You are on page 1of 14

Local Strategies International Ambitions

Modern Art and Central Europe 1918--1968


Papers from the International Conference, Prague, 11 14 June, 2003

The Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague / New York University in Prague

edited by Vojtch Lahoda

STAV DJIN UMN AV R

ARTEFACTUM
Praha 2006

The book was published with financial support from the ASCR.

Published by ARTEFACTUM Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic Authors, 2006 Institute of Art History, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 2006 ISBN 80-86890-08-2

Contents

Preface

/7

Vojtch Lahoda Global Form and Local Spirit: Czech and Central European Modern Art /9 Anna Brzyski Centres and Peripheries: Language Barriers and the Cultural Geography of European Modern Art / 21 Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius Unworlding Slaka, or Does Eastern (Central) European Art Exist? / 29 Eva Forgcs Whose Narrative Is It? / 41

Ivanka Reberski The Universal and the Regional: Modernism in Croatian Painting in the 1920s and 1950s / 85 Anna Wierzbicka Artists from Central and Eastern Europe in the cole de Paris Milieu (1918-1939): The Problem of Assimilation and Identity / 93 Maria Elena Versari The Central European Avant-Garde of the 1920s: The Battleground for Futurist Identity? / 103 Jeremy Howard Andrzej Szczerski Ships in the Night along the Coasts of Bohemia? Modern Design Aesthetics and the Turn of the Liner / 111 Isabel Wnsche Biocentric Modernism: The Other Side of the Avant-Garde / 125 Irina Genova Balkan Modernism / Balkan Modernity: The Difficulties of Historicizing / 133 Darko imii The Case of Dada: Searching through the Archipelago of the Avant-Gardes in Central Europe / 141 Myroslava M. Mudrak Polish Modernism and Ukrainian Artists: Parallel Strategies / 149 Linara Dovydaityt Constructing the Local isms: Paradoxes of Lithuanian Expressionism / 159 Giedr Jankeviit Traditionalism as Modernism: Neo-traditionalism in Lithuanian Art / 165 5

Nicholas Sawicki Modernist Paradigms After the War: The Case of Max Dvok / 47 Annika Waenerberg National Features in Modern Art: Edwin Lydn (18791956) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) / 53 Eduards Kavi The Ambivalence of Ethnography in the Context of Latvian Modernism / 59 Martina Pachmanov Les femmes artistes daujourdhui: Czech Women Artists in the Context of International Modernism / 65 Damjan Prelovek The Architect Joe Plenik: The Originator of Critical Regionalism / 71 Andrs Zwickl Between Conservatism and Modernism: Classicisms and Realisms of the 1920s in Central Europe / 77

Timothy O. Benson Mapping Culture in Central Europe: Dada and Devtsil / 171 Esther Levinger Hungarian Constructivism and Totality / 183

Ljiljana Kolenik Dangerous Liaisons: The Relationship Between Art and the Socialist State. The Croatian Experience in the 1950s / 213 Deborah Schultz Methodological Issues: Researching Socialist Realist Romania / 223 Marian Mazzone Location, Process, Identity: Actions and Happenings in the 1960s / 229 Tomasz Gryglewicz Ideology or Culture: On the Art of a Non-Existing Central Europe at the Time of the Avant-Garde and the Yalta Conference / 237

Christina Lodder International Constructivism and the Legacy of Unovis in the 1920s: El Lissitzky, Katarzyna Kobro and Wadisaw Strzemiski / 195 Matthew S. Witkovsky The Cage of the Center / 205

