Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Friday, 20 February 2009

Back to the Futurists

Filming of cult movie Metropolis
The influence of Futurism is evident in Fritz Lang's 1926 cult film Metropolis

By Lawrence Pollard
BBC arts correspondent

It called for the demolition of museums and libraries, contempt for women and the glorification of war, "the world's only hygiene".

It promoted "the beautiful ideas which kill" and claimed that beauty exists only in struggle - so why is the art world celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Futurist Manifesto?

Filippo Marinetti
Love of danger
Energy and fearlessness
Courage, audacity and revolt
Aggressive action
Love of speed
Splendour and generosity
The beauty of struggle
The glory of war
Scorn for women
Destruction of museums and libraries
Because when it appeared, on 20 February 1909, it was the first art manifesto of the 20th Century, paving the way for Vorticists, Surrealists, Dada-ists, and Situationists, as well as more recent cultural agitators like the Stuckists.

But first, the Futurists and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. A millionaire Italian poet with a passion for fast cars, he created an artistic movement out of nothing. He sat down and created his "-ism", Futurism, and then went about recruiting Futurist artists.

It was an early exercise in cultural branding. Marinetti took over the front page of newspapers across Europe and had his manifesto printed - a sort of advertorial for speed, youth, newness and the destruction of the old order.

And he had set the template for the manifesto - shock tactics, declamation, bullet points, such as: "A racing car is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothace", "Poetry must be a violent assault..." and "We glorify War..."

It had 11 bullet points because 11 was his favourite number.

Dr Roberta Cremoncini of London's Estorick Collection of Italian Art says Marinetti sounds a bit mad, but was serious.

"He was a self-publicist, but wanted to change Italian culture too, to update it and break in a very clear way with the past. This is why the manifesto dictates burning museums, a cleansing war, to shake Italy."

Manifestos multiply

Within a few years, Italy and Europe were indeed shaken, by world war. And that inevitably colours our view of Marinetti's invocation of conflict, according to art critic William Feaver.

"Futurism came at a very good moment for getting excited about the 20th Century. Bang at the beginning, just avoiding the start of the war. The manifesto was about publicity, he published to become famous. And they became famous."

Futurist Luigi Russolo with his art of noise machine. "Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibilities of men," he declared in 1913.

And soon everyone wanted a manifesto, to shout their claim to be new, to be best. The British Vorticists published BLAST in 1914 - again, unfortunate timing - with a 10-point manifesto beginning "Beyond Action and Reaction we would establish ourselves" and going on to register disapproval of the London suburb of Putney and approval of hairdressers.

Two years later, the Dada manifesto was recited by Hugo Ball at a cabaret in Zurich, and then rewritten in 1918 by Tristan Tzara who summed up manifesto writing succinctly: "To put out a manifesto you must want A B C and fulminate against 1 2 3."

The year 1930 saw the Concrete Art manifesto ("Art is Universal"), the Manifesto of Mural Painting followed in 1933, and let's not forget Andre Breton's two Surrealist Manifestos, from 1924 ("Surrealism will usher you into death") and 1929 ("Run down the street pistol in hand, firing blindly as fast as you can, into the crowd.")

We could go on, through the White manifesto of 1946, the Spatialist manifesto of 1952, offerings from the Situationists (1960) Chelsea Hotel (1962) Fluxus (1963) SCUM (1967) Body Art (1975) Cheap Art (1984) and many many more - but let's get up to date with the Stuckist Manifesto.

'Stuck, stuck, stuck'

To protest against what they saw as the dominance of conceptual art and the Young British Artists, at the expense of figurative painting, Billy Childish and Charles Thomson unleashed the Stuckist Manifesto in 1999, taking their name from Tracey Emin's reported criticism that their figurative work was "Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!"

Charles Thomson: A single woman in London is never more than six inches away from the nearest rat
A single woman in London is never more than 6" away from the nearest rat, by Charles Thomson
Itís a 20-point manifesto, "against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego artist." "Art that has to be a gallery to be art, isn't art," it proclaimed. "Stuckism is anti-ism."

