Italian futurism was a poetic movement closely associated with Italian nationalism and fascism, thriving from the early 1900s to the defeat of Italian fascism in 1944. It has been ignored in English literature in consequence.
The art is forgotten because the politics was rotten. Yet Wagner was antisemitic; him, his music, were used by the Nazis to promote their belief: his politics were rotten, his art is not forgotten. Which tradition is correct? Music? Poetry?
To me, condemning art for the politics is condemning art for non-artistic reasons. I find abhorrent Wagner’s world view, I dislike, say, religion’s world view, but I hear Wagner, I read Hopkins, their works are great.
Fascism is wrong, nationalism is wrong, the two as one are thrice wrong. I detest the politics of the Italian futurists, I appreciate their poetry. My politics embeds itself in my poetry, but I hope future readers (presuming) grasp the politics feeds my art, it’s not the art itself, nor reason to reject. To ignore futurism because the artists were politically immature is itself immature. One can and should condemn the fascist corruption: so is the art content free?
Why reconsider futurism? Well, from the introduction to Willard Bohn’s book “Italian Futurism”, “the Futurists found modern technology particularly inspiring. They quickly realised that recent inventions would completely revolutionise society.” “Futurist experiments were not restricted to literature and art … they extended into every conceivable domain”. The futurists took ground epoetry wants to occupy today.
Technological change is fast, but real change comes in challenging times, when creativity permits survival. We are entering stark economic times, when innovation is a rare way to thrive. If people no longer buy a slightly brighter version of what they’ve got, perhaps they’ll buy a lighter thing that takes away the cost of what they’ve got to do.
Innovate or die. New technologies can change the way we live. This will happen, faster, faster, faster. The futurists were there. We know their mistakes, their political mistakes. Lets reconsider their achievements, their artistic achievements.
The futurists mistakenly presumed only one politics could be right, blind to the strength of difference, a politics proven wrong. But that’s no reason to ignore their art, an art for us to steal.
Personally, I don’t think it’s possible to avoid tribalism; like jealousy, it’s a nasty part of the human condition. If we ignore history, we repeat it. I don’t want to repeat that tribalism, that nationalism, the 1930s, the 1940s. Let us learn from history, let us mitigate tribalism’s hatred. The futurists, their mistakes, their art, are relevant to our now.