Written by Redas Diržys   


Many points of view could be extracted from previous our exchange on the subject of futurists, but first I would point on the adequate understanding of the same terms we’re using. I feel that we are sharing very close positions, but it still need some clarifications….so far we never met live (what somehow itself always bring clearness even without understanding all positions)… so my critique is more related to the complicated subject what I was trying to investigate and reinvestigate for the last couple of months…


I will leave aside the discussion on derivatives of futurism as Russian futurism, cubofuturism, Suprematism and constructivism….which I would hardly call them being reactionary (in the sense of a bad will), but rather the divergence of the deserters to the west (Gabo, Pevsner, El Lissitzky, and especially Kandinsky) and the adequate artistic units in western Europe (de Stijl and even Bauhaus)…Sure, not so much openly flirted with fascists as le Corbusier, but mostly got into a corporational mess of liberalism -Mies van der Rohe is best an example…But here could be fully applied Boccioni’s rhetoric from his “On cowardice of the artists”.



But I find out very important issues as follows:


1.       Non-Euclidean space, n-dimensionality, spatialization of time, contradictions in the very foundations of mathematics


The geometry of non-Euclidean spaces are based on the space curvature (elliptical or hyperbolic) what usually are applied to huge scale of space. But in a small scale its totally corresponds to non- Euclidian.


The spacetime – characterized by Einstein and developed by Minkowsky – that is treated as non-Euclidean geometry as well so far it changes at some extend location of spatial trimension and involves motion (i.e. 1 time dimension). That was exactly the influence towards the futurist aesthetics.


n-dimensionality – that is specific investigation in the Euclidean space, which describes Euclidean geometry in n dimensions. n-dimensional manifold is a space that locally looks like n-dimensional Euclidean space, but whose global structure may be non-Euclidean.


In general non-Euclidean geometry is based on the same logic as Euclidean. People found much easier to change the physics and to apply it to correspond classical Euclidean logic in their own minds.


There exists much more fitting issues in mathematics fitting to our current discussion. First I would mention Georg Cantor who abolishes invariance of dimension, his contribution to the understanding of infinity and revealing basic paradoxes in a very basis of numbering (the basis of Cartesian thing and classical mathematics). Actually that particular case of Cantors transfinitive numbers concept was criticized by Poincaret as heaviest disease on a math’s body… Cantor’s paradoxes could be supported also by other contributions towards the refutation of the myth of creditability of mathematical consistency as basis for universal truth: here are Russell paradox, Gödel theorems and many others what could be concluded by Henry Flynt with his cognitive nihilism elaborated on that basis. Cantor/Poincaret controversies I found an interesting issue point for further investigation on that basis of their conflict – so far there could be detected the basic structural elements of the situationist formal developments (Poincaret-Jorn line) and Fluxus philosophy as well (Cantor-Gödel-Flynt line).


2.       4-th dimension problem


The problem is rather philosophical (and very popular in the period of the end of 19th century – beginning of 20th) then mathematical and has many versions to be explained. Besides it’s possibility interpret in the frame of Euclidean space (in the frame n-dimensional space, which was followed in arts by cubists) and non-Euclidean spacetime (Minkowsky’s space) there are some more and completely different versions for that:


Hinton’s hyperspace is arranged as 3-dimensional Euclidean space with additional dimension what is indistinguishable from the other three (quite good explanation could be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_dimension). Also some parts of this particular theory was object of investigations by various neo-plasticists, constructivists and Suprematists, but they were concerned on depiction of upper space in the logic of lower dimension space (i.e. flat shapes on the plane, square figures in the 3D space). But there is very important to note, that Hinton’s version has nothing common with neither Minkowsky’s version, nor n-dimensional Euclidean space.


Theosophy (Blavatskaya, Bessant, Leadbeater, Stirner) also claimed for possession of mystical 4th dimension – that influenced German expressionists like Kandinsky, Marc, Macke etc.


Russian mystic Ouspensky developed another version concerning time and space in some continuum.


Alfred Jarry the 4th dimension based on an absurd and later it obtained the shape of pataphysics.


