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  • Writing of Attractions:Else Lasker-Schüler's Avant-Garde Techniques
  • Andrea Krauss (bio)
    Translated by Nils F. Schott

The international avant-garde makes its entry into German-language discourse in March 1912. Two successive issues of Herwarth Walden's art journal Der Sturm (vol. 3, nos. 103–4) contain the first translations of two important programmatic statements of Italian futurism. These translations of the 1910 "Manifesto of the Futurist Painters" (published under the title "Manifest der Futuristen") and the 1909 "Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism" by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (printed as "Manifest des Futurismus") not only make the futurists' central goals accessible to a German-speaking audience. They also prepare the way for the first exhibition of futurist painting in Germany, which Walden organizes in April and May 1912 in his Berlin exhibition space, the Sturm-Galerie. On the occasion of the exhibition's opening in April, Walden inserts another futurist publication in Der Sturm (vol. 3, no. 105) in which the Italian painters turn as "Aussteller" to their "Publikum" (3) to present their artistic vision with emphatic fervor.

The principles of these futurist programs include an affirmation of industrial life-worlds and the transformation of spatial and temporal perception they entail. The apotheosis of a dynamic machine world combines with a physiology of the senses and the philosophy of life to constitute an aesthetic creed whose central reference is the representation of movement, acceleration, rhythm, and simultaneity. Moreover, these manifestoes exhibit a discursive ethos whose aesthetic-political force derives from the military connotations of avant-garde. [End Page 602] The first futurist sentence published in Der Sturm in March 1912, for example, reads:

Am achten März 1910 schleuderten wir von der Rampe des Theaters Chiarella zu Turin unser erstes Manifest einem Publikum von dreitausend Personen—Künstlern, gebildeten Menschen, Studenten und Neugierigen—entgegen, einen gewaltigen lyrischen Block, der unseren Ekel und unsere hochmütige Verachtung enthielt, unsere Empörung gegen die Vulgarität, gegen die pedantische, akademische Mittelmäßigkeit, gegen den Kult dessen, was antik und wurmstichig ist. Wir stimmen damit der Bewegung der futuristischen Dichter bei, die vor einem Jahr von F. T. Marinetti in den Spalten des "Figaro" eingeleitet worden ist.

(Boccioni et al. 822)

This passage stages the discursive gestures of the futurist avant-garde: precisely dated, the movement calls itself into being with all its performative strength while at the same time shouting its forceful creed at a large audience. The reception of this speech does not take place in the bourgeois refuge of individual reading; it has transformed into a mass spectacle and mass attack, into a public appeal to everyone. The "break with the past" (Puchner 451), a radical (aesthetic) secessionism, is articulated in an idiom that masterfully deploys all the rhetorical strategies of dramatic excitement. The semantics of disgust suggests an innovative turn that denies all origin, seeks to convert all art and discourse about art into action, and thereby prepares the avant-garde's "reintegration of art in the praxis of life" (Bürger, Theory 99):

Wir wollen um jeden Preis in das Leben zurückkehren. Die siegreiche Wissenschaft von heute hat ihre [sic] Vergangenheit abgeschworen, um besser den materiellen Nöten unserer Zeit zu entsprechen; wir wollen, daß die Kunst, indem sie ihre [sic] Vergangenheit abschwört, endlich unseren intellektuellen Bedürfnissen entsprechen [sic], die uns bewegen.

(Boccioni et al. 823)

Movement becomes the quintessence of modern life; it acts as the deforming formative power of a comprehensively dynamized experience of the world. From this perspective, every object, every nonliving thing acquires a special rhythm, its own inner force in which the vibrating restlessness of life expresses itself as a principle of form:

In der Tat, alles bewegt sich, alles rennt, alles verwandelt sich in rasender Eile. Niemals ist ein Profil unbeweglich vor uns, sondern es erscheint und verschwindet unaufhörlich. Da das Bild in der Netzhaut verharrt, vervielfachen sich die Gegenstände, wenn sie sich bewegen, sie verlieren ihre Gestalt, indem sie einander verfolgen, wie überstürzte Vibrationen in dem Raum, den sie durcheilen.

(822) [End Page 603]

A look at, to name but one example, Georg Simmel's 1918 lecture, "Der Konflikt der modernen Kultur," shows...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6598
Print ISSN
0026-7910
Pages
pp. 602-624
Launched on MUSE
2017-09-09
Open Access
No
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