Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe

Originally published in Italian as a leaflet by Direzione del Movimento Futurista March 11, 1915, Milan

This English-language translation by Caroline Tisdall is COPYRIGHT ©1973 Thames and Hudson Ltd, London. All rights reserved.

Apollonio, Umbro, ed. Documents of 20th Century Art: Futurist Manifestos. Brain, Robert, R.W. Flint, J.C. Higgitt, and Caroline Tisdall, trans. New York: Viking Press, 1973. 197-200.

Audio available via MoMA (Read by Joshua Mehigan as part of the Futurism and the New Manifesto program, February 20, 2009)

Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe
Giacomo Balla, Fortunato Depero

With the Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting and the preface to the catalog of the Futurist Exhibition in Paris (signed by Boccioni, Carrà, Russolo, Balla, Severini), with the manifesto of Futurist Sculpture (signed by Boccioni), the manifesto of the Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells (signed by Carrà), with the volume Pittura scultura futuriste [Futurist Painting and Sculpture] by Boccioni and Carrà’s Guerrapittura [Warpainting], pictorial Futurism has succeeded in the course of six years in progressing beyond Impressionism and in solidifying it, in proposing plastic dynamism and the moulding of the atmosphere, interpenetration of planes and states of mind. The lyrical appreciation of the universe, by means of Marinetti’s Words-in-Freedom, and Russolo’s Art of Noises, relies on plastic dynamism to provide a dynamic, simultaneous, plastic and noisy expression of universal vibration.

We Futurists, Balla and Depero, seek to realize this total fusion in order to reconstruct the universe by making it more joyful, in other words by an integral re-creation. We will give skeleton and flesh to the invisible, the impalpable, the imponderable and the imperceptible. We will find abstract equivalents for all the forms and elements of the universe, and then well will combine them according to the caprice of our inspiration, to shape plastic complexes which we will set in motion.

Balla started by studying the speed of automobiles, and in so doing discovered the laws and essential force-lines of speed. After more than twenty paintings exploring this, he understood that the flat plane of the canvas prevented him from reproducing the dynamic volume of speed in depth. Balla felt the need to construct, with strands of wire, cardboard planes, material, tissue paper, etc., the first plastic-dynamic complex:

1. ABSTRACT. 2. DYNAMIC. Relative movement (cinematographic) + absolute movement. 3. EXTREMELY TRANSPARENT. For the speed and volatility of the plastic complex which must appear and disappear, light and impalpable. 4. HIGHLY COLOURED AND EXTREMELY LUMINOUS (through the use of internal lights). 5. AUTONOMOUS, that is, resembling itself alone. 6. TRANSFORMABLE. 7. DRAMATIC. 8. VOLATILE. 9. ODOROUS. 10. NOISE-CREATING. Simultaneous plastic noisiness with plastic expression. 11. EXPLOSIVE, elements that appear and vanish simultaneously with a bang.

The free-wordist Marinetti, to whom we showed out first plastic complexes, said with enthusiasm: ‘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.’

THE MATERIAL CONSTRUCTION OF THE PLASTIC COMPLEX

NECESSARY MEANS: Strands of wire, cotton, wool, silk of every thickness and coloured glass, tissue paper, celluloid, metal netting, every sort of transparent and highly coloured material. Fabrics, mirrors, sheets of metal, coloured tin foil, every sort of gaudy substance. Mechanical and electrical devices; musical and noise-making elements, chemically luminous liquids or variable colours; springs, levers, tubes, etc. With these means we will construct –

Rotations:

1. Plastic complexes rotating on one axis (horizontal, vertical, oblique).
2. Plastic complexes rotating on more than one axis: a) in the same director but with varying speeds; b) in opposite directions; c) in the same and opposite directions.

Decompositions:

3. Plastic complexes which decompose: a) in volume; b) in layers; c) in successive transformations (taking the shape of cones, pyramids, spheres, etc.).
4. Plastic complexes which decompose, talk, produce noises and play music simultaneously.
Decomposition———————————————–Onomatopeias
———————Form + Expansion Sounds—-Sounds
Transformation———————————————–Noises

Miracle Magic:

5. Plastic complexes which appear and disappear: a) slowly; b) in repeated bursts (in scales); c) with unexpected explosions.
Pyrotechnics – Water – Fire – Rivers.