And Marcel Duchamp travelled through many stages of the problem and could be generalized as the one who speculated on it most of all. He started from his very specific cubist/futurist formal experiments which reached pick in his “Nude Descending the Staircase”. The for the dada period he moved on a sexual dimension (that one Duchamp explored through his all the rest artistic years). Later he speculated on relation of intuition particularly in playing chess with the problem of 4th dimension. Following his Green Book notes on the Large Glass is evident that he explored time dimension and chance operations in a very particular individual, experimentalist and even modal way. So, in general he was rather speculative then non-Euclidean. But from the point of view towards the problem as I pointed above as Cantor/Poincaret conflict – that could be treated as particular set of axioms to develop its own consistent logic towards infinity. At some point I feel his approach very close to the “brend” theory developed by Flynt, just Duchamp tended too much towards fetishism and that makes him reactionary. That is again the main difference between that, what Flynt called “concept art” and the real conceptualism, which was coined from Duchamp matrix.


3.       Boccioni and the 4th dimension


Not sure, but the mostly reliable version that Boccioni used Minkowsky’s version (publicized in 1908) for 4th dimension interpretation. So far he based his faith on intuition (possibly bergsonian, which was very fashionable then) it seems that he not restricted himself on mathematical calculus (as cubists did).


4.       Futurists and Fascism, art and politics


For sure the rhetoric Boccioni and Futurists used in his manifestos was openly fascist especially that we look at it from the experience of the whole last century. And if somebody would use the formulations today definitely would be alleged to fascism. But we should keep in mind that in the beginning of the century the nationalist stand was one of the mostly effective society organization forms to fight imperialism, but it resulted that nationalist tendencies gave birth to the fascist structures which were present (and still are) in all European countries. But I totally disagree with the statement as following: “…fourth-dimensional force lines and force forms emanating from works like Carlo Carra's Funeral of the Anarchist Galli (1911) or Boccioni's Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) registered not only the artists' intuitive transformation of the self but also a desire to transform the audience who came to view such work and were intended to transmit the Futurist spirit of heroic violence and gendered will-to-power to the Italian public.”


What I find the mostly positive in Boccioni’s and Futurists case – that was approach towards creativity, spontaneity and in all possible forms of mediums; also refutation of all the metaphysics, and mystifications on the deep contents etc. – all they talked about was the emanating surface. Another point was disregard towards authorities in creativity and it’s fetishization (I mean the approach towards the museums)…so, the manipulations on the public opinions is exaggerated and even illogic. We also should keep in minds that modernist approach never was accepted by wide public…and even now is a spectacle for bourgeois class. 

Therefore I think Futurism was not able to attract bigger audiences and they were assimilated by fascists because of particularly ambivalent Marinetti case (nobody knows what it would be with happen with Boccioni). But in general the official fascist art approach was always much more populist and straight forward and based on moral values, while modernists from the fascist point of view are just “degenerates”.


By the way there I find out very interesting the note that Nazi show of  “Degenerate Art” in Munich happen in the same year as MOMA got its present location at Rockefellers in NYC and also Guggenheim’s museum was established – 1937. I think that is the detail we should worry much more about then Futurists rhetoric – that is a link of fascism with liberal capitalism (from that point WWII also would look differently).


To compare futurists’ fate in Soviet Union things look similar: Mayakovsky and Malevich definitely were the symbols of Bolshevik revolution, they used almost identical rhetoric to that of Italians, they praised power and glory of the new state and proletarian union, developed agitprop, but they never were too popular among the masses, eventually got trapped by Stalinists and substituted by populist ideology of “social realism”.


At the moment I’m concluding that the art as the commodity is an element of neo-liberal capitalism and functions in the market only without any meaning – that is shown even in the answer you received from the Kettles Yard (they gave the market value even to the Hitlers’ prosecution – which you can see in their official answer!!!). Fascist and socialist/communist ideologies are based rather on moral, i.e. “eternal” values embedded by state apparatus and religion (or its ideological substitute), but the artifacts are using for the exchange in global market so keeping profit. Anarchists are concerned on direct action and open creation, which material residues are either privatized or nationalized and so give a profit to their initial enemies. The best strategy to use now – to crack their system so to show it’s inconsistency: liberals accuse in fascist approach, fascists to block physically etc.


The futurists’ case showed very clear – the big confusion was in the politics in Europe concerning anarchist, socialists/communists, fascists and liberals according their positions and methods. And arts in all those different milieus looked very differently….though clear boundaries are not traced yet. Anarchists’ methods are widely used in politics of left and right. But there I agree fully with you – art cannot be viewed away from politics, otherwise there we’ll start to talk about the prices.