FUTURES PAST: DR. HARSANYI DESCRIBES SOME OF OUR FUTURIST HOLDINGS
As I was away during the later part of last week, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi was left to “hold down the fort” in my absence, which included staying late to provide a VIP tour for museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. and some guests of his interested in our Futurist holdings. Here is his report:
“We want no part of it, the past”, F. T. Marinetti wrote, “we the young and strong Futurists!” in the Futurist manifesto of 1909. The movement, self-proclaimed and widely known as Futurism, went through several phases, until it became extinguished in 1944, with the death of Marinetti. As all the modernist movements from the beginning of the 20th century, Futurism proclaimed loudly its iconoclasm and its total break with tradition. Indeed, its message was novel, though the means of delivering it, i. e. the media, though varied, remained the traditional ones. To produce images, they still used canvases for their paintings, or paper for their posters, while these images were also reproduced as regular sized postcards.
Likewise, their poetry was printed in books or pamphlets of the traditional codex format. However, the typographical art deployed renders a fresh, novel conduit towards the innovative content matter of these publications, it shocks or invites the reader to actively participate in the decoding of the message. The high degree of typographical achievement calls for recognition, as these publications were produced before the application of computerized programs in page composition, type-setting, and font selection.
The change of font sizes, the orientation of title statements are meant to draw the attention of the viewer, like an invitation to pick up and open the book:
Inside the book, the variety of traditional type-faces, in some instances, brings a fresh unity between the author and the printer, the latter’s contribution to bring about the aesthetic effect of the book being equal to that of the former:
Book, Piedigrotta by Francesco Cangiullo, 1916
Published by Edizione futuriste di Poesia, Milan
The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection
Innovation extended to the techniques of book binding. The use of metal in book binding appeared at the turn of the 19th century, when staples instead of threads started to be used to hold the quires together. This idea was further developed in the production of the book below, which features two massive metal bolts that hold together the textblock of this tome, know hence as Depero’s “bolted book”:
The extended use of metal in book production was seen by the Futurists as an expression of the modern, twentieth century. Perhaps the climax of this vision is represented by this book of poems by Tulio D’Albisola, which was printed on metal sheets, and was bound with a metal spine as well: