PRINT February 1972

The Futurist Campaign

IN OCTOBER 1911, THREE AMBITIOUS young Milanese painters—they were, on the average, in their late 20s—made a flying trip to Paris. Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo, in an earlier series of public manifestos and, for want of a stronger word, “theatricals,” extending back almost two years, had clarioned the word “Futurist” as the standard bearer of their new art of violent, ecstatic prophecy. Preparing for their crucial French debut at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, they were anxious to check their progress against that of the Cubists, of whom they had only garbled reports. It was an opportunity to size up the development of advanced painting in the headquarters of Western art at first hand.

Two other personalities contributed to this reconnaissance: Gino Severini, their Paris-based colleague who first urged the junket and shepherded the painters, and the actual founder of Futurism and financier of the trip, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, a wealthy poet, editor, avant-gardist, playwright, and literary impresario, of such noticeable energy that he had become known as “the caffeine of Europe.” Within the space of about three weeks, the visitors barnstormed the Paris scene. We know that they cased the Salon d’Automne, where they saw the work of Metzinger, Gleizes, and Léger, and that they gained entry to the studios of Braque and Picasso. They even managed to get written about by Apollinaire, who found Boccioni’s ideas about a triptych then in progress back home, States of Mind, “puerile and sentimental.”

Despite the ruffle of interest prepared by Marinetti and stimulated by their visit, no one would have quite expected the deluge of publicity brought forth by the Bernheim show just a few months later, nor the sensationalism of its circuit through the great European centers and capitals: London, Brussels, The Hague, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Munich. Futurism established itself as the most aggressive artistic phenomenon of its age, in the least amount of time, and on the widest possible international front. Most significant, the Italians had succeeded in demonstrating by their painting what they had already proclaimed in their manifestos. For them, the impact of the machine in the 20th century had dynamited out of all recognition a discrete understanding of space, motion, rhythm, and the temporal succession of events, as these had been hitherto perceived in visual art. (Though it was never assumed that the machine had any exclusiveness or even priority as a modern subject.) Now, after their exhibition had toured the continent, and sparked movements everywhere in Europe, the Milanese Futurists returned to Italy. Each of them bent forward to elucidate forms that Apollinaire, quickly revising himself though still perplexed, thought might “attain the heights of a symphony.”

It is still provoking to ask what role was played in the Futurist dervish by that first brief overview of Paris. A miscellaneous, long or short term drifting of artists to Paris had already centuries of tradition behind it. A highly organized, in and out campaign was a thoroughly different and most uncommon affair. We know that it immediately chastened works on the easel and sobered many to come by Boccioni and Carrà. Yet the historical interest of the impressions left upon these painters by Cubism is enhanced by controversy.

That their art gained in clarity and control as a result of their exposure to Cubism was an event modified by how much it confirmed the uniqueness of their own experience and program. The Futurists were quick to assault competitors whom they thought all too respectful of their classicist past, and too intellectually detached in their attitude toward form. For example, the Cubists were always discovering stability in a new mode of perception that continually implied a universal disequilibrium to the Futurists. Up-to-the-minute phenomena of accelerated sensory change incited intense psychic and emotional responses in the Milanese. They were so moved to crossbreed those feelings that they could never confine themselves to working in the isolated genres of still life and the figure, to which the Cubists generally adhered. Upon these latter modes, the Futurists superimposed landscape and history, which were in natural accord with their experience as the most committed urbanophiles yet seen in modern art. Joyfully putting themselves under the gun of social events—political struggle and scientific discovery—that lay far beyond art, the Italians dedicated themselves to a spiritual freedom and a primitive innocence which they opposed to any merely “esthetic” purifying of visual means.

The encounter with Cubism was indeed catalytic. It lent pattern and focus to the Futurist obsession, with movement. But it misled many critics to treat Futurism as but a vulgar, upstart derivative of Cubism (though it surely affected the work of Robert Delaunay, impressed Léger, and coincided with the researches of Marcel Duchamp exemplified at that moment by the Nude Descending a Staircase). To Parisian critics, Futurist theory seemed wildly exaggerated, implausible, even silly (a view that in retrospect was an inadvertent tribute to its threat and its modernity). As for Futurist painting, they stigmatized it rather unreasonably for being way too off the mark from the theory they condemned. For their part, Boccioni and Carrà saw the art of their French counterparts as fragmentary and crypto-academic. Antirational though their impulses were, they considered their art to be more comprehensive, objective, and progressive than the Cubists’. And more dangerous, too. For there was latent in the Futurist sense of progress a will to destroy all moral codes just as there was present in their manner of self-advertisement a wish to scandalize the public at large.

