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Elza Adamowicz

The radical critique of corporeal representations is embodied in limit-forms of the human figure in Dada. The chapter examines the displacements, objectification or disembodiment of the human figure. This is exemplified in Man Ray’s film Le Retour à la raison (1923), where the human figure is montaged with moving objects and abstract forms. The body as indexical trace is explored in the recurrent image of the handprint. This is followed by a discussion of the performative function of Duchamp’s readymades, which call for the viewer’s bodily response in a tactile engagement. In Max Ernst’s lithographs Fiat modes pereat ars (1919) the theatrical spaces are occupied by surrogate human figures (a tailor’s dummy, featureless automatons, geometrical forms) which seem to merge with the geometrical spaces in which they are placed. Finally, on the path to a final vanishing point, the body as abstraction is considered, as found in a number of Dada portraits by Picabia and others.

in Dada bodies
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Exquisite corpses
Elza Adamowicz

In the final chapter the ambivalence of Dada’s bodies, as both ‘corpse’ and ‘exquisite’, is reasserted, in images of the body degraded and dissolved, or reconfigured and regenerated. Finally, Dada’s heritage is considered in developments in contemporary art, focusing in particular on critical or playful reappropriations of corporeal images which the Dadaists themselves had already transformed, in the work of Damien Hirst, Anna Artaker or Sadie Murdoch.

in Dada bodies
The bride stripped bare?
Elza Adamowicz

The work of Fernand Leger, La noce (or Les noces), was first exhibited at the Salon under the title Composition avec personnages. The Salon was held one month after the Futurist exhibition at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. The 1912 Futurist exhibition catalogue The Exhibitors to the Public, is thus prefaced by a violent criticism of Cubist paintings. This chapter suggests that Leger's painting was situated at a crossroads not only between Cubism and Futurism but also within the broader avant-garde context, where several iconographic and stylistic affinities intersect. Among these, the subject of the wedding party was treated in other avant-garde paintings, revealing affinities with Leger's La noce. By 1911 the avant-garde in general had adopted some form of Bergsonism, if sometimes skewed or schematised. Henri Bergson's L'evolution creatrice was discussed in particular by the Puteaux group.

in Back to the Futurists
The avant-garde and its Legacy

In 1909, the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's Founding Manifesto of Futurism was published on the front page of Le Figaro. Between 1909 and 1912, the Futurists published works celebrating speed and danger, glorifying war and technology, and advocating political and artistic revolution. In Europe, this avant-garde movement was active in the field of painting and sculpture, theatre, photography and politics. This book reassesses the activities and legacies of Futurism. It looks at Futurist manifestos by linking techniques of promotion with practices in commercial advertising, and exploring the question of how Futurist manifestos address notions of genius and gender. The book also reconstructs the historical, cultural and ideological background of Marinetti's Manifesto del tattilismo. Zurich Dadaists adopted cultural stances heavily indebted to the terms of critical engagement and cultural visibility initiated within the Futurist circle. The book analyses avant-garde's examination of its internal strategies of identity and canonization, and the importance of Futurism for the Pierre Albert-Birot. It charts the details of the argument on simultaneity between Umberto Boccioni and Robert Delaunay, and analyses the critical readings of Fernand Léger's La noce. The dialogue between Occultism and Futurism is explored by discussing the theme of night in the works of the Florentine Futurists. In La cucina futurista, food is separated from its nutritional function, and the act of eating is related to notions of creativity and identity. The book presents unique examples of innovative expressivity in Italian Futurists' free-word poems, and examines poetry celebrating the triumph of modern aviation.

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Elza Adamowicz and Simona Storchi

This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on Futurist manifestos and links Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's techniques of self and group promotion in his Manifestos with practices in the expanding realm of commercial advertising. It explores Futurism's complex relationship with Dada and some of the dialogues and conflicts within Futurism. The book examines the reasons why Wyndham Lewis and his colleagues, who had enthusiastically embraced Futurism in 1913, rejected it in early 1914, questioning its revolutionary credentials and its failure to integrate avant-garde abstraction. It considers a series of unique examples of innovative expressivity in Italian Futurists' free-word poems and dipinti paroliberi. The book also explores cinema's contribution as a metamedium to an understanding of the interconnections between old and new art forms, in order to create a common language suitable to the new times.

in Back to the Futurists