So why a manifesto?

"You can put across in a very simple and striking way, your basic beliefs," says Mr Thomson.

"Itís a bit like poetry. It compresses feelings and thoughts in a memorable form. You have to strike a chord with supporters, and make those who donít agree with you as angry as possible. We managed that quite well, especially with the statement, 'Artists who donít paint aren't artists.'"

Where Marinetti had to buy space in newspapers, the Stuckists have spread with the internet. There are now 187 groups in 45 countries, the latest being the Tehran Stuckists, but it's not like joining a cult, says Mr Thomson.

"We encourage people to write their own version of the manifesto, If you want to be a Stuckist you have to do it yourself, and the only way to leave is to throw yourself out of your own group. Which they sometimes do."

And what was the future for the father of the art manifesto, Marinetti? He spent the rest of his life writing hundreds of futurist manifestos, on painting, film, music, noise, women, men's clothing, lust, the future reconstruction of the universe and even food, where he called for the abolition of pasta.

Futurism was overtaken by the future, ended up identifying with Fascism and died with Marinetti in 1944. But the manifestos were great.

Here is a selection of your comments:

Manifesto of Unitary Tribalism

A. We believe that the basic rights of man are achieved only through the balance of individual and perceived group points of view.

B. Therefore, mankind collectively lives to the optimum potential only when microcosm (individual, familial, tribal) requirements are fulfilled as macrocosm (state, national, and international) requirements are simultaneously fulfilled.

C. In accordance, the respect of individual liberty, including what others might view as taboo, deviate, or immoral views and practices must be treated with the utmost respect as the greater societal needs are being administered so long as these taboos, deviate behavior, and immoral views are not violent or infringe upon universally agreed upon principles.

1. We oppose the decay of individual liberty at the expense of the "greater good"; however, we simultaenously oppose the decay of the bonding of macrocosmic societal constructs at the expense of excessive and immoral individual liberty.

2. We oppose the disruption of balance between the unlimited growth of individual liberty and the unlimited expansion of relations between macrocosmic human constructs.

3. As it becomes clear that the expansion of either individual liberty OR global brotherhood becomes threatened, it becomes necessary to resist this threat through peaceful means.
Andrť Balthazar, New York City, NY, USA

1. Art cannot exist solely in one's mind or in a vacuum (the same thing).

2. If it doesn't communicate on some level, it's not art.

3. Burning a painting produces ashes, not art.

4. Process is art in music and dance.

5. Product is art in painting, printing and sculpture.

6. A piece of work may shock but if that's all it does, it's not art.

7. If I can't show it to my children and grandchildren, it's history, not art.
Howie, Kensington, USA

Art without aesthetics is just noise. Aesthetics without expression is commercial. Art for the sake of individualism is easy. Art for the sake of innovation is backwards.
Rabindra Hayashi, San Francisco, United States

1. The spoken word eventually progresses toward silence.

2. Art is a repression of man's liberty and must be obscured.

3. Art has no rivals only enemies.

4. Complex reality has no order but is composed of chance, unconscious and internal impulses and spontaneity.

5. Art revels in shifting focus, is intentionally negative, ephemeral, illogical and inconclusive.

6. Art is not a protest but an avocation of protest.

7. Art already exists therefore is.

8. Reality is the process of becoming therefore will never be.

9. Art analysis is a dangerous illness.

10. Disrupted syntax, if undetected may lead to onomatopoeia.
Tom Henvey, Hog Jaw, Arkansas USA


A. We believe the manifesto is the most succint way to express our artistic endeavors.

B. Therefore, manifestos are also great ways to express our other endeavors.

C. We shall thusly strive to incorporate the use of manifestos, the action of which we proclaim to be manifestism, in our daily lives.

1. We oppose disorganization unless it is an entrpic means to a new form of order.

2. We therefore oppose disorganized thoughts and disorganized action.

3. We also oppose limits to our efforts to organize and manifest ans shall stop at nothing to profess our love for manifestism.