Preface

The Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, with the support of New York University in Prague, sponsored an international conference in Prague (11-14 June 2003) called Local Strategies, International Ambitions: Modern Art and Central Europe 1918-1968. The aim of the conference was to explore the status of Modernism and Avant-garde art in Central Europe. The events of 1989 have had an ambiguous influence on art history research in Central Europe. On the one hand, the internal regional networks in the field dissolved; indeed, today very few people are interested in cultivating contacts within the region, presenting the question of whether the idea of Central Europe isnt, perhaps, an artificial construct. On the other hand, since 1989 many political barriers have dissolved and today its possible to look at Central European art from new angles. New paradigms, such as Postmodernism came to the fore; the popularity of this trend resulted subsequently in a Postmodernism hangover, which is leading to a rediscovery of the values of Modern and Avant-garde art. Of course we are aware of the importance of modern art of the pre-war period (before 1918) to our study of the past fifty years. Some of the papers dealt with this topic. Nonetheless, we were mainly interested in the fifty years of artistic activity that followed the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which is for many people a topographic synonym for the idea of Central Europe. The fifty-year time frame covered by this conference also has much to do with the history of the Institute of Art History as well. In 2003 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of this institution, which is officially known today as the Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. Originally called the Art History Section, it was initially a part of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences that was newly created in 1953. As if that were not enough as far as anniversaries go, we must remember yet another. In 1993, upon the division of Czechoslovakia, the Institute of the 7

Theory and History of Art of the Academy of Sciences of the Czechoslovak Republic was renamed the Institute for Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic. As one can see, divisions, unions and territorial redistributions enjoy a rich tradition in the area known as Central Europe. The conference dealt with questions of identity, regionalism and the interaction between the centre and the periphery, as well as with the problem of local centres (cities, art groups and institutions) and of local isms. It was focused on the questions of how important figures worked in this region and who actually was regarded as important. The topic of international and domestic relationships was also explored. In addition, the conference discussed the topic of internal Central European networks in the modern art era, but also the development of the historiography of modern art throughout the entire Central European region as a whole. All of these questions and many more, of course, are considered in recent surveys on Central and Eastern European modern art by Steven Mansbach1 and kos Moravnsky,2 as well as the exhibition catalogue Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910 1930 (ed. Timothy O. Benson, Cambridge [Mass.] London 2002). We may understand much more about the inner intellectual spirit of the world of locales, as Timothy Benson put it, by reading the collection of Modernist theory and criticism that was published as an accompaniment to the abovementioned exhibition catalogue.3 Equally important in the area of Central and Eastern European is the collection edited by Laura Hoptman and Tom Pospiszyl entitled Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s (New York 2002). All of these sources are essential for the art historian who wants to learn about the particularities of Central and Eastern European modern art and their relationship to the so-called Western variety of Modernism.

PREFACE

Nevertheless, despite the interest in Central and Eastern European art represented by these publications, we felt that there was something missing; namely, direct contact among researchers who deal with issues of modern art in Central Europe. This was one of the main reasons behind this conference. Another aim is to facilitate communication among specialists within the framework of the region itself. It is paradoxical that we in Prague are often far familiar with the state of research on Modernism in places such as Berlin, London and the United States than with publications and art historical projects on modern and contemporary art in Krakow, Vilnius, Bucharest or Belgrade. That is why the Institute for Art History of Prague would like to focus systematically to the issue at hand, however broad it might seem. We hope this intention might serve as the substantial push towards the promotion of Central/Eastern European research, which would lead to a more developed network in Central Europe of studies about modernism and the avant-garde. The three-day session in June 2003 was divided into sections as follows: 1. Regionalism and Identity (chaired by Jindich Toman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), 2. East Goes West/West Goes East (chair Timothy Benson, LACMA, Los Angeles), 3. Whose Modernism and Avant-garde? Local/other/isms (chair Vojtch Lahoda, Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague), 4. Constructing Identities (chair David Crowley, Royal College of Art, London), 5. Analogous Strategies/Other Histories (chair Lenka Bydovsk, Institute of Art History of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Prague), and finally 6. Whose Construct?