From the perspective of the social history of art, few episodes could compare with the Futurist incursion through continental Europe. And even outside those immediate Western limits, in Czarist Russia, the movement exerted a nerve-wracking effect by unleashing a veritable mania for the new. In 1913, the year before Marinetti actually got to Moscow, Diaghilev could write:

Twenty new schools of art are born within a month. Futurism, Cubism—they are already prehistory. One needs but three days to become pompier. Mototism overcomes Automatism, which yields to Trepidism and Vibrism and they in turn to Planism, Serenism, Omnism and Neism. Exhibitions are arranged in palaces and hovels. In garrets lit by three candles, princesses grow ecstatic over paintings by the masters of Neo-airism. Big landowners take private lessons in Metachromism.

In societies that were more industrialized, but less ripe for upheaval, the going proved to be rougher. To lubricate their way, the Futurists devised a carnival of provocation. Traveling shows, foreign newspaper reviews, and dealers’ cartels were ordinary enough features of contemporary art life. The Futurists improved upon them by broadsides and pamphlets, preliminary literary barrages to soften up the intellectual ground, street demonstrations, theater evenings (serata), press conferences and releases, magazine polemics, lectures, and- fiery catalogue introductions. Marinetti, the complete promotor, saw to it that no detail of modern public relations—whether it be a night marquee for the Bernheim show or photographs of the artists and their works—was neglected in a blitz that appeared to be more commercial and political than artistic.

But this hard sell style reflected a genuine aspect of Futurist ideology. The artists recruited all media, popular and specialist, in a concerted effort to draw upon potentialities of high-speed diffusion of messages and the most efficient condensing of information. The information that concerned them was perceptual. As the Futurists held that the sensory dynamic of modern life was aggrandized by endless supplements of new media, transport, and communications, it followed that mixed publicity techniques, no matter how incongruous for displaying serious art, were the most appropriate heralds of their expressive aims. The inflammatory means by which these artists launched themselves became a trademark of their vision. Quite aside from attacking the museums as musty temples of dead culture, not that new an accusation in itself, the Futurists considered them obsolete as media. And it was quite clear, too, that they had their reservations about the gallery system as an exposure center for their art, or rather that the galleries comprised only one of many alternatives for reaching the public.

From the first, Italian Futurism (of the five artists who signed the original painting manifesto of 1910, their senior, Giacomo Balla, should be mentioned), was never restricted to a single mode of art. Painting may represent its greatest accomplishment, but it was actually born as a literary movement, with Marinetti’s famous 1909 foundation manifesto in the Paris newspaper Le Figaro. People from many fields rushed to enlist themselves under its banner. Manifestos of Futurist sculpture (Boccioni), noise (Russolo), music (Pratella), “Free Words” (Parole in Liberta) (Marinetti), photography (A. G. Bragaglia), variety theater, politics, scenography (Prampolini), and architecture (Antonio Sant’Elia), even cinema, crowded into the years just before and during World War I. Unlike the intrinsically pictorial emphasis of Cubism, the Futurist sensibility comprised all the arts. Nor could it have been very different for an esthetic, the general run of whose statements stressed polymorphous appearances, synesthesia, and the interchangeability of materials and perceptions. The switch-hitting Italians, with their broken field and open frame concepts, took as their domain the whole bewildering flux of industrial and motorized experience, rather than the unfolding ambiguities of form or the autonomy of painting. Though extremely dogmatic, how vague indeed was their dogma. It encouraged them to sense each art as a cognate of the next and to think them all equally available for engagement with modern disorder, whatever their prior histories or states. Each art form could be reclaimed across the board by materializing the consciousness of disjointed feelings and chaotic sensations, understood as the new reality of the present. (One result was that, instead of remaining bottled up with the category of a movement, Futurism contributed directly to the development of all the arts, lending them insights and innovations which still await accurate credit.) “There is no such thing as painting, sculpture, music, or poetry,” Boccioni went so far to say, “there is only creation.” The proving ground of Futurism was judged to lie in its effect on the way people might become aware of the unconfined moil of excitements and anxieties to ’come. For that reason, it was essential that the Futurist effort be of unprecedented scope, a united front establishing as many practical and concrete points of contact with its audience as possible.

