Art as a Political Statement Essay
The Futurists and Dada Movements Erin White I want to start out this paper by saying that this has been the most difficult paper I’ve ever had to write. Politics do not interest me, and this may be because I’m a romantic artist who prefers to turn away from the violence of wars, or the bickering between government leaders. I would rather just live and experience life, as opposed to dwelling on all that is wrong with the world. I know in my heart that by avoiding politics, I’m putting myself in a bad place, and I do not know much about what is going on in the world around me.
I have a really hard time listening to the news, and seeing all the tragedies, while at the same time dealing with my own personal issues, and coping with life in my own world. Sometimes it’s just too much to handle, and so I just ignore it.?? While studying modern art, there are two art movements whose existence revolved around politics and more specifically, war. Futurism and Dada simply define what it’s like to really delve into the world of war. These two groups of artists believed in moving far away from the past, and towards a perfect future.
They both were considered strongly opposed to normal government views, and were in their own way anarchists. They used art as a means of speaking their mind about their political views, and wanted to reach a wide audience by doing so. Their works were more of a statement of who they were, and their stand on government issues, instead of other art movements of the same time period whose works emphasized expressions of human emotion. The fabric that made these two groups who they were, were based on how strongly they felt towards the ideas of war, and the outcomes from them.??
There may be a lot of similarities between these two extreme art movements, but more importantly, their overall views were completely opposite of each other. Futurists believed in war, as a means of “cleansing the world of all its past”, and moving quickly towards the future, and never looking back. Their way, was to burn down and destroy all libraries, museums, and any place that would endorse keeping around these “mausoleums” that glorified all that was wrong with society. They believed that it would be almost impossible to move on in the world and change, if the past was still in existence.
They strived for a perfect future, where everything was constantly changing, was always new, and was advancing at an enormous rate. Their love of motion and machines was usually pictured in their actual works of art. They tried to create the most unusual and new forms of art possible, and staying away from anything that was ever done before. All classical forms of art were shunned, and a vision of pure uniqueness helped to mold them into strong individuals. ?Their politics were evident in most of their works, especially Gino Severini’s “Armored Train in Action”.
He adopted a newer form of cubism to reenact an image of firing guns on a moving train. He painted images as he saw them out his high-rise apartment, and added to it motion, action, and ultimately, a step away from the old of society. You can see from this work that he supported war, because the way the colors and tones are produced, it’s light, airy, and looks as thought it’s being glorified. ?As the Futurists supported war, the Dadaists condemned it. They believed that war was a result of “rational and logical thinking” therefore reasoning was a bad thing.
The affects of war had such a huge impact on the Dadaists that one might think it made them crazy. They were considered “anarchists of art”, and especially anarchists through their thoughts concerning government. ?? It is an art movement that is hard to define because “there isn’t a defining style”. The only thing that links the Dadaists together is the overall meaning behind their chaotic works. They believed in pure chance, and letting the randomness of the world take over. They translated these ideas into their works by creating pieces that were ground breaking and completely original.
In Jean Arp’s work “Collage Arranged According to the Laws of Chance”, he used torn pieces of paper dropped on to a canvas by “chance” and called it art. Many of the Dada works consisted of unusual sources of media, usually without a subject, and made the viewer question whether or not it could even be considered art at all. Some of these works such as Jean Arp’s “Overturned Blue Shoe with Two Heels Under a Black Vault”, was so childishly done and irrationally immature, that you could easily see that this was perhaps the artist’s intention. Dada is the anti-art, and one might even be able to say Dada was against its own movement! I believe that the Dadaists really wanted to live in an abstract world that was far from any kind of war, therefore any kind of reasoning and structure at all. Ignoring the past, and embracing the radical views for the future is what made Dada so influential to art movements following it. ?? Dada created collage as another means of translating the ideas of pure chance into their work.
By using random and sometimes completely irrelevant and obscure items together, they pushed the envelope even further of what could be seen as acceptable art. This process of collage work was such a unique and interesting concept that it can be seen in art movements following, and even in works of today. It was originally just another way of being defiant and sarcastic about art and government, but it was used as inspiration for future artwork much deeper in emotion and meaning.?? It was a moment in time where art was overly influenced by the world of politics and war.
Throughout history, artists are affected by the world around them, but in my opinion, no other art movements have depicted these thoughts so vividly and profoundly as the Futurists and Dadaists. They helped to push art into a world that escaped from its roots as a decorative purpose, and more about making a statement to the world. For a brief time, art was as important to the molding of the world as politics themselves and the wars that influenced their extremist behaviors. A French artist, Marcel Duchamp, stirred the controversy.
