The Æsthetic of the Machine & Mechanical Introspection in Art

NOTE: This rare piece, published in 1924, was originally written by the Leading Futurist and Cosmic Idealist, Enrico Prampolini. I have reproduced it here for the edification of my audience due to its rarity and artistic importance.


In the aesthetic phenomenon of the evolution of the plastic arts the necessity of considering the Machine and Mechanical elements as new symbols of aesthetic inspiration has not been sufficiently taken into account.

I. Precursors.

We Futurists were the first to understand the marvellous mystery of inspiration which machines possess with their own mechanical world. In fact, Marinetti in his first Manifesto on the Foundation of Futurism published in the Figaro in 1909 stated:

We shall chant the vibrant nocturnal fervour of the arsenals and ship-yards lit with their violent electric moons, the bridges like giant gymnasts striding the rivers, the daring steamers that nose the horizons, the full-breasted locomotives that prance on the rails like enormous iron horses bridled with tubes, the gliding flight of the aeroplanes whose screw flutters in the wind like flag or seems to applaud like an enthusiastic mob. The racing automobile with its explosive breath and its great serpent-like tubes crawling over the bonnet — an automobile that whizzes like a volley from a machinegun is more beautiful than the victory of Samothrace.

From the appearance of the first Futurist Manifesto of Marinetti up there has been ceaseless searching and questioning in the field of art. Boccioni in his book, Futurist Sculpture and Painting (1914) stated that the era of the great mechanical individualities has begun; that all the rest is paleontology.

Luigi Russolo (in 1913) with his invention of the noise-makers constructed new mechanical instruments to give value to the new musical sounds inspired by noise, while Luciano Folgore in his poem the Chant of the Motors (1914) exalted the mechanical beauty of workshops and the overpowering lyricism of machines. Later, in my manifesto entitled Absolute Constructions in Motion-Noise (1915), I revealed by means of new plastic constructions the unknown constructive virtues of the mechanical aesthetic. While the painter Gino Severini confirmed by means of an admirable theoretical essay in the Mercure de France (1916) the theory that “the process of the construction of machine is analogous to the constructive process of work of art.”

This Futurist exaltation of ours for the new era of the machines crossed the Italic frontier and awoke echoes among the Dutch, the Russian, the Germans and the Spanish.

Fernand Leger recently declared his paintings to be concerned with the love of those forms created by modern industry and the clash of the thousand coloured and persuasive reflections of the so called classical subjects. Guillermo de Torre, the daring Spanish poet and founder of the Ultraist movement, announced in his manifesto “Vertical” in 1918 the forthcoming epoch of the new spatial and mechanical world. Today we see new tendency manifest itself at the recent international Artists Congress of Düsseldorf. This is the movement of the Constructionists as exemplified in the works of the Russian, Dutch, German, Scandinavian and Roumanian painters, among whom we may note Theo Van Doesburg, Richter, Lissitzky, Eggelin and Janco. The Constructionists, though they take as their starting point an extremely clear theory, announcing the constructive exaltation of the Machine, become inconsistent in the application of their doctrine, confusing exterior form with spiritual content.

We today— without ignoring the attempts that have been made in the course of the last years by ourselves and certain Futurist friends of ours— intend to resume and synthetize all that which has been expressed individually and incidentally in order to arrive at completer and more concrete results; in order to be able to realize more fully new aesthetic values in the field of the plastic arts. Our experience has convinced us of the truth of certain of our plastic truths and has allowed us to perceive the errors that lie in others.

Old and New Symbols

In the history of art throughout the ages the symbols and elements of inspiration have been suggested to us by the ancient legends and classic myths created by modern imagination.

Today, therefore, where can we look for more contingent inspiration than among the new symbols which are no longer the creation of the imagination or the fantasy but of human genius? Is not the machine today the most exuberant symbol of the mystery of human creation? Is it not the new mythical deity which weaves the legends and histories of the contemporary human drama? The Machine in its practical and material function comes to have today in human concepts and thoughts the significance of an ideal and spiritual inspiration.

The artist can only pin his faith to the realities contingent on his own life or on those elements of expression which spiritualize the atmosphere he breathes. The elements and the plastic symbols of the Machine are inevitably much nearer to us (materially and spiritually) than any symbol of the past can be symbols as such as god Pan, the taking down from the Cross or the Assumption of the Virgin, etc. The logic, therefore, of aesthetic verities becomes self-evident, and develops parallelly with the spirit of the times which seeks to contemplate, live and identify itself with reality itself.

The Aesthetic of the Machine and Mechanical Introspection

We today, after having sung and exalted the suggestive inspirational force of The Machine after having by means of the first plastic works of the new school fixed our plastic sensations and emotions, see now the outlines of the new aesthetic of The Machine appearing on the horizon like fly wheel all fiery from Eternal Motion.

We therefore Proclaim

  1. The Machine to be the tutelary symbol of the universal dynamism, potentially embodying in itself the essential elements of human creation the discoverer of fresh developments in modern aesthetics.
  2. The aesthetic virtues of the machine and the metaphysical meaning of its motions and movements constitute the new fount of inspiration for the evolution and development of contemporaneous plastic arts.
  3. The plastic exaltation of The Machine and the mechanical elements must not be conceived in their exterior reality, that is in formal representations of the elements which make up The Machine itself, but rather in the plastic-mechanical analogy that The Machine suggests to us in connection with various spiritual realities.
  4. The stylistic modifications of Mechanical Art arise from The Machine-as-interferential-element.
  5. The machine marks the rhythm of human psychology and beats the time for our spiritual exaltations. Therefore it is inevitable and consequent to the evolution of the plastic arts of our day.

~Enrico Prampolini, translated by E.S.

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Kaiter Enless

News columnist, artist and published fiction writer whose work asks the question, Of what use is the art which does not ruthlessly seek to force life to imitate it? I can be found online via any of the following links. [My website: https://logosclubblog.wordpress.com/] [My Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9uNRn0dBe77lIXFLR7v5pA] [NMC: http://newmediacentral.net/] [WCR: https://westcoastrxers.com/author/clifforddreger/]

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