Still, it would be hasty to assume that Futurism imagined itself as in any sense a “popular” art, or that there was anything egalitarian about its sentiments. True, at a benefit for the trade unions, the Futurists participated in an open exhibition of “Free Art” in Milan during the spring of 1911, where they invited children, working men, and ordinary citizens to show alongside themselves. The artists stated that artistic talent was not necessarily limited to those with academic training, and that a fresh and natural vision was likely to rise from the untutored and unspoiled. Far from trying to make more room for outlying professionals, as at the Salon des Indépendents, this was an act that radically de-defined the limits of high art. Nor were the Futurists lacking in sympathy for workmen in their status as human beings most intimate with machines. “One finds today,” wrote Marinetti, “. . . men of the people without culture or education, who are nevertheless endowed with what I call the gift of mechanical prophecy, or the flair for metals.” Just the same, an avant-garde movement would not altogether befriend masses the routinized passivity of whose sensory life it was dedicated to stamping out.

The Futurists exhibited a certain contempt for the poor and underprivileged partly because they themselves, the ambitious, night-schooled sons of terribly indigent petty bureaucrats, were rushing to transcend their own pauperized class origins. But their social animus was contradicted by a political activism responding to the rebelliousness of a proletariat suffering under conditions of severe exploitation. Not for nothing was Marinetti’s “polyphonic surf of revolutions” the central and most meaningful motif of the Futurist painters (until, interestingly enough, their contact with Cubism). For they embraced the spectacle of social conflict as a paramount symbol of their own conception of, or rather will to, power. Solidarity with any crowd or mob putting forth its body in a fight for freedom from oppression was their nominal program. But it was, finally, a sympathy for its aggressiveness rather than the human or moral cause of such a manifestation that moved them as artists. Marinetti was quite clear about the real partisanship of Futurism when he affirmed that “. . . art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.” It was in this spirit that the Futurists would inflame the proletariat with visions of a powerful capitalism gone almost berzerk: “the uproar,” as Boccioni put it, with great eroticism, “the scientific division of work in the factories, the whistle of the trains, the confusion in the stations, anxiety!, rapidity!, precision! . . . the screaming of the siren . . . the pulsation of the motors . . . . ” This euphoric picturing of life in the factories was not likely to be shared by those who labored in them.

Considering themselves centurions of the 20th century, the Futurists had a score to settle with the 19th, whose values lived on in the general public, an audience vulnerable only to shock and harassment. From the Futurist manifesto of the Variety Theater, 1913, one may pick out such typically nettlesome suggestions as “spread a powerful glue on some of the seats [of the theater] so that the . . . spectator will stay glued. down and make everyone laugh . . . Sell the same ticket to ten people: traffic jam, bickering and wrangling . . . . Sprinkle the seats with dust to make people itch and sneeze, etc.” The artists never had to justify thinking of the public as fair game for such tactics precisely because modernity meant discomfiture, glutinous, choking, or abrasive, as the case may be.

It cannot be said that they had a very precise notion of their audience, only a very broad one, loaded with stereotypes. But they derived their psychic income by contending with it on three levels: exalting a demonic future in which the conditions of life are regulated as if by a pressure cooker; sowing bodily confusion and mental alarm in the present; and belaboring and vilifying the cultural geography of the past. None of this was ever carried out as if through mere gratuitous bad manners, or spiritless demoralization. On the contrary, every negative act the Futurists conducted with a blooded enthusiasm that seemed only to rise when it got as much as it gave. Harold Rosenberg has written that:

The creator acts on the assumption that in drawing on all available energies, he is bound to be in tune with the time, that his move is the correct move for the moment in which he acts. His insight into time is imbedded in his practice. In contrast, the avant-gardist has an idea of the present as a means of transition to the future; instead of communing with the present as the container of the past and the possible, he seeks to use it to fulfill the demands of his system. The rhythm of the avant-garde is the forward drive from a Now defined in terms of science, technology, history. It thins out time to a line leading to a predictable result. It wishes to surpass the moment and shake off or demolish its inherited content.

It might be useful to apply this interesting formula to the Futurists.

