History & Theories of Intermedia

02.16.17 History, Journal 5 – Historical Developments, Part I: Futurism, Dada and Related Forms


Dada & Futurism

Futurist Literature and Theater

Marcel Duchamp

Means of Futurism

The Dada Actor

Futurist and Dadaist Manifestos
Tristan Tzara: Dada Manifesto 1918
Manifesto of Futurist Painters
The 1st DADA Manifesto
Hugo Ball , Dada Manifesto 1916
The Futurist Synthetic Theatre, 1915
Various Additional Futurist Manifestos

Reading Notes

Dada and Futurism

“The Art of Noise” discusses “Noise sound.” This is not part of my previous argument.


Language argument

Language may have begun as a bunch of individual sounds that held meaning, but it didn’t truly become language until those meanings became consistent. Words function because the culture in which they exist has agreed upon the meaning. Language is owned by the users of it. They would not be able to communicate if anyone could simply decide to change their meaning because they want to. When words change, they do so by consensus. A person can change words only if he can persuade the larger social group to accept the changes. This allows language to be flexible enough to change but stable enough to convey meaning.


Society does not accept a single individual or even a large group of individuals right to change language for everyone else. Scientists figured this out a long time ago. Even in a relatively small scientific community they found too much arguing about what word meant what. That is why the scientific community takes such care to create scientific language that is accepted within their group without diminishing the common language. They are resecting the consensus while building their own functionality.



Consensus of meaning is easy with concrete examples. Cat probably means cat. There may be types of cats but the idea of cat is pretty simple. It is unlikely that anyone will argue about it. More abstract words can seem more complicated, but ultimately the same truth applies. An abstract word still has cultural consensus. The word may have a range of possible meanings but there must always be some stable point of reference (even if it is hard to find) or the word cannot function.  “Art” is a highly abstract word and yet, it exists because there is some common concept to express. Accepting that, is what allows everyone to argue about what it is.


Most words lie somewhere between “cat” and “art.” Music is one of those words. Music is one of the few concepts that might be considered universal. Every known culture has a concept of music. Those concepts have defining characteristics. Ultimately, I don’t really care what the distinction is. What matters to me is that it exists. Music has a unifying point of reference and that must be respected. That definition cannot be “whatever you say is music is music.” That does not acknowledge the mechanism of language as a cultural consensus.


If artists want to talk about “expanding the definition of music,” that is fine. They are paying respect to the cultural consensus. They are acknowledging that they do not own the language by themselves but that they think there needs to be a better definition of the word. This is really important. It gives people a chance to open their minds and think about new ideas because it also acknowledges their right not to. In contrast, when an artist simply says they are “redefining” music, they are taking the language that is held in common ownership and deciding that they (as a single individual or a group of individuals) get to inflict change on everyone else whether they agree or not. This does not “open” people’s minds. It is not enlightening or progressive. It is egocentric and dictatorial.


I think this is an important idea. Appropriating a word from common meaning is not going to open people’s minds because it denies the rights to disagree and disrespects the common ownership of the language.


I think artists do it because they want to keep the power of the consensus and apply it to new ideas. I think that is lazy. If their ideas have merit, that merit should be able to stand on its own. It might be harder and it might take longer, but it is ultimately stronger.


So, if futurists want to say that we need to transcend music and find the art in noise… good for them. Obviously, the idea caught on. If they want to appropriate the meaning of music so that it denies the consensus, that is not cool.


Back to the Reading

They made alternative instruments. Good for them. I just don’t think I understand music enough to care about this. I am not sure how to see any meaning. I get it when Cage talks about creating systems. I may think the result of his systems is kind of pointless, but the idea of a system as a form of art is something I understand. The idea of noise as art is harder. I can’t make a connection.


I guess they are trying to be funny? Maybe all that matters are that they are challenging existing ideas. Asking people to think can be art all by itself.


Futurists like Ray Kurzweil, the father of Transhumanism (look him up later)


Clearly, I don’t understand Futurism… I thought I was reading about it the other day. I came across, “Ray Kurzweil, the father of Transhumanism” and I understood just fine. These readings seem to be about something unrelated.



Class Notes

If we miss a class, the material carries forward to the next week.