THE DISCOVERY – INFINITE SYSTEMATIC INVENTION

Using complex, constructive, noise-producing abstraction, that is, the Futurist Style. Any action developed in space, any emotion felt, will represent for us the intuition of a discovery.

EXAMPLES: Watching an aeroplane swiftly climbing while a band played in the square, we had the idea of PLASTIC-MOTOR-NOISE MUSIC IN SPACE and the LAUNCHING OF AERIAL CONCERTS above the city. The need to vary the environment very frequently, together with sport, led us to the concept of TRANSFORMABLE CLOTHES (mechanical trimmings, surprises, tricks, disappearance of individuals). The simultaniety of speed and noises have led us to the idea of the ROTOPLASTIC NOISE FOUNTAIN. Tearing up a book and throwing it down into a courtyard resulted in PHONO-MOTO-PLASTIC ADVERTISEMENT and PYROTECHNIC-PLASTIC-ABSTRACT CONTESTS. A spring garden blown by the wind led to the concept of the MAGICAL TRANSFORMABLE MOTO-NOISY FLOWER. – The clouds flying in a storm made us perceive the BUILDING IN THE NOISY TRANSFORMABLE STYLE.

THE FUTURIST TOY

In games and toys, as in all traditional manifestations, there is nothing but grotesque imitation, timidity (little trains, little carriages, puppets), immobile objects, stupid caricatures of domestic objects, antigymnastic and monotonous, fit only to cretinize and degrade a child.

With plastic complexes we will construct toys which will accustom the child:

1. TO COMPLETELY SPONTANEOUS LAUGHTER (with exaggerated and comical tricks);
2. TO MAXIMUM ELASTICITY (without resorting to the throwing of projectiles, whip cracking, pin pricks, etc.);
3. TO IMAGINATIVE IMPULSES (by using fantastic toys to be looked at through magnifying glasses, small boxes to be opened up at night to reveal pyrotechnic marvels, transforming devices, etc.);
4. TO THE INFINITE STRETCHING AND ANIMATION OF THE SENSIBILITY (in the unbounded realms of the most acute and exciting noises, smells and colours);
5. TO PHYSICAL COURAGE, TO FIGHTING AND TO WAR (with enormous dangerous and aggressive toy that will work outdoors).

The Futurist toy will be of great use to adults too, since it will keep them young, agile, jubilant, spontaneous, ready for anything, inexhaustible, instinctive and intuitive.

THE ARTIFICIAL LANDSCAPE

By developing the initial synthesis of the speed of an automobile, Balla arrived at the first plastic complex. This revealed an abstract landscape composed of cones, pyramids, polyhedrons, and the spirals of mountains, rivers, lights and shadows. It follows that a profound analogy exists between the essential force-lines of speed and the essential force-lines of a landscape. We have reached the profound essence of the universe, and we are masters of the elements. Following this course we will succeed in constructing

THE METALLIC ANIMAL

Fusion of art and science, chemistry, physics, continuous and unexpected pyrotechnics all incorporated into a new creature, a creature that will speak, shot and dance automatically. We Futurists, Balla and Depero, will construct millions of metallic animals for the vastest war (conflagration of all the creative forces of Europe, Asia, Africa and America, which will undoubtedly follow the current marvellous little human conflagration).

The invention contained in this manifesto are absolute creations, integrally generated by Italian Futurism. No artist in France, Russia, England or Germany anticipated us in perceiving anything similar or analogous. Only the Italian genius, which is the most constructive and architectural, could perceive the abstract plastic complex. With this, Futurism has determined its style, which will inevitably dominate the sensibility of many centuries to come.

One Reply to “Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe”

  1. I did not realize that Italian Futurism has many key points towards what objects that surrounds us with the power of sound, smell, and noise. This article clearly illustrates important factors such as abstract objects can have a sense of noise, smell, and sound in any given piece of art and or a form of art with the ability to rotate and decompose objects to create new types of art.

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