For here was a cluster of artists whose sense of profound dislocation only convinced them that this was the universal condition of modern Western man, an environment of perpetual change and ceaseless challenge. They wanted to tune in all the disparate cultures of Europe to receive their message on the same wavelength, an objective which their tour was meant to broadcast. And it was a message of reintegration of bodily instinct under the stress of psychic fragmentation. Their image of the mind agog, yet adapting to the welter of sense, distinguishes them from the later Russian Constructivists whose world view was bound up in a vision of crystalline abstract order. Their positive excitement about the grinding effects of machines on men contrasts with the totally disabused and mocking position on that matter held by the Dadaists who, in other respects, were very influenced by Futurism. Yet, had the Italians possessed a system, they would not have accomplished the drastic modification of every medium with which their restless hands and brains came in touch, would not have been goaded to make practice transcend belief. This is what enables us to think of them as creators, making the correct move for the moment in which they act. But on their own terms, it was not enough to be taken seriously as innovating artists; unlike the Cubists, who had no thought of threatening the bourgeois ethos, the Futurists pronounced themselves willing to overthrow all social institutions, not merely to intuit, but to glorify the imminence of war—a fact which indicates the extremity of their conception of being modern men.

For it was hardly enough to score an upset within a relatively small, if sophisticated intelligentsia. From the Futurist manifestos date the upsurge of the avant-garde as a deliberate public disturbance, its hunger to break out of its social ghetto, to repudiate the political ineffectuality of past art, and to play a substantial role on the vaster stage of actual life. Since the decline of officially centralized state patronage of artists in the second half of the 19th century, all previous avant-garde gestures had initially addressed themselves to a peer group as a necessary step to eventual wider acceptance. Through polyglot channels, the Futurists worked in reverse. Having spun their theories in advance of their art, they had also attained a powerful drive outside the galleries. Their information gathering trip to Paris in 1911 was a means of quickening their professional development, an orthodox episode in the furtherance of their careers. But it can also be seen as a decisive covering of their programmatic flank.

A surprising logic emerged from this course of events, traceable even in the personal style of these painters. The Cubists were bohemians who had recently issued from a strong, solid craft background, and indirectly derived some of their continued productivity and freshness from it. They could even playfully exaggerate their workmanlike pride as when one day, their dealer Kahnweiler reports, “It was at the end of the month, and they were coming to get their money. They arrived, imitating laborers, turning their caps in their hands: ‘Boss, we’ve come for our pay!’” As scenes for incubating their radical vision of art, Montmartre and later Montparnasse provided secure, congenial, lively bases (from a creative, if not at first an economic point of view). No such stable identity, nor social anchor benefited the Futurists. Their protean theatrical behavior and shifting masquerades concealed great inner alienation.

In June 1911, to take some examples, they descended on Florence to administer a beating to the critic Ardengo Soffici, who had just published a very unfavorable review of the Milan “Free Art” show in La Voce, an avant-garde periodical. A scuffle was followed by a brawl, similar to the riot which was a typical subject of Futurist painting at the time. (Interestingly, after this public bit of rowdyism, Soffici joined the Futurist group, thus becoming the first art critic converted to a new movement partly through the persuasion of fists!) A little later, on their Paris mission, Apollinaire found Severini and Boccioni to be engagingly dotty types: “These gentlemen wear very comfortable English-type clothes. Severini, a Tuscan, wears low moccasins and socks of different colors. The day I saw him the right sock was of a raspberry tone and the left, bottle green.” And finally, at variance even with this, during the time of the Bernheim-Jeune show, the Futurists presented themselves indelibly to the world in a well-known group photograph. With their bowlers, glistening shoes, well-tailored overcoats and neat cravats, they pose in the guise of an affluent respectability. (The English painter Wyndham Lewis bruited it about, with nice malignance, that the Futurist campaign was supported by ill-gotten gains from the Egyptian brothels of Marinetti’s father!) But their dangling cigarettes and their unfriendly direct gazes—scowls almost—make them more formidable-looking men, radiate a certain arrogance. This conclusive change in self-image, far removed from the stereotype of the artist as a whimsical or picturesque outsider, portrayed the Futurists as very mundane individuals, tycoons of a new order. It is hard to imagine such purposeful (if diminutive) men of affairs—who were actually far greater pariahs than their French competitors—having anything to do with oil paint or turpentine.

Indeed, everything about the public Futurist presence was calculated to liquidate garret penury, café banter, and the lone individual working with his hands in the studio, as so many romantic, middle class clichés about the artist’s life. Bohemianism, incomprehensible to workers, was a licensed counterculture tolerated and even often supported by respectable society. Partly this was because many people longed for that condition of escape from colorless work and repressive convention sustained in the bohemian code. This longing was no less strongly felt even if it was a conscious daydream. But the Futurists revolted against such a myth.

