Futurism and Elit

February 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm (Digital Lit)

Every time I read Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto” I simulataneously want to hit him and thank him. Much of the elit that we have read for this class has its roots in Futurism, and their sister movement, Dada. However, I do think those roots, while they are emphasized by theorists, especially theorists looking to prove that elit isn’t just some new fad, are also not as concrete as many people think they are. To demonstrate what I mean I would like to spend a minute close reading part of Marinetti’s manifesto.

“1. We intend to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and fearlessness.” This first numbered point reinforces the image that is most commonly propagated about the Futurists, that they were fearless to the point of foolishness (several lost their lives because they volunteered for dangerous missions during the war). However, I’m not sure I see this in digital poetry. I think it is possible to describe digital poetry as more energetic than traditional poetry, but not I’m not sure being able to manipulate elements on a screen is the kind of energy Marinetti was talking about.

“2. Courage, audacity, and revolt will be essential elements of our poetry.” This point feels far more applicable to digital poetry. To write in this medium artists have to accept the fact that their work will probably not be widely accessed or criticized, and will in fact occasionally be openly mocked.

“10.We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.” My problem with this statement of Marinetti’s is that many theorists of digital poetry, as we have seen demonstrated in this class, are trying to claim a history and relationship with experimental print poetry, including Futurism itself. The ultimate weakness of Futurism is that in its love of speed it never allows you too look back, and any kind of historicizing effort is invalid because it is tying art to the past. Therefore, digital poetry should be accepted because it is the wave of the future and it doesn’t need to try to legitimize itself through any kind of connection to print culture.

I know this kind of point to point analysis is simplistic, and, in some cases missing the point, but as an historian and specifically an art historian I feel the need to point out the dangers of ahistoricism, particularly in a field that is moving and changing so fast that the Futurists themselves would have felt their heads spinning. Its all very well to trace the historical roots of a movement, but make sure you’re examining history when you do it.

*Realizing after the fact that this is actually next week’s reading. I guess I just like the Futurists that much. If I get time I will try to write something applicable to this week’s reading.


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