Science and the Aesthetics of Geometric Splendour in Italian Futurism

Author: Pietropaolo, Domenico

Source: Avant Garde Critical Studies, Futurism and the Technological Imagination. Edited by Günter Berghaus , pp. 41-61(21)

Publisher: Rodopi

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My purpose in this essay is to explore aspects of the Futurist imagination that are conditioned by science, with a view to illustrating the formative power of the scientific culture of the time in the special configuration that it was given in contemporary Italy. After a brief discussion of the difficulties involved in the study of science as a cultural substratum of Futurism, I shall argue that, in its pursuit of aesthetic principles appropriate to the movement, Futurism consciously took its lead from contemporary science. In particular, Futurism had fruitful contact with various aspects of electromagnetism, atomic theory and relativity, although in the definition and practice of its art forms, it was the geometric understanding of nature implicit in these sciences that emerged with the greatest clarity. In that understanding of nature lies the Futurist notion of geometric splendour as an ideal of aesthetic attainment. Futurism presented itself as a culture of consilience, the aesthetic base of which was at once humanistic and scientific. Within such a purview of culture, Futurists discovered that art has legitimate claims to make in areas of the imagination that were generally considered to lie beyond its competence and reach. The superimposition of the scientific on the artistic intellect occurs chiefly through the mediation of institutions for the dissemination of science and was articulated in imaginative configurations of experience grounded in principles at once humanistic and scientific. In pursuing its goal of aesthetic self-expression, Futurism elaborated new forms of art, such as photodynamism and tactile theatre, by following an imaginative course parallel to that of contemporary geometry and science.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2009

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