- “Futurism in Latin America.” Special Issue, International Yearbook of Futurism Studies by Mariana Aguirre, Rosa Sarabia, Renée M. Silverman, and Ricardo Vasconcelos
What was global about modernism? For years now we have seen academic positions, conferences, and books urging correctives to the Eurocentric historiography of modern art and literature and challenging us to think about modernities and modernisms.1 Whether analyzing “alternative” modernities, as in Dilip Gaonkar’s terminology, “multiple” modernities, as proposed by S. N. Eisenstadt, or “modernism at large,” as per Arjun Appadurai and Andreas Huyssen, modernism now is seen as a global but contradictory phenomenon with profoundly different temporalities and manifestations in its multiple locations.
Yet the challenge for these studies is to address both the particularities of local responses to modernity and what they might have in common, to emphasize the cultural, historical, and geographical specificity within a global landscape. Furthermore, it is urgent to complement an expanded view of modernism outside of Europe and North America with analyses that de-Westernize the historical avant-gardes themselves, studying how the various centers of modernist activity interacted with each other.
This special issue of the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, edited by Mariana Aguirre, Rosa Sarabia, Renée M. Silverman, and Ricardo Vasconcelos, intervenes in this debate by exploring the circulation and reinterpretation of futurism in Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking America during the 1920s. The International Yearbook has already devoted special issues to futurism in Eastern and Central Europe (2011) and to Iberian futurism (2013). This transnational approach has the aim of complicating the analysis and assessment of futurism, a movement that is all too often (especially in Anglo-American scholarship) reduced to a series of clichés about violence, technophilia, and hatred of women. The International Yearbook operates as a “medium of communication amongst a global community of Futurism scholars,” and indeed this issue includes contributions from scholars based in Latin America, North America, and Europe—a variety of perspectives and intellectual locations that is unusual for a publication on futurism. [End Page 415]
Since the 1909 publication of the “Manifesto of Futurism,” which appeared contemporaneously in multiple languages, futurism aspired to establish a globalized avant-garde. Yet by analyzing the networks of communication between Latin American intellectuals as well as the cultural specificities of Hispanophone and Lusophone America, the contributors to this volume transcend the model of “center-periphery” implicit in F. T. Marinetti’s concept of “world futurism” and still present in many studies on the global avant-garde today. As Günter Berghaus observes in his Editorial, instead of appealing to outdated notions of “influence” or seeing non-Italian versions of futurism as derivative, this volume reveals “heterogeneous forms of Futurism” (x) and the “appropriation and transformation” (xv) of futurist principles and aesthetics throughout the 1920s. As is typical for the International Yearbook of Futurism Studies, contributions to this volume are interdisciplinary, covering—as cannot be otherwise for a movement that since its inception had the totalizing ambition of penetrating every sphere of life and culture—literature, fine arts, music, and mass media.
As in the United States—for instance in the infamous press response to the 1913 Armory Show—in Latin America too “futurism” often did not stand for a specific, Italian-born avant-garde movement but for a generic “modern.” As news about the movement arrived sporadically to Latin America—often mediated by the agendas of intellectuals living in Europe at the time—futurism was seen as equivalent to “avant-garde,” “experimental,” and “fascinated with technology.” The lack of precise knowledge about the movement allowed for a freer interpretation of futurism and for its engagement far beyond the parameters of Italian futurism. This is clear in Mirhiane Mendes de Abreu’s article, in which she analyzes the correspondence and memoirs of the Brazilian modernists to unpack the multiple meanings associated with the word “futurism” during the 1920s. Mendes de Abreu concludes that Mário de Andrade, Oswald de...