Two contrary art movements were founded in the early twentieth century whose simultaneous appear-ance has previously gone largely unnoticed. They represent an almost textbook case of modernity's dichotomy between motion and rest. While Futurism loudly greeted the modern mechanized world, the Greek-born painter Giorgio de Chirico went off on a path of his own that led him to a metaphysical world of silence.
In his “Futurist Manifesto” from 1909, the writer Filippo Marinetti founded a new artistic movement that wanted to revolutionize aesthetics: "... We affirm that the world's magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car ... is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace." The subject matters derive from the mechanized urban space and depict the feverish sleeplessness of the metropolises with their staccato-like rhythms. The clamorous noise of the streetcars, the shimmering colors of the electric lights and the power of the engines were staged by artists such as Giacomo Balla in their paintings. The new principles of design demanded a simultaneous interpenetration of the representative layers of object and surrounding. As exemplified by Umberto Boccioni's painting Simultaneous Vision (circa 1912), interiors and exteriors intermingle in a dissolution of sensory impressions, moods and memories. Dynamism drove the Futurists to pursue the "unique form that gives continuity in space" and here in is Boccioni's sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space (1913) . A key work. This hybrid human machine forges a head forcefully, reaching into the space, annexing it, as it were. It embodies the antithesis to the classical tradition of sculpture, radicalizing the Impressionist style of an Auguste Rodin. Boccioni's "striding" figure rushes far ahead into the age of science fiction in the shape of a "mechanized person with interchangeable body parts." The Futurists who glorified violence and war, praising revolution as progress, demanded that this (super)man be unfeeling, cruel, all-knowing and a typically ideal soldier. Their dynamism was intended to penetrate into all areas of life. Architectural designs such as those by Antonio Sant'Elia came about in this way, which exerted much influence on twentieth-century architecture, for example on the star architect Zaha Hadid who also conceived projects for Wolfsburg: the phaeno Science Center (2005) and an interior in the Kunst-museum Wolfsburg.
Fellow countryman of the Futurists, Giorgio de Chirico, developed Pittura Metafisica (Metaphysical Art) at the sane time. Seemingly always identical, often empty public squares appear to havefrozen over In rigid immobility through their strict geometrical construction. Similar to Tuscan art during the Early Renaissance, the pictorial space confronts us like a showcase or a stage. The few "protagonists" seen in them are isolated, motionless and faceless beings, jointed dolls and antique statuary. De Chirico's paintings were influential. Together with his brother Alberto Savinio and the earlier Futurist Carlo Carrà, he founded the Scuola Metafìsica in 1917. The silent pictures' popularity on the fast moving art market was a reason why de Chirico frequently quoted himself in the numerous variations and copies he made until shortly before his death while painters like the Spaniard Oscar Dominguez illegally copied his works.
De Chirico also inspired later styles. The severity, clarity and asceticism of his compositions influenced New Objectivìty and Magical Realismi the dreamlike landscapes and architectural structures anticipated Surrealism’s bizarre foreignness.
When Pictures Learned to Move
Duchamp, Muybridge and the Early Days of Cinematography
A cavalry officer once asked a landscape photographer whether there was a phase during a gallop when none of the horse's hooves touched the ground. In order to answer this question, the photographer Eadweard Muybridge invented a scheme comprising twelve cameras arranged parallel to a racetrack with which he captured the various rnotions involved in a horse's gallop. He then showed the individual photographs in rapid succession with the help of a zoopraxiscope, and in doing so incidentally set images in motion.
His french colleague Étienne-Jules Marey invented a camera in 1883 that could expose a series of pictures on a single piate. In the process, he and Muybridge thus provided the inspiration for one of the key works of modernism, Marcel Duchamp's 1912 oil painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2. Unlike Cubìsm that aimed at an analytical penetration of three-dimensional forms, Duchamp introduced the dimension of time into the picture: The body has dissolved into individual boundles of lines whose dynamic arrangement evokes the impression of a movement heading from the top left to the bottom right of the painting.
