|Marinetti Car Accident|
On October 15, 1908 Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, a wealthy Italian poet born in Egypt and educated in France, crashed his just-purchased Fiat convertible while trying to avoid an oncoming bicyclist. Here his car is getting fished out of a ditch. Flipping over, Marinetti maintained, inspired him to invent an arts-and-literature movement called “Futurism.” Actually, Marinetti invented only the label and a few slogans: the movement itself was still in need of development. But what a label it was!
We want to sing about the love of danger, about the use of energy and recklessness as a common, daily practice. Courage, boldness and rebellion will be the essential elements of our poetry.
These lines are taken from “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” published in several Italian papers and then, in a spectacular publicity coup on February 20, 1909, on the front page of the Parisian newspaper Le Figaro (pictured). Le Figaro was read all over the world. Whatever Marinetti lacked in poetic talent, he more than made up for in advertising genius! Here's one of the many announcements of the Manifesto that shocked its readers:
We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes... is more beautiful that the Victory of Samothrace.
You might remember the Victory of Samothrace from Cultural Foundations II. A Hellenistic marble statue dating from about 190 BC, it depicts the goddess of victory, Nike, in flight. Today she flies in place in the Louvre, where Marinetti had the chance to contemplate her while a student in Paris.
“A racing car... is more beautiful that the Victory of Samothrace”! Consider Marinetti's claim. What are the similarities between a car and the Nike statue upon which a contrast can be built? According to what criteria might a car be the more beautiful object? Now, look at it from another angle. How are industrialization and capitalism implicated in Marinetti's choice? How is a car more like a copy of Le Figaro, in which the manifesto appeared, than like the Victory of Samothrace?