Though they were romantic fantasists by temperament, they maximized their antisocial program by applauding the Faustian progress of business capitalism beyond even the most shameless dreams of the bourgeoisie itself. (Though “capitalism,” so far as I am aware, never figured in their statements, public or private.) If the artist ought no longer be looked upon as a single artisan, using primitive manual and tradition-bound techniques and working on the edge of the market, the bourgeoisie should recognize and embrace the ruthless direction the world’s greatest upsurge was taking. Nothing bothered the Futurists more about the middle class than whatever sluggishness or reluctance with which it contemplated its own worst instincts. Every class, the painters felt, must realize the full potential of its self-interest, and play its role to the hilt—without compromise—for only then would the most significant amount of energy be released. The latent terrorism of the Futurists, their apocalyptic politics, was as much inspired by the prospect of the lawlessness of the ruling powers as by the subversiveness of anarchist rebels. In this, they were influenced, like the Italian socialist-anarchists in general, by the French writer Georges Sorel. From Sorel’s Reflections on Violence, published in Italy in 1907, they could have read:

If . . . the middle class, led astray by the chatter of the preachers of ethics and sociology, return to an ideal of conservative mediocrity, seek to correct the abuses of economics, and wish to break with the barbarism of their predecessors, then one part of the forces which were to further the development of capitalism is employed in hindering it, an arbitrary and irrational element is introduced, and the future of the world becomes completely indeterminate.

It is easy to see how Sorel’s inversion of rationalism into irrationalism could have appealed to the Futurists. Yet, in an important sense, this disturbance does not arise out of the origin or the content of any particular thought whatsoever, but from their consideration of horrendous event and carnal wastage ultimately as esthetic phenomena. For the first time, we have the spectacle of an avant-garde which loathes precisely that element of middle class liberalism that would tolerate radical avant-gardes; for the first time, we encounter truly revolutionary artists who were perfectly prepared to attack the bourgeoisie from the vantage of the right as well as the left—a cardinal reason why they are still so disturbing today. They conceived all politics as vengeance just as they looked upon all media as interchangeable.

Such attitudes go far to explain, too, their image of the machine as a destructive rather than a useful instrument—for in utility the bourgeoisie had placed one of its hopes for a more reasoned and harmonious world order. The assault the Futurists launched against liberalism, humanitarianism, and parliamentary democracy was motivated by the conviction that these policies delayed the class war by fruitless and niggling concessions, and therefore postponed the historical destiny of their civilization. If one of their fondest esthetic goals was “to place the spectator in the center“ of their gyrating compositions, this meant to demand as well that he comprehend that destiny for himself.

The theorist Renato Poggioli wrote that:

Fundamentally there is no great difference between the decadent’s dream of a new infancy (dear to old age), and the futurist’s dream of a new maturity or youth, of a more virginal and stronger world. Degeneration and immaturity equally aspire to transcend the self in a subsequent flourishing; thus the generations that feel themselves decrepit, like those that feel themselves adolescent, are both lost generations par excellence.

That the Futurists actually partook of both moods is suggested by Boccioni’s remark: “Our primitivism is the extreme climax of complexity, whereas the primitivism of antiquity is the babbling of simplicity.” In correctly prophesying the crisis of their age, they guessed how brief was the period for accomplishing their work. They imagined rather optimistically that they had ten years before they were overthrown by “others, younger and more valiant.” (Marinetti, 1909.)

What interests us is not the truth or sincerity of such remarks, but rather the fact that hyperbole was a necessary condition of existence for these painters, fundamental to their life of high risk. The absolutist rhetoric of their manifestos became the model for succeeding utopian movements in the arts. But the Futurists were not utopians. With their win or lose psychology, it was not surprising that they lodged a specter of extinction within their paean to vitality—the one inevitably keened the other. In a collection of Futurist plays (sintesi), published by Marinetti in 1916, it was even fantasized that Balla, awarded a prize, immediately goes about wrecking all the Futurist painting on exhibition. Nor was it unexpected that their involvement with the downcast and their pride of independence should eventuate in a worship of repressive strength. With official socialism moving ever closer to accommodation with the centrist governments of the day, they cried all the more stridently for a recognition of the true sources of power, for a stripping away of what they considered to be the illusions of compromise. Of all the European artists and intellectuals, the Futurists were the only group to become soldiers in the passionate belief that here was a new career and a vibrant identity that could lead to their ultimate triumph as artists and as men. If they sided with the Western bourgeois democracies against the autocratic Central European powers, it was because of an invincible aspect of their outlook, the fact that they had been publicly burning Austrian flags for over a year in the name of Italian irredentism. Later, those that survived the trial by arms (with lethal discrimination it took the lives of Boccioni and Sant’Elia), allowed themselves to become luminaries in the cultural program of Mussolini, whose own development like theirs moved in a sinister arc from anarcho-socialism to national socialism—to fascism.