More of a socio-political world view than an aesthetic world view

Note: define aesthetic world view

Places art making in a different context with other aims and agendas


2 versions of futurism

Italian Futurism 1909

Manifesto in La Figueroa Magazine published in France because France is the center of the art world bc making a statement to other artists

Group in early years uses a lot of its concerns to reshape art as a way of thinking about how art needs to affect social and cultural context and particularly change

Fir the Italian futurists, the oldest of us is only 24

When we are older in our late 20s we should be thrown in the waste basket or the trash’ relatively young group

Marinetti is slightly older, privately funds group bc independently wealthy

Principal organizers of the ways in which they communicate

Direct factor that many Avant Garde groups take on

Develop the idea of the statement as poetic, artistic and political mechanism: Manifesto

Interesting manifesto because essentially it tells a story

The story Is that two young guys are out and the steel a car and the joyride until the crash and crawl out of the gutter and the muck to celebrate the new reality

Laying out an ideological aesthetic document

Art as it has been known up to this point is garbage because it is based in and locked in to the past

They become very antagonistic towards the established notions of art

The established socio political context their aim is to affront and confront the general population ‘

Very bombastic and antagonistic some they believe some is just to push buttons

“burn down the libraries and museums”

“war is hygiene”

Destroy the past

Because they are coming into the age of the machine

They reject feminism and __ about women

Is it satire? No. not meant to be funny.

Machine leads to utopia

Bergsin – Creative Evolution

Three stages of human cognitive evolution

First is instinctual, animistic

The second is rationality

The highest point is intuition

Trans rational language which rejects the notions of word structures that leads to sound. Get out of the limits of the words that they think and hope and wish will be more profound



I am not sure I get the idea that forgoing knowledge could somehow lead to a higher state


Russian Futurists pick up on some of the experiments the Italian futurists are engaged in.


British Futurists Ezra Pound Etc Another word Voyter?? Something I didn’t hear. Primary magazine “Blast”

Leadership of the proletariat which is somewhat fascistic



Stages in futurism

Early development in both visual arts and most strongly in poetry

Retains letters and some of the forms but a lot of its just word fragments, interested in sounds



Italian Futurists spent a lot of time trying to push Italy into WW1, most famous visual artist Boccioni killed in war


Russians calling themselves cubofuturists


Russians and Italians had a big fight because Italians came and had a bit presentation called Serrate


Futurists are very responsible for the development of experimental art that still holds true today, experimental film, art, etc


Onomatopoetic words, words that mimic a sound


1912 to 1916 cubofuturism

Led by Russian painter Malevich “supremacism” moving into new realms

“red Square” and “black square”

Interested in the 4th dimension because it is there that rationality and reason start to break down

Imagine an entry into a non-dimensional reality

Abbot book Flatland

The idea of a 3-dimensional shape passing through a 2-dimensional object


Italians not so much Malevich “non-dimensional reality” more about things outside reason, non-linear time frame

Interested in moving from a world based in station to a world based in duration so that it is about change over time, the flow over time

“woman walking her dog” playing with more photographs of horse’s feet moving etc. etc. etc., multiple exposures



Duchamp – part of the Proto (I think I made a typo, I originally typed “Puto”) Futurists


One of the criticisms of futurism is that in the early part of the 20th century in France cubism develops as a new way of looking at space

Analytic cubism 1908 1909 world broken up into a series of facets, like breaking glass and reassembling. most are either Picasso or ? Creating a pictorial image that is something a camera cannot produce. It counters the development of the camera and photography by saying there is a need for image making that a camera cannot do.

Loss of references


Futurists do something like cubism but leave in the references so the criticism is that futurism is a bad version of cubism but the mistake is that the futurists are not interested in restructuring static space. They want to explore motion and energy dynamism and change and to some extent “chaos”


Sculpture by Boccioni, he was killed in 1915 or 16 in WW1. He was killed by being thrown by a horse. Irony


Began to look for “force lines” or “motion lines” the intersection of energies, intersection of ripples etc. etc. etc.


Unique forms of continuity in Space


Carlo Cara painting, engaging art as a kind of socio-political tool,


They wanted the passive behavior of the audience to rise up and become men and women of the future


The Interventionist Manifesto from 1914

Very nationalist, join the war, create the future

Cut fragments are force lines,


Futurists as visual arts


F.T. Marinetti


They reject the normative structures in language. Creating sound in the work.


Words in Freedom


Remove typographic regulations in the work


Image reflects sonic qualities; larger images are louder etc.


Tramvai (What does this mean? Why did I type it?)


