Conclusion: Materialist Futurism?
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225 The question whether there are such things as black or red magic, mediumistic séances or ideoplastic materializations, is not germane to my discussion. But what about the intonarumori? Were they or were they not a“portal to the beyond”? Or were they only a metaphor for it? That, too, does not matter.Artworks are screens over which artists project their (he)art’s desires, their poetics : considered from this point of view, artworks are always revelatory. What really matters —and what I have proposed —is that Russolo and other futurists believed in these occult concepts from the very beginning. Russolo’s theosophy is the key that allows us to identify, decode, and contextualize the occultist interests that were ever present in his work: from his printmaking and paintings (Maschere, autoritratto [con doppio eterico], La musica, etc.) to his theoretical writings on music. Although examples cited in Thought-forms percolated into The Art of Noises, which borrows concepts and structures from The Hidden Side of Things, Russolo chose not to highlight his occult poetics nor to mention theosophy explicitly in his theoretical writings about music. Yet, as we know, the futurists had no qualms about acknowledging occult influence. Theosophy, among other forces, had helped them reclaim both spirituality and the occult, allowing the futurists to view these thought systems not as musty old traditions but rather as expressions of the latest frontiers of science. Conclusion Materialist Futurism? Se i contemporanei non hanno capito in Leonardo che l’artista, i posteri sbalorditi della sua scienza sperimentale hanno finito col voler fare di lui un positivista e anche quasi un materialista. —Luigi Russolo, Al di là della materia 226  .  conclusion Since spiritual and scientific goals were fully accepted within the futurist movement and are found, explicitly or implicitly, in most of the initiatives promoted by futurism, Russolo did not need to justify or explicitly state the occultist poetics underlying the art of noises. I was, however, principally concerned with discovering the various floating fragments of Russolo’s poetics , and from them reconstructing a mosaic: for this side of my work, explanations about the lack of an explicit exposition of Russolo’s modalities and operations are therefore not so essential. If many of the pieces of this mosaic were eventually covered up in the second half of the twentieth century, this was not Russolo’s fault. In fact neither Russolo, nor the other futurists, considered the connections between futurism and the occult to be per se shameful: futurism as a materialistic movement was a creation of modernist critics. After World War II, and once the general interest in theosophy had waned, modernist criticism of futurism entirely missed the futurists’ equation “Occult = Science.” By confusing futurist science with positivistic science, these critics dismissed or even censored the references to the occult and the irrational, which can be found everywhere in futurist works, and relegated all such references to the margins of critical discourse, instead forefronting a materialist reduction of machine and technology in their interpretive frame of the futurist movement. Those phases of the futurist movement in which the influence of the occult was unarguable they attacked as evidence of reactionism , postromantic or late nineteenth-century regurgitation, or, incongruently , regressive “abdication of the spirit of the avant-garde.” 1 Modernist criticism likely promoted this particular critical reading with the good intention of redeeming futurism as a progressive, modernist force in the eyes of the postwar international artistic community. Consciously or not, this was done to enable a discussion on futurism —which obviously has some merit —in a post-Resistance climate when openly to address or discuss or study anything relating to fascism was considered taboo in Italy.2 Wishing to save the futurist movement from its uncomfortable connections with any form of fascism, modernism tended in the process to erase any reference to spiritual or irrational philosophy, and this was done in the name of a rational materialism that the futurists themselves, Russolo above all, would have abhorred.3 During this critical process some aspects of futurism (such as the worship of the machine) were inflated to excess, while, with the same casualness , others were put to death. Such was the price of rehabilitation. Materialist Futurism?  . 227 Some may object that modernist critics were not the only ones responsible for portraying futurism as materialistic, and it might even be argued that Marinetti’s rhetoric played a major role in this portrayal. Could it be that Marinetti and his scholars were swimming, so to...