Example Manifesism Manifesto:

A. I like apples.

B. I shall therefore retrieve some from the grocery store.

C. Posessing apples will make me happy.

1. I oppose the limitation of access to apples.

2. I oppose paying for apples.

3. I oppose the efforts by the Man to prevent me from having apples and will endeavor in the face of tyranny to posess them by whatever means neccessary.
Steve Dombrowski, Seattle, Washington, USA


1. Morality shall be secular, not religious.

2. Television should be a cultural storyteller. Modern American television, for one, fails as the U.S.'s cultural storyteller. Instead of building our culture by projecting its highest possibilities, duties and zeniths, American television deliberately presents the pathologies and nadirs. We reject this.

3. Digital technology is best-used for storage and duplication. Analog technology is better for inspiration, imagination and creation. Music, for one, should always be created and recorded using analog technology. The sounds can then be stored, duplicated and disseminated using digital technology. To reverse the two is creatively disastrous.

4. The Campbellian hero's journey of the Generation X-er is to remember, honor, archive, preserve the analog era and to reboot and restimulate today's creatively stagnant digital era using its archives.

5. Gratuitous nudity and profanity blunt the culture. Out of a concern for imagination rather than for morality, such excess must be immediately curbed back.

6. Culture evolves in cycles. We have reached the limit of amoral culture. It is natural and acceptable that a contraction must occur, in order to purify and restimulate the soil of the culture, and prepare it for another cycle of expanse and amorality.

7. Any organization, ethos or individual that attempts to oppose the natural cyclic order of matters is doomed and will fail.

8. Any organization, ethos or individual aware of and adhering to the natural cyclic order of matters is destined for at least some success.

9. The Generation X-er will overtake the Baby Boomers as the next masters of cultural destiny. We will accomplish this by using nostalgia to reboot the culture.

10. The Sixties and Seventies were far better than the times of today, and an amalgamation of both decades, bedizened with space imagery and Sixties "space" iconography, will dominate and define the ethos of the approaching new culture.
Heather Ferreira, New York, USA

Become the art you wish to see in the world. I call for the elevation of kitsch and the worship of false idols with a grain of truth inside. Your list of 25 random things is not random at all. What are the 1000 things you left out? They're no more random - unless EVERYTHING is random, and if that were the case, *nothing* would be predictable. Predictability is a tool of science, but it's the proof of order. Can there be order without mind? discuss amongst yourselves.
Alana Guy Dill, Alameda, CA, USA

Kandinskij said: "The form is the outer expression of the inner content. One should not make a deity of form. And one should fight for the form only insofar as it can serve as a means of expression of the inner resonance. Ultimately one should not seek salvation in one form." Contemporary art seem to have forgotten this. In Art product doesn't matter. Only the human value of the artist and his struggle do.
Beatrice, Rome, Italy

If your art cannot communicate without a long verbal explanation, then surely you have failed in your art. It's about expressing what cannot be expressed with words. Good luck with your verbal props.
Michael, Frankfurt, Germany

Crunchism - We are dedicated to the concept of bankruptcy and the bankruptcy of concept.
Simon Thompson, London


p.s- don't believe me? Then feel free to look at my web site.
SCOTT BATTY (a chic primitif)., Alfortville, France

Artists who don't struggle into the unknown aren't artists.
j williamson, roujan France

These self-styled "artists" amuse the rest of us. The defining necessity for a "manifesto" is power, and this is just what these effete individuals lack, and resent the lack of. ART (capitalised for effect) is whatever the viewer perceives to be art, whether it fits into a dogmatic notion of art or not. Visit an art museum and see what the public stands in front of. That's art.
Bill Daley, Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Monkey + God = Man
Kevin , New York, NY

Writers are artists, but not all artists are writers.
karen, Wisconsin, U.S.

The surreal is the real subverted by the imagination.
Stancel Spencer, Jacksonville, Florida, USA

1. I am passionate about creativity

2. My philosophy is to create only the best art

3. I source only the finest organic pigments

4. All my art is created daily, and sold fresh

5. My art promotes responsible and sustainable viewing

6. I hope that you enjoy my art!
Tony T, London, UK

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