Ubu web experimental music and video, keep moving it because not playing nice with American copywrite laws


Serrate – evenings


Futurists would travel around to towns doing street events and activities to drum up interest and the events would consist of the futurists reading of manifesto, noise poetry, presenting paintings, a bunch of stuff intended to aggravate the audience. They would do things by making lists of things to do to aggravate. All of which was intended to push people to the point that they would react. Break down the traditional notion of the quiet passive audience. Became very successful at this. They did this up to 1914 beginning of WW1


Second form of performance was more controlled, development of instruments (can’t spell) (have n basement) intended to be an orchestra of noise intoners. Mechanical devices that would create sounds of the modern machine world (Sentai? Synthesis?) They would take a known thing and restructure it so it became illogical and not understandable. It was a one act scene of people in a café talking about behaviors but the curtain hid all but the feet so you couldn’t see.


“There is no dog” painted backdrop. Gunshot. Curtain goes down.


Synthetic theater is described in the manifesto.


The futurists were the punks of their age (in bowler hats)


It is not enough to just reproduce what is, even if you add your own take on it.

he means and the materials are as important as what is communicated.


Futurists believe in undermining reason because even though it got us to the future, there comes a point when there is not enough


If your work is really good then the public won’t get it


Breaking down barriers between the audience and the artist, forcing the audience to become a participant. No longer passive.


Breaks down “4th wall”


Breaks passivity that is part of art


Breaks down the idea of living in a museum, in the past (Italy is a museum). Calls for the destruction of museums


Italy is still a land of the dead a vast Pompeii …


The role of the catholic church is also a factor, role of traditional and the unchanging







Brutist poetry, noise poetry

Dada context it is even more illogical (if possible)

Use grammatical structures to undermine the sense of reason and rationality. This is something that surrealists do as well


More confrontive more aggressive more expletives


The whole conceptual structure shifts due to WW1


Dada starts in 1914 with WW1

In Zurich Switzerland

They are all anti war

Principle players in Zurich Dada Hugo Ball and Emmie Hemmings, both German

Ball piano player better known as a poet, Hemmings was a singer

Hugo was too frail to join the army so he drove to the front to volunteer but what he saw completely flipped his thinking. he and Emmie fled Germany to Switzerland

Romanians Tristan…. Sammy Rosenth… Tristan Zerah. In your face, aggressive anti art

Holsenbeck, psychiatrist who participates with group, German

Swiss German Hans Arp

Connected with a group of experimental dancers in Switzerland Le__ dancers Martha Graham type movement dance groups

George Gross was dominantly affiliated with Berlin Dada. Images are a good example of the disgust that most Dadaists have both during and after war about Germany

“Blood is the best sauce”



After Germany surrendered it quickly descended into civil war socialists against free core

Ongoing gun battles in the streets


Foundations of Society, mocking and critiquing the “foundations” of society, military figure that is demilitarized after WW1,

Tabula rasa

Anti-reason anti process destruction of things that we hold of value


Dadaists do intend to be humorous, satire

Every man is his own football


Undermined the idea of choice and logic

Big believers in chance, removing the human element. The power of our minds made things better


Takes the fundamental notion of advocacy or control away from us

We know that what we have is bad we know we need to change but we don’t know how so all we can do is make stuff that undermines and destroys so that out of the ashes can come the new thing


Two speeds of Dada

Nihilistic go for broke, Tristan Zahra

Hans Arp Hugo Ball another way does believe they can see a glimmer of what can come next in terms of after the destruction,


Hugo “Flight out of Time” book


Zurich street corner of the cabaret Voltaire


They say Dada name was randomly chosen, nonsensical,


At centers did performance and presentations


Machines take away the human


Distrust of the machine

Replace human with the machine is problematic destructive


Second major Dada center is New York

Core location of the anti-art movement

Key principle of Duchamp’s ready-made simply by designating it art as a way of undermining art

The Urinal set on its side and signed R Mutt

Did the piece for an international Art exhibit in NY open to any artist

Duchamp manner of undermining everything decided to see what they would do didn’t say who it was

They rejected it

Manray American Iron with spikes

Most NY Dada is European expats



Joke: surrealism is what Freud did to Dada


NY Dada not as political. It’s about attacking and undermining art itself

Zurich is visual and some publication anti-art anti aesthetic

Berlin Dada is the core of politicized post WW1 Dada, anti-art antiwar, virulent


Hanover Dada, Cologne Dada, Mavo (Japan Dada), Paris Dada


Photo collage to show how photos can lie