The Mission Of Art Is The Care Of The Soul: Italian Futurism as negative model (Part 2 of a 3 part series).

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F. T. Marinetti and Italian Futurism

During the 19th Century, impressionism became a serious art movement that still maintained a kinship to representation, a faithfulness to the real world, yet challenged this world with an ensemble of vivid brushstrokes and colors, casting the world in a sort of interpretive fuzziness. Abstraction was thenceforth born, but abstraction is an evolutionary process (or devolutionary process, depending on who you ask). Impressionism and later abstraction did not come out of a vacuum. There were painters of the Barbizon school such as Camille-Corot that influenced the likes of Manet, Monet, Degas and Renoir. Of course, the impressionist influence went elsewhere, influencing painters in North America, specifically the Canadian Group of Seven, and later the American New York School of abstract expressionism.

European art took a more conceptualist route, however one impressionist stood out as influencing the schools of modern art that came later – Paul Cezanne. His “color fields” of strokes and patches of visibly broken color, his ability to break down the landscape and figures into basic shapes that would later have harder and more distinct borders and edges then what a usual landscape painters were accustomed to all led to the birth of the later schools of fauvism and cubism. This in turn led to the rise of the Italian futurists, led by their top thinker Filippo Marinetti, who penned the Futurist Manifesto. The futurists painted in color fields and used divisionism, where colors are not blended but laid side-by-side in unique dot, shape, or pattern arrangements. The Futurist Manifesto railed against traditional art, feminism, primitivism, and lionized beauty produced by way of struggle – hence Nietzsche’s influence on Italian thinkers and artists of that time in pre-war Italy.

Taking their lead from cubism, the Italian futurists sought out a new form of art that is a celebration of modernism, or what they called the “inherent dynamism” of all things technological and modern. They crafted a style which creatively interpreted the speed and intensity of cities and machines, and of modern sounds and modes of transportation. Speed was the focus of this new aesthetic vitality, and, as Paul Virilio notes, as the modern world makes even more leaps and bounds in terms of scientific and technological progression, so too does society – even existential experience makes dramatic shifts in increasing speed and intensity. Of course, with the internet, we find ourselves fully immersed in fields of information and live more fast-paced lives than ever. Italian futurism sought to navigate the challenges of the modern world by celebrating human speed as a “triumph” over nature. Here we also have the first inklings of aesthetic accelerationism, as Italian futurism was, from the beginning, a highly politicized art genre. Many of the futurists found themselves embracing the coming war as a great Nietzschean “festival of cruelty”, aligning themselves with Italian fascism and futurist political movements.

Futurism wished to herald in the age of the resilient, passionate and violence-embracing Ubermensch, the “new man” of the future that will “boldly go” where no man has gone before – only to fall into frustration and feelings of missed opportunity in “redeeming” the ancient blood-rite of creation. Ultimately, Italian futurism ushered in a more political and visionary way of looking at modern art, to only fail the way fascism in Italy failed (in effect, becoming entangled with the doom of the Nazi regime). Like the philosophers and ideas of Italian fascism, futurism became a purposely obscured relic, deemed untouchable by the professional art world and academia, despite its foundational influence in European modern art. A lot of the idealistic and fatalistic dispositions that manifested in Italian futurism can be observed in the attitudes of large swathes of the online Dissident Right. Therefore, Italian futurism can provide us with a case study of a modern art movement that did not fear associations with the political Right, but stumbled due to some foundational flaws in the outlook and ideas that were driving its ethos.

It is debatable as to whether Italian fascism, clerical fascism, etc. has the same malevolence as Nazi racism, or should be treated as the all-encompassing bogeyman modern liberal parlance tends to connote with fascism. Fascism appears to be dead as a viable political option (despite what some internet fascists think), considering how it has become secular society’s word for Lucifer. But despite this, and before this author gets excessive heat for treating Fascism in such a nuanced manner, Italian futurism suffered such a fate because it was an art movement entangled with a political movement. Both suffered from being “without a soul” to put it loosely. By this I mean its materialism, techno-fetishism, its Nietzschean proclivity towards future-philia, its  willingness to dive the muck of the zeitgeist’s politics, and its dehumanizing worship of cruelty and mass-violence all meant that Italian futurism abandoned the spiritual and the Godly in art by its very definition. Art must be both immanent and transcendental.

The aesthetic sensibility of the accelerationist strain of Neoreaction unfortunately suffers the same hangups as Italian futurism, but in the digital realm. The underground of Neoreaction, the Alt-Right, the “Orthosphere” and the like cannot allow itself to bask in an aesthetics of materialism and techno-fetishism. The aesthetics of the right must incorporate some of these elements but maintain a keen eye on the spiritual. This might go without saying, but the modern kulturkampf against the Left and the hideous art it holds in high regard cannot be won with the current crop of leaders present in the mainstream American conservative movement – the “Alt-Lite”, the “Anti-SJW” YouTubers (despite their popularity as of the time of writing) and the more visible identitarians and Alt-Righters.

To be frank: apart from a choice few, none of these so-called leaders or prominent figures have any artistic sensibility whatsoever. Some might carelessly and thoughtlessly pay lip service to classical art, but none will have any all-encompassing artistic sensibility or aesthetic ideal that will propel things forward in terms of making the Right’s artforms and styles legitimate and widely influential. Therefore, it will be up to the Reactionaries, the “smart set” of the underground Right, and those who have managed to maintain a low profile in art school and in academia to pave the way for a new Right-leaning aesthetics, and thusly a cultural return to moral legitimacy, maturity, spiritual wholeness and piety. This also entails an uplifting of modern culture away from materialism, crassness, surface-level sensationalism and degeneracy.

Artwork done by me, entitled “Vaporwave, the motion of waves” (acrylic on canvas, 15×20).


2 Replies to “The Mission Of Art Is The Care Of The Soul: Italian Futurism as negative model (Part 2 of a 3 part series).”

  1. Interesting. Have you written about William Blake? He was, as I’m sure you will agree, a one-off although he is often categorised as a romantic artist! That is a bit misleading. Another epithet uses is ‘visionary’ but what exactly does THAT mean!?


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