Futurism Conference at Harvard (April 17-18, 2009)

An interdisciplinary symposium:

Futurism at 100: To Measure a Century

April 17 – 18, 2009
Harvard Center for European Studies
Cambridge, MA
– Organized by Claudio Fogu, Ara H. Merjian, and Lucia Re

There will be five interesting panels, Futurist Music, and hors d’oeuvres and even a film. Check out the full schedule and list of participants on the conference website!

…synthesis and surprise…

The Founding Manifesto of Futurism today constitutes, in its own right, a venerable artifact. This crystallizes the irony that haunts our endeavor: to mark and measure a movement that augured – even encouraged – its own obsolescence. The staging of such an event within the hallowed halls of academe invites a certain self-consciousness regarding the legacies (and travesties) of the Futurist project. We aim to incorporate that self-consciousness into the fabric of our event, using it as a productive – and perhaps performative – aspect rather than repressing it.

What we find alive today in that manifesto, and worth measuring (in the sense both of assessing, and of misurarsi contro) is its attack on the distinction between the cultural production and storage of knowledge (museums, libraries, universities) and the artistic production of a radical avant-garde. Over time, Futurism itself invented a kind of criticism aimed at challenging passeist modes of thinking and of communicating knowledge.

Marinetti called the new critical interventions “misurazioni” (measurements and challenges). We would like to celebrate this important anniversary with a misurazione of Futurism itself, of its success or failure in changing the divergent course of knowledge production and artistic endeavor beginning in the twentieth century, up to the present day.

1)   sorpresa: We have decided not to announce the titles of papers ahead of time, nor to straightjacket them into pre-determined sessions by title or topic. Only session moderators (or rather eccitatori) will have read papers beforehand.

2)   sintesi: Papers will be limited to 15 minutes each, affording longer intervals of discussion and dialogue. Since no one (except for panel moderators) will know the precise topic of each paper, it will be the challenge of all participants (and audience) to use the discussion periods to tease out relevant affinities, or significant divergences.

We thus hope that the symposium’s import – and perhaps its “measure” – will unfold in real time, unburdened by prescripted thematic regulations.

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