Wed, Jul 29, 2009 - Page 15 News List

Futurism without a past

Futurism is a centenary exhibit that focuses on the Futurist movement’s obsession with youth, speed and technology while glossing over its more violent, fascist elements

By Noah Buchan  /  STAFF REPORTER


The design of Futurism, an exhibit of Futurist movement sculpture, painting, furniture, clothing and writings, purports to demonstrate how contemporary the movement was by focusing on its obsession with youth, speed, and technology, but glosses over its violent, anti-environment, anti-feminist and fascist elements. Consequently, the show, installed in the bowels of the recently un-renamed Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to mark the centenary of the Futurist movement’s founding, fails to explain the ideological underpinnings that facilitated its rise.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti proclaimed the arrival of the art movement in his Futurist Manifesto, a screed published in Le Figaro in 1909. “We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice ... We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.” The original article, along with many other futurist writings, is displayed at the exhibition, but it would require a telescope to read as it is fixed under glass that is displayed about 1.5m behind a barrier. There is no accompanying Chinese- or English-language translation.

And yet, although the ideological aspects that gave birth to the movement are barely touched upon, the chronological and artist-centered structure of the exhibit is notable because it illustrates the manner in which the artists’ pictorial experiments thematically investigate the development of some of the era’s technologies — particularly the speed of vehicles — and social developments, such as the growth of cities.


WHAT: Futurism

WHERE: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (國立中正紀念),21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

WHEN: Until Oct. 11. Open daily from 9am to 6pm

TELEPHONE: (02) 2391-1183

ADMISSION: NT$250; concession tickets available

DETAILS: No ticket sales after 5:30pm

“[T]he world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed,” Marinetti wrote in his Manifesto. “We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.”

Giacomo Balla explores this dispensation in Velocita + Luci. The shapes painted on the canvas are fractured into parallel and circular strokes of browns reminiscent of a car’s outline. Beams of white emanate from these forms and express the velocity of automobiles.

Roberto M. Baldessari also investigates the motion of vehicles in Treno alla Stazione di Lugo. The focal point of the painting is a woman dressed in red who is approaching a steaming locomotive that is in the process of entering a station. Employing a visual language similar to the Cubists, the lines in the immediate foreground are fragmented in a way to offer multiple perspectives, while the background trails off into a blur. It deftly replicates the perception of looking through the window of a train moving at full speed.

The city, with its industrial buildings and frenetic street activity, was a favorite subject of the Futurists.

Ivo Pannaggi examines the relationship between man and architecture in Il Lavoro. The painting shows a man standing triumphantly on the upper reaches of a partially finished building and peering down at two fellow workers below. Verossi’s (Albino Siviero) In Volo su Ponte Pietra offers us a look at what Pannaggi’s human figure might see. The viewer is looking at a canal many stories below, the straight lines of the waterway and bridge that spans it suggest feats of engineering perfection and man’s control over nature.

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