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"Futurism and Photography"
2001-01-24 until 2001-04-22
Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art
UK United Kingdom
At the turn of the 20th century parascientific experiments, spiritualist photography, multi-portraits, montage effects and the chronophotographs of Etienne-Jules Marey provided a rich background against which a Futurist photographic aesthetic gradually formed. Photography as a vehicle for penetrating the mysteries of life and for fixing the invisibility of matter versus energy influenced Futurist pictorial dynamism. However, there was a dilemma for Marinetti and the Futurists in 1909/1910, for as much as they hailed scientific photography as technologically innovative they could not embrace the medium as art. They felt the camera petrified life, stopped time and offered rigor mortis recordings of reality, at odds with the poetics of dynamism.
It was not until 1911 and the invention of photodynamism that Italian Futurism made its distinctive contribution to the history of photography. Photodynamism was a term created by Anton Giulio Bragaglia to define the photographs of movement he made with his brother Arturo. The aim of these pioneering works was to induce visual vertigo causing the image represented to move as far as possible from the photographic reproduction of things. With financial support from Marinetti, the Bragaglia brothers continued their research and Fotodinamismo Futurista was published in 1913. Anton Giulios theoretical ideas were well received in photographic circles and many were adopted by other European avant-garde movements in the 1920s and 1930s.
Other Futurists employed different strategies to counter photographys passive recording of reality. Well aware of the propaganda value of their photographic portraits, Marinetti and his fellow Futurists distributed them widely seeking press attention at every turn. They gradually managed to subvert the codes of studio photography making reportage documents of the life and actions of the avant-garde artist. Fortunato Depero challenged existing orthodoxies by producing a series of self-portraits in which he used gestures and facial expressions to project an extravagant, theatrical and exhibitionist persona. Depero provoked and played with the viewer and made the first photoperformances by drawing on photographs, adding messages and sketches.