesto” was published, founding this Italian artistic group. It was an artistic and social movement, which emphasized and glorified themes associated with contemporary concepts of the future. The Futurists admired speed, technology, youth, violence, the car, the airplane and the industrial city, all that celebrated the technological triumph of humanity over nature. They praised originality, “however daring, however violent”, bore proudly “the smear of madness”, dismissed art critics as useless, rebelled against harmony and good taste, swept away all the themes and subjects of any previous art, and relished/cherished science. They strongly criticized the stagnant Italian society, bent toward its reassuring past, without advancing new, modernist experimentations.
The poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was the leader of the movement: inspired by the anarchist shocking attitudes, he allowed the expansion of the movement from its initial focus on literature, to many interdisciplinary ramifications. Maintaining that the essence of the arts is only one, although conveyed by different means of expression, the Futurists advocated the end of the traditional distinction between music, painting, and poetry, and proclaimed a new, unifying Futurist art, which would exist only as pure creation.
Photo: Intonarumori by Luigi Russolo.
A reconstruction of Russolo’s Intonarumori by Robert Worby:
In WIRE of June 2014 (nr. 364), Dan Wilson gives an homage to the Futurists’ Art of Noises by mentioning its Concerts in London, showcasing Marinetti, Piatti, Russolo and his intonarumori. The show took place in 1918 at the upmarket Coliseum, just one month before the explosion of WWI. Comedy actors, acrobats, singers and film screenings were aligned with the Futurists. Although their performance was ill-received (the amplification of their noises wasn’t powerful enough produce a convincing effect), Wilson such performance was the first attempt to establish the experimental/electric music. Other electric “sound” shows had already taken place in the Victorian era in the UK, but in the framework of popular variety shows, distant from the artistic circuits.
The main futurist figures were the painters Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, the architect Antonio Sant’Elia and the painter and composer Luigi Russolo. The latter gave up painting to compose noise music and invented the Intonarumori (noise organ) or Russolophone, machines which made mechanical noises, remindful of everyday industrial urban sounds. These he arranged in some sort of rhythmic or harmonic pattern. This project exemplified the Futurist admiration for modernity, machines and urbanism. The “Manifesto of the Art of Noise” by Luigi Russolo in more details here:
Photo: Noise of the Street by Umberto Boccioni/ Dynamism of an automobile by Luigi Russolo.
SPEED, ENERGY, INSOMNIA, DANGER, DESIRE FOR THE NEW AND UNKNOWN, MACHINE, WAR, ANTI-ACADEMICISM … These are one of the key words of the “Futurist Manifesto”, published in Le Figaro, Paris, February 20, 1909. Here the English version:
The “Manifesto of the Futurism” + other related texts and speeches acted in MOMA:
The Futurist publications were distributed on the streets and even dropped from airplanes; the Manifestos would be read in the theatres. Here the successive Manifestos, including the interesting “Manifesto of the Futurist Woman”, “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking”, as well as “The Futurist Cinema: Futurism Manifesto”, which advanced the liberation of the cinematic expressiveness from other arts (click on the photo to make the text in English pop out):
In 1913, with the change in international affairs, Marinetti felt the need for a political commitment and directed Futurist artists, already passionate nationalists, to live the war “pictorially”. He urged for Italy’s involvement WWI and in 1915 he met Mussolini. Since then Futurism was associated with fascism. Some of the ideological origins of fascism are to be found in Futurism, although individualism didn’t find place in fascist doctrine. Many Futurist artists fought patriotically the World War, where they got wounded or killed.
Photo: Aero Portrait of Benito Mussolini the Aviator by Filippo Marinetti/ Continuous Profile – Head of Mussolini by Renato Guiseppe Bertelli.
Futurism influenced many other twentieth-century art movements, including Art Deco, Vorticism, Constructivism, Surrealism and Dada and one art and architecture movement in the twenty-first century, Neo-Futurism. Futurism as a coherent and organized artistic movement is now regarded as extinct, not having survived the death of its leader Marinetti in 1944.
Cinema was regarded as a modernist medium of expression and therefore granted particular attention. It was perceived as dynamic and fragmentary symphony of gestures, words, sounds and lights. The cinematic associative editing based on image analogies (later developed by the Russian Formalists in the 1920s) was then emulated in literature, and in particular in collages of words. Cinema combining often theatre, painting, sculpture, music, poetry as in the lost film “Vita Futurista”, was an expression of the pluri-sensitivity of the futurists.
In total just a few Futurist films were realized and only one survived partially until nowadays. Here the list of the titles:
• Vita futurista (Futurist life), directed by Arnaldo Ginna & Lucio Venna(1916), lost film
• Un dramma nell’Olimpo, directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1917), lost film
• Il mio cadavere (My Corpse), directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1917), lost film
• Thaïs (Thaïs), directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1917), 35 min. of the original 70 min. survive
• Il re, le torri, gli alfieri (The king, the rook, the bishop), directed by Ivo Illuminati (1917), lost film
• Il perfido incanto (The Wicked Enchantment), directed by Anton Giulio Bragaglia (1918), lost film
Marinetti wrote a pamphlet entitled “Zang Tumb Tumb”, published in Milan in 1914, in which type forms of different sizes were distributed in an apparently random manner. The heart of Marinetti’s new theory of poetry was his concept of analogy. A substantive was to be followed directly by its “double (…) to which it is bound by analogy; for example, man-destroyer-escort, woman-gulf, mob-surf, piazza-funnel”, and a “chain of analogies” was to evoke the successive movements of an object. Analogies represented to Marinetti “the immense love which joins distant and seemingly different and hostile things. It is by means of very vast analogies that this orchestral style, at once polychrome, polyphonic and polymorph, can embrace the life of matter”. Creative inspiration, like a radio, would thus draw upon the higher frequencies of universal life: no doubt the phrase immaginazione senza fili (wireless imagination) not only signified a creative process unfettered by conventions, but by analogy suggested the similarity of the poet’s activity to wireless reception and transmission of seemingly imperceptible relationship and movement.
Here an interactive installation realized by the multidisciplinary study of Sfelaband and inspired by Marinetti’s “Zang Tumb Tumb”:
Photo: Patriotic Celebration by Carlo Carra.
Carra pursued a concept of total art which incorporated a desire to go beyond the bounds of traditional art arising from his “Manifesto of Sounds, Noises and Smells”. His methods combined adaptations of synthetic Cubist notions and free-word structures. His Circular Synthesis of Objects and Patriotic Celebration (July 1914) are examples of these. The latter is a free-word “painting” with a propagandist intention. It is made from various “real” materials of communication containing lettering (eg newspapers, leaflets and labels). It also contains within itself certain noise implications through the representations of onomatopoeic sounds.
Photo: Dog on a Leash by Giacomo Balla.
The works of Balla illustrate a research for valid pictorial
equivalents of motion. He started by analysing motion as though seen in slow motion, that is by looking at the successive stages of a movement sequence. He also used as a starting point his knowledge of photography and the work of Marey and Muybridge.Then Balla began to study light “in terms of intricate harmonies of closely valued (tone) colour” in a painting called iridescent Interpenetrations.
Documentation of the event:
Hand-out with detailed program:
Hand Out Futurism