Dilemmas of Central/Eastern/European Modern Art (chaired by Jn Bako, Institute of Art History of Slovakian Academy of Sciences, Bratislava). The organizers of the conference were happy they could gather practically all papers for publishing. Unfortunately, there are some contributions from 2003 that are missing for various reasons, the most simple one being that some manuscripts were not supplied. The editor is very sorry for this, however the deadline for the publication was fixed; otherwise this book could not be published. In any case, we would like to thank those eager participants who intensively collaborated with the editor on this printed version of the proceedings. The texts published in this volume do not follow the structure of the conference sections. The reason was simple: there were gaps of papers within the sections, so we decided not to divide the flow of texts. We instead divided them into three sections by topic: at the beginning there are papers dealing with methodological issues of studying Central/Eastern European modern art, followed by a number of papers dealing especially with Modernism and Avant-garde art between the wars, and finally there are several papers that either mix chronological issues, or are focused especially on the post-WWII situation of modern art in the region in question. It is great pleasure to thank to those indispensable persons whose effort enabled to publish our proceedings. I would especially like to thank the languague editor Seth A. Hindin, and Ivo Pur, who patiently designed and executed the layout of the book. The Editor

1. Steven A. Mansbach, Modern Art in Eastern Europe. From the Baltic to the Balkans, ca. 1890 1939, Cambridge 1998. 2. kos Moravnsky, Competing Visions. Aesthetic Invention and

Social Imagination in Central European Architecture, 1867-1918, Cambridge (Mass.) London 1998. 3. Tim Benson Eva Forgcs (eds.), Between Worlds, Cambridge (Mass.) London 2002.

Maria Elena Versari


Institut national d'histoire de l'art, Paris

The Central European Avant-Garde of the 1920s: The Battleground for Futurist Identity?

From the end of the First World War until 1921, references to Italian Futurism were scarce in many of the central European avant-garde periodicals. In the journal Ma, to cite just one example, only two illustrations of Futurist works of art were reproduced, one in the May 1918 issue and the other in that of May 1919. Both are by Boccioni, who had died in 1916.1 It would, however, be rash to consider this lack of international visibility as proof of a fading historical role and progressive estrangement of the Italians from the evolution of the rest of the avantgarde. In fact, they continued to be deeply implicated in its development. In this paper, I reconsider the complex system of propaganda, aesthetic dialogue, and ideological misappropriation used by the Italian Futurists in Central Europe and I underline the strategic value of these connections in reshaping the groups international identity after the First World War. The emergence of avant-garde productions and debates in the East became a new pole of attraction for the Futurists, pulling them away from the French capital that had so greatly shaped their identity since the 1909 publication of their founding manifesto in Le Figaro. Following this line of investigation, this paper will reveal the increasing importance of Central Europe as a site of contestation for the aesthetic, political, and avant-gardist practices of the Italian Futurist movement during the 1920s. Paradoxically, it was the much debated alliance between the Italian Futurists and the newly born Fascist party an alliance that ended in a colossal defeat in the 1919 elections that compelled Marinetti to reach out to the international revolutionary political scene after World

War I. While it is certainly not my goal here to rehearse the complex history of the Italian movements connections to the political Left, it is, nonetheless, important to stress that already by 1918 the Futurist leader had started to restage the news coming from Revolutionary Russia for his groups own political goals. In an attempt to include within their alliance the radical and syndicalist forces estranged from the Italian Socialist Party, Marinettis coalition stressed the cultural and ideological ideals that could unite a new front of avant-garde parties in Italy.2 Within this context, Russia was seen as a precedent for a revolution that, although ideologically quite distinct, offered a central role to innovative artists in the transformation of cultural values. Eventually, Marinetti would indissolubly mix his debacle in the Italian elections with his disenchantment for a Soviet government that, instead of promoting the avant-garde, was, as he states in his diary, responsible for removing Alexandra Exters works from the walls of Russian towns.3 In 1920, he voiced this dual disillusion in a pamphlet significantly titled Beyond Communism, which was officially presented by the Futurist press in the following terms: Answering the numerous calls made by the Futurist Bolsheviks of Russia, Hungary and Germany, the direction of the Italian Futurist movement prepares an important political and social manifesto on Bolshevism in order to define precisely the revolutionary character proper to Italian Futurism. 4 Among the many calls to which Beyond Communism may have been intended to answer, Lajos Kassks appeal, An die Knstler aller Lnder!, published in the May 1920 issue of Ma, seems a likely target. Concluding with the words Es lebe die gegen jede Tradition kmpfende Revo-

