The last twenty years has seen some major advances in the field of Futurism Studies. What in the first decades after WW II was frowned upon and regarded with political suspicion, has subsequently taken a remarkable development, both in academia and on the art/publication market. Futurism has now come to be regarded as Italy’s most important contribution to modern art and as having left a lasting mark on Italian literature. Consequently, in the 1980s and 90s, a pool of more than 500 artists and writers has been rediscovered, presented to the public by means of exhibitions and publications, and dozens of them promoted to an elevated status in the national pantheon. Every history of art and literature of the past twenty years has accorded Futurism a prominent position in the cultural history of the country.
Outside Italy, the development has been similar. Between 1945 and 1970, few publications were dedicated to the international branches of the Futurist movement, and even less to the leading figures in Italy. This situation changed remarkably after the epochal 1986 Palazzo Grassi exhibition, Futurismo e futurismi. A long series of international exhibitions throughout the Western world raised Futurism to a status on a par with Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism. Consequently, it entered the syllabus in academic institutions and became a standard topic, not only in courses of fine art, design and architecture, but also Italian Studies, Hispanic Studies, Slavonic Studies, Cultural Studies, Theatre History, Music History etc.
This trend has even been surpassed in Eastern and Central Europe. After the demise of the Communist régimes, the historical avant-garde could be thoroughly re-assessed and in many cases for the first time uncovered. A wealth of artistic creativity in the often short-lived democratic States of the 1910s and 20s has come to light, and the central position played by Futurism in it has now been firmly established. This has resulted in over 2,500 publications since the fall of the iron curtain in 1989.
The astounding development outlined above found a peak in the 2009 centenary of the foundation of Futurism. 300 exhibitions, 45 international conferences and an uncountable number of theatre and musical performances, radio and TV broadcasts have given Futurism an unprecedented prominence in the cultural calendar. Futurism Studies as an academic discipline is now firmly established and produces some 300-350 monographs annually (more than half of them outside Italy), tendency still rising. Yet, it is conspicuous that this discipline is strongly compartmentalized, not so much in terms of artistic media, but along national borders. Italian scholars rarely take note of the heaving research that is being carried out in the UK or US, not to mention Russia, Brazil or Germany; but also vice versa, Mexicans or Argentinians tend to be very knowledgeable about creacionismo, ultraismo and estridentismo, but publish few studies on Zenitizam, Zaum-poetry or Poetizmus.
One of the consequences that can be drawn from this situation – and it is one that I have presented, to considerable approbation, at numerous conferences in 2009 – is that the debate on Futurism must become more globalized and be less centred on Italy. Futurism had a world-wide impact and generated many international Futurisms. It made important contributions to numerous avant-garde movements, despite the fact that their agendas only partially overlapped with Marinetti’s aesthetic and political programme.
I have suggested at various academic gatherings in 2009 the founding of an International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, designed to act as a medium of communication amongst a world-wide community of scholars and a forum of debate on the manifold Futurist and para-Futurist phenomena in and outside of Italy. This idea has won widespread support, and half a dozen leading scholars have enthusiastically agreed to serve on the board of such a periodical. More colleagues will be approached in the next months to serve as contributing and consultant editors. Typically, they will be experts on the multifaceted influences of Futurism in their respective country, act as intermediaries to their academic community (especially of young scholars), solicit contributions for the Yearbook and act as referees for essays submitted.
Thus the Yearbook will facilitate contacts across national borders and academic disciplines and establish a global network of academics working in the field of Futurism Studies. The periodical will also act as a coordinating medium for bi-annual regional conferences (the first will take place on East and Central European Futurism, as part of the 2010 EAM conference at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznán/Poland, 9-11 September 2010; a second is planned on Latin-American Futurism for 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, a third on woman Futurists outside Italy for 2014 in Toronto).
The Yearbook will publish essays generated from those conferences, but also contributions focussed on other countries. It will have an interdisciplinary orientation and publish research concerned with literature, fine arts, music, theatre, dance, decorative arts, graphic design, fashion etc. Each volume will have some 250-300 pages and consist of the following sections:
- Announcements of conferences, exhibitions, publication ventures (10-15 pp)
- Essays related to world-wide Futurism (180-200 pp.)
- Country surveys discussing recent work carried out on Futurism in individual countries (30-40 pp.)
- Conference reports, reviews of books, performances, concerts, exhibitions (10-20 pp)
- Bibliography of recent Futurism studies with a world-wide coverage, designed to serve as annual addenda to my Bibliographic Handbook of Futurism (15-20 pp)