For the Futurists, of course, were violent Italian nationalists. Their kind of patriotism issued from a disgust with the culturally retarded and politically feeble Italy they knew in their childhood, and a wild faith in the modern industrial nation it was giving evidence of becoming as they matured. They hoped to discredit that heritage of the Renaissance which for too long permitted a whole country to languish without a modern national consciousness. With some justice they recognized that the new centers of production were most likely to generate the most daring innovation in the arts, and therefore to invoke an entirely new culture, possibly as heroic as the old. In the Milan where they operated, a rising manufacturing civilization, beyond anything yet seen in Italy, altered the urbanscape more startlingly than in any other Western European city, where industrial evolution had been more gradual. A large part of their impetus can be adduced to the restlessness of their desire to fill the gap between the familiar signs of technological progress in neighboring Western countries, and the still exotic indications of that progress in their homeland. They could only breach that gap in their imaginations by painting a picture unfamiliar to everyone. Before the spectacle of tramways among mildewed palaces, the Futurists lost all patience. They rushed pell-mell to uphold an equation between Italy’s coming of age and the apex of their development as painters. Any discrepancy between the two was anguishing.

With such high stakes, living not in the past nor yet in the future, they subsisted on their nerves. Yet it was not the least of the Futurists’ contradictions that they felt geographically as well as temporally uprooted—for all their rabid jingoism. They were excited and repelled by the necessity of placing utmost importance on their Paris opening. This ambivalence can be easily understood. Their profession and their ideology demanded that they be cosmopolitans; their temperaments compelled them to be chauvinists. Most of them knew the French capital briefly from apprentice days. It was now to become for them a scene of recognition and sales. But at all costs they would prevent it from absorbing them. Whole colonies of foreign painters had settled in Paris; others had come obscurely and gone back, hoping to make their names at home. The Futurists were the only provincial group of modern painters who set out to demonstrate that there were vital centers of art other than Paris, precisely by exhibiting in that city. They gave a decisive push to the conscious decentralizing of 20th-century art, though in the process they were obliged to acknowledge the centrality of the French capital. In 1913, Boccioni wrote: “We feel violently the duty of proclaiming loudly the precedence of our efforts. It is the right to Life! Our artistic manifestations never have the ‘chance’ that is offered by the Paris trademark. . . . ” The cachet of being valued by the French, and being bought by the English and the Germans, was a device to gain greater prestige in Milan and reciprocally, to elevate the cultural prestige of Italy in the chanceries of the West. More than that, it was designed to encourage a receptivity to experiment among the backward collectors of their native country, or more bluntly, to stimulate its market.

And yet, how necessary was this backwardness—not merely as the butt of Futurist doctrine, but as a condition against which one had to wrestle for one’s very identity? The Bernheim show, with its accompanying catalogue statement, was an act of marvelous bravado. It stigmatized everything up to that point thought modern, or even ultra-modern, as retardataire. However, in March 1912, as the exhibition concluded, Boccioni wrote from Paris to an Italian friend, giving us a different insight into Futurism:

I confess that at the moment I am a bit worried because I cannot decide whether to settle down in Paris or come back to Italy. I am afraid that Milan would prove unbearable after the period, in fact the parenthesis, I have lived through in Paris—

I think I might be more advanced (though I may be wrong) if all the inner workings of my evolution had taken place in a more favorable climate such as that of Paris. I feel that many times I have lacked daring because of the spiritual isolation in which I lived . . .

Now I wonder: What would I (perhaps) have done among people who constantly encouraged me? What would I have done if I had not always been faced with the fear of being thought a practical joker, a man on the wrong track, a brain that was going up in smoke?

Such then, were the anxieties and prides induced by a trip to Paris. They gained resonance within that adventure that funneled into an art that had its own highly metaphorical goals. What the Futurists actually created before and after that trip is enhanced by knowing the context of its allusions and values, but is in itself another and richer story.

Max Kozloff