In 1915, Duchamp began doing his “ready-mades” — found objects he chose and presented as art. He assembled the first readymade, a bicycle wheel mounted on a stool, in 1913 about the same time as his Nude Descending A Staircase was attracting the attention of critics at the International Exhibition of Modern Art. That time people critiqued his work as not being art, arguing there is no way that an existing object could be called a piece of art. In 1917, when Marcel joined an art exhibition, he submitted his works, ‘’Fountain ‘’ which was a urinal.
The committee rejected his Fountain. However, in 2004, 500 renowned artists and historians selected him as “the most influential artwork of the 20th century. Emerging from Italy in the year 1909 Futurism was to take precedence over artistic values for the next four decades. These values not only dominated the time period preceding WWI, they have also reached into the 21st century, touching today’s culture and influencing many works of art created today. Futurism was founded and declared in 1909 by anarchist and master of public relations, Filipo Tomaso Marienetti (1876-1944).
Upon declaring “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” and its printing on the front page of the “Le Figaro” a Paris news publication, Marienetti set into public eye his views on art. This art, influenced heavily by the machine age, was to propose several avant guard and violently strong views on the direction of modern art and culture. Although this futurist movement affected poetry, literature, sculpture, photography, and performing arts, the most enduring form of the original movement was and still is the painting.
An analysis of futuristic artworks will show emphasis on 5 major experiments, each representing the way of life in Italy during this period of social, political, cultural, and administratively corrupt society. Machine and war inspired experiments such as “movement and speed” which incorporated the use of harsh thrusting dynamic lines. The futurist’s perception and augmentation of “color and light” captured the reflection and reverberation of light in any environment–with special regard to those affected by the use of machine.
Another study, “plastic dynamism” would stress observation and perversion of form. Experiments in the “interpretation of subject matter” became popular due to their characteristic merging of different elements within a frame of reference, and their arrangement as one whole collage or piece. And finally, a view already popular and often confused with late cubism, was “prismatic” or, the shattering of form portraying heavy use of triangularity and distortion. In futurism the modulation of these views are all characteristic of the impact machines have had on Italy and its society.
During this time, contaminated by corrupt leaders, anarchist, fascist movements and the hint of war, Marienetti evolved such experiments to illustrate the perversion of life on a daily basis. The hint of despair, degradation of women, the glorification of war, and the role machines take on the shape of human life, can all be found in works of this period. These elements that have so shaped the experiments found to be popular in futurist works, have thus influenced such opinion in regard to works that have preceded this extremist’s era. Intolerance brewed for all that is “old and worm ridden. This attitude called for the destruction of museums and artworks… essentially calling for the removal of history from modern day life. They regarded perennial works defiling to the mind and genre of futurism. Intolerance grew, typical of a society with demands characteristic of such instability. A society so closely affected by machine and based on efficiency and speed. The endeavor was to associate futurism as the representative art of the fascist movement in Europe. Such views by the standards of 21st century American culture would be thought negligent.
These views however, characteristic of many leaders preceding WWI are easily found in one form or another in today’s culture. A few ideas such as close-mindedness, impatience, extremity, laziness and others are all clearly in direct connection with futurist values. The visual artist plays a very unique role in society. Not only can an artist be inspired by his surrounding culture, but in fact, he can also inspire his surrounding culture. In this way, artwork can have a profound affect on society. Artists throughout history have been inspired by a variety of different circumstances.
Whether it is personal relationships, morality, social, or political issues, art is influenced through every facet of our lives. It can also be said that art itself can equally influence these aspects of our world. There have been many artists throughout the ages that have recognized this powerful idea and have used it to their advantage. None, however, are more apparent than those artists who have exercised this power to make political statements. The political artist has undoubtedly played a very important role in our world, and their artwork is evidence of the fact.
I will compare and contrast, through use of examples, how artists of the 19th and 20th centuries have used their art as a political statement. As the 19th century began, we saw the Neoclassical period draw to an end and give way to Romanticism. Although he did most of his work before the turn of the century, Jacques-Louis David is one Neoclassical artist who recognized his influence in the political scene. David, “who was the official artist of the Revolutionary Government” (Gombrich 485), mainly used his artwork as political propaganda for Napoleon’s military campaign.
In 1801 he painted Napoleon Crossing the Saint-Bernard (Stokstad 470) which depicts an idealized Napoleon on a great white horse, decorated in heroic outfit. Instead of depicting him on a donkey, which is what really occurred, David chose to highlight the heroic event by placing him on a grand white steed instead. By using his artwork in this form ?? Sources:?? Kleiner, Fred S. Gardner’s Art Through the Ages : A Global History. Wadsworth (Cengage), 13th 09 Edition?? Jean (Hans) Arp’s “Collage Arranged According to the Laws of