In 1908, Marinetti (how also liked to call himself the “caffeine of Europe”) initiated the movement of Futurism by published the “Manifesto of Futurism”, in which he rejects all practices of how nature has been viewed before and highlights the importance of industry, machines, violence, danger, revolt, and war.
Futurists saw the idyllic part of nature that most people appreciate as ugly and boring. Natural disasters, meanwhile, were exciting and beautiful. They had the opinion that nature will sooner or later kill you so why not embrace all the roughness while you’re still alive? Futurists described the act of struggle as beautiful and often used poetry as a mean of expressing violent acts.
This new movement rapidly found support and their first public manifesto in 1910 was described as the “Battle of Turin” were they “exchanged almost as many knocks as (…) ideas”. Futurists wanted a break of tradition. Everything old was passé. Futurists aimed at the remaking of the world. People rebelling, loud buuhing, cynical outcries, and chaos were purposely encouraged. The ideas of futurists were not only seen on stage or in literature but also carried out in form of architecture, fashion design, gastronomy, etc. Marinetti believed in the power of food and published in fact a piece of writing called “a meal that prevents a suicide”. He also wrote a manifest against pasta in 1930, however, this manifest questioned his credibility since paparazzis discovered him shortly afterwards eating Spaghetti.
What really surprised me is when I heard that Marinetti actually volunteered in the battlefields of World War I. At the beginning of the lecture I thought that he was just one of these intellectual armchair philosophers, sitting in his comfortable safe home far up from any danger, while imagining how amazing war and the violence it brings with it must be.
What then scared me even more, is that he in fact had seen and experienced the pity of war but did not change his attitude towards it. On the contrary, he embraced his battle wounds. The wounds and scares that kill people, or mark the ones that survive forever are described by him as beautiful because it shows that humans were altered and adored by war. According to Marinetti, these wounds are the ultimate gift because they fuse steel and flesh together and in doing so they bring us one step closer to machines. This fusion makes men in a sense immortal and lead to the ultimate evolution desired by futurists.
During the lecture, I could not stop but think of Wilfred Owen’s war poetry. He was one of the first known authors who questioned and disputed the notion of “Dulce et Decorum Est” (how sweet and right it is to die for one’s country), which was used by many countries to advertise war in a positive way. After having served as a commander of a foot soldier troop in World War I he wrote in one of his poems “my subject is war and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity”. Unlike most authors he did not hide the cruel nature of death in glorious descriptions to please the states by supplying positive war propaganda.
I’m left to wonder what Marinetti would say in response to Owen’s powerful poems that moved me to tears the first time I read them. Maybe he would overthink his philosophy…