chapter  4
21 Pages

Futurism and the politics of a technological being in the world

It is clear that the Italian Futurist movement was concerned with and shaped by the developing technology of the time. From the manner in which media technology assisted the creation of Futurism as a cultural movement to the love of speed, the machine, and the technology of warfare, Futurism directly engaged and embraced the increasing technologisation of the world, both in theory and in practice. Marinetti was an expert manipulator of the media. By placing the first manifesto of Futurism on the front page of Le Figaro, Europe’s premier newspaper in 1909, he cleverly used the technology of the time to create a new cultural movement that reached a mass audience virtually instantly. Futurism was as skilful in using new technology as it was in theorising its possibilities or worshipping its beauty. However, I want to argue that the Futurist relationship to technology is much broader than the simple valorisation of this or that weapon or machine. The technological aspect of Futurism went beyond mere ‘automobilecentrism’, as Wyndham Lewis derisively characterised it.1 The love of the machine is representative of a more general desire, on the part of the Futurists, to transcend the socio-cultural framework of the period. In this respect, the love of technological speed, the call for the abolition of syntax, the project for the destruction of the ‘I’ in literature, the repeated desire in Futurist writings to transcend gendered and bourgeois forms of identity, and the call to embrace war, all form part of a generalised sensibility that finds liberation through a more abstracted mode of being in the world. The Futurists envisage a form of social and cultural transcendence enabled by the more abstract reconfiguration of social life that I have argued characterises the dominant framework through which technology impinges upon our worldly activities. To this extent, Heidegger’s remark that ‘the essence of technology is nothing technological’ (Heidegger 1993: 329) is especially apposite in the case of the Futurists. Whether worshiping vehicular speed or valorising the destruction of syntax, the ‘essence’ of Futurism is framed by a general sensibility that can be characterised as technological.