The second of three autumn 2017 ‘Tetley Talks’ on the theme of ‘From Revolution to Reaction’
At the turn of the 20th century, Italy was economically backward and politically stagnant compared with the more advanced nations of Europe. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti became a figurehead for dissidents and rebels who wanted to overthrow the existing order when he published his Manifesto in February 1909, launching the avant-garde Futurist movement. Inspired by the markers of modernity, Marinetti exalted the new and the disruptive. For the Futurists, energy and speed were the watchwords to cure Italy of its languor, and to revitalise an apathetic generation.
Yet while Futurists welcomed modernity as an explosion of human creativity and an expansion of life without precedent in history in its militant engagement with politics, beliefs in nationalism and the violent overthrow of the old order, Futurism is often seen as a precursor to Fascism. So did Futurism have reactionary tendencies from the outset, or is there something in its spirit that is still compatible with the more progressive, humanistic aspects of utopianism?