Rest and motion are expressed very differently in another example of Duchamp's works: Bicycle Wheel (1913), a bicycle fork and tire mounted on a stool, represents an immobilized moving artwork because its motionlessness simultaneously contains the inherent potential of rolling, of movement. The representabiIity of motion is, however, not only founded in photography and painting. Since the inventa of film, the birth of which is dated to the first film screening by the brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière on March 22,1895, artists nave experimented with this new media. In Germany it was Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling who invented the over three-meter-long "scroll picture" inspired by East Asian scrolls in their pursuit of a dynamization of the image. While The Viewer had to walk along the length of these paintings in order to perceive the individual motifs as a chronologically structured move¬ment, the medium of film provided the possibility of creating the illusion of motion on its own for the first time, in Richter's first film Rhythmus21 (1921-1924), the painter's canvas is replaced by the pro-jection surface on which simple geometrica! forms move. The focus of the abstract film is not placed on a narrative but concentrates instead on the medium's most significant characteristic, namely its ability to create the illusion of actual motion.
There was one motif that particularly fascinated many early twentieth-century filmmakers: the metropolis as a seminal seismograph of the rapidly developing modern industria! society-as a focal point for social and economic problems as well as the framework for culture and avant-garde art. The Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov did not portray an individuai city in his The Man with the Movie Camera (1929) as Walter Ruttmann did in Berìin: Symphony ofa Great City (1927), but presented instead the particular perceptual possibilities of the camera by means of mechanical as well as work and leìsure related urban rhythms. He recreated the new pace of life in frantic sequences of cuts, whereby the camera often also lingered—on the view of empty public squares, on congregating pigeons, on a sleeping woman. Vertov fragmented the space-time continuum in order to self-reflexively demonstrate the new medium's capacity to manipulate reality. The eye of the camera sees more than the human eye can perceive. That is how Muybridge was able to prove that there is in fact a phase when ali tour of a horse's hooves are off tne ground at the same time during a gallop.
The two pairings of artists presented in this chapter exemplify the purely abstract versus the figurative as well as different ways of conveying the tension between dynamism and serenity. Reality, for Robert Delaunay, meant light and color, the constantly changing nature of which he sought to capture in his paintings. The goal of hìs painting, he said, was "to elevate light to representational autonomy". This was the notion that led him to the concept of "pure painting," by which he meant completely abstract compositions such as his circular Forms. Rendered in complementary colors such as red and green or yellow and purple, these circular forms for Delaunay symbolized his idea of simultaneily and dynamìsm - concepts that were of crucial importance to the Futurists as well. But whereas the latter were concerned mainly wìth conveying the excitement of speed pervading all areas of life, Delaunay believed the simultaneity of the universe could be visualized only in purely abstract movements of color. Guillaume Apollinaire coined the term Orphism to describe this offshoot of Cubism. Delaunay's kaleidoscopic paintings are here hung opposite the serene, monumental landscapes of the Swiss Symbolist Ferdinand Hodler. Hodler strove to convey the immutable and the timeless in the cyclical order of nature. In the eighteen-nineties, therefore, he began paying less and less attention to traditional landscape techniques such as the illusion of depth and accentuating the two-dimensional aspects of his works instead, as in his 1907 painting Lake Geneva with the Savoy Alps. "Parallelism" is the term that Hodler himself coined for this method of constructing landscapes out of parallel layers of color - a method that prefigures the meditative aesthetic of the paintings of Mark Rothko.
"My painting is meditative and calm. I am not looking for instantaneous effects. What I want is to create meditation pictures for the twentieth century," wrote the painter and Bauhaus teacher Josef Albera of his own art. His solution entailed reducing his formal repertoire to a single motif -the square- and then playing through literally hundreds of variations of three or tour squares in related colors nesting inside each other. Like Delaunay, Albers was interested primarily in the interaction of colors, except that hìs aim was not to generate movement, but rather to balance the different hues the used as perfeclly as possible, as described in his essay interaction of colors (1967). At the Bauhaus, where he taught from 1923 until leaving for America in 1933, Albers propagated an autonomous art that would speak for itself instead of serving the interests of the workshop that created it. This is the view he took with him to Black Mountain College, where his championing of geometrical abstraction made him a pioneer of other experimental art forms such as John Cage's Minimalist Music and Mercé Cunningham's New Dance.
There is a clear affinity between the reduced palette of Albers's abstract compositions and the stili lifes of Giorgio Morandi, who found his signature style only in 1920 after a quest that look him from Cézanne to Cubism, and Pittura Metafisica. His stili lifes are composed of objects of everyday use so greatly reduced as to verge on the purely abstract. Morandi, like Albers, wanted to usher in a new way of seeing. He did this by liberating his motifs - bottles, vases, and jars - from their quotidian functions and transforming them into magical, enigmatic objects, whose "stili life" made slowness an experiential reality.
THE ART of DECELERATION
Data della mostra
12 Novembre 2011 – 9 Aprile 2012 WOLFSBURG