103

MARIA ELENA VERSARI

lution! Es lebe das verantwortliche kollektive Individuum! Es lebe die Diktatur der Idee! the Hungarians plea to the artists of the world quite possibly compelled the Italians to take a more active role in the community that Kassk was endeavouring to build.5 Abandoning momentarily the prospect of participating directly in Italian politics, Futurism shifted its energies to engaging in dialogue with the newer intellectual and artistic forces influenced by the Russian Revolution. The goal of such a shift was to form an international set of alliances that would reinforce the groups primacy in the avant-garde. Engaged in a heated rivalry with the Valori Plastici group in Italy and with the Dadaists in Germany, Switzerland, and France both of which had written off Futurism as a dead movement Marinetti shifted his attention to the East with the intention of capitalizing on the political turmoil emanating from there. According to this new strategy, the Italians selfimposed avant-garde distinctiveness, which had served as a guarantee of their politically revolutionary attitude toward possible allies for the Italian elections, would now be used as a bridge toward the Futurist Bolsheviks of Central Europe. Finally, the Futurists hoped that through these international alliances, they might also be able to establish a wider patronage system that would eliminate the Italian artists dependency on the State and its limited network of public and private galleries. Consequently, the Futurists political project of social and cultural renewal did not disappear entirely but rather shifted toward a narrower, more operative definition. In the elections of 1919, Marinetti had presented his program as a struggle for the younger, poor-but-enterprising generation of veterans, whose right to have a place in the national elite had been shredded by the static, nepotistic structure of Italian society. To give this generation a concrete identity, Marinetti, in his 1919 work Futurist Democracy, coined the slogan proletariat of the minds, which by 1920 had been transformed into the proletariat of the avant-garde artists.6 In Beyond Communism, Marinetti still refers to the Russian model, stating: Futurist art was, for a limited period of time, arte di stato in Russia.7 And he later adds: Yes! Artists to power! [It is in this way that] the proletariat of the minds will rule!8 Later that same year, he was to

1. Leaflet for the Italian Exhibition of Avant-garde Art in Prague, 1921. Courtesy Archivio Enrico Prampolini, Centro Ricerca e Documentazione Arti Visive [CRDAV] della Galleria Comunale dArte Moderna e Contemporanea, Roma.

explain: Futurism is not a party, it is a flag around which all the young forces of the world gather, united by an ardent ideal.9 The Futurists return to artistic activity therefore did not completely derail the ideology behind their unfortunate electoral adventure. The groups energy focused instead on the politicization of artists, who became an abstract counterpart to the civic body they had not been able to co-opt and rule by means of the 1919 elections. In this sense, the Futurists re-structured the role of their artistic group as a political and ideological avant-garde that was acting inside the democratic society. In those same years, there was a perceived need to promote political consciousness among artists as well as an international system of artistic collaboration. This

104

THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE OF THE 1920S: THE BATTLEGROUND FOR FUTURIST IDENTITY?

2. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Osvobozen slova, Czech translation of Parole in Libert, 1922, Private Collection, Forl

viewpoint, which was shared, among others, by members of the Novembergruppe in Germany and the Clart group in France, had important repercussions in Italy. The Futurist Enrico Prampolini, in particular, organized several exhibitions of the Novembergruppes members in his gallery, giving them a space in which to voice their political opinions.10 Prampolinis position on the issues of an artist class and its dependency on governments was, however, decidedly ambivalent. A member of the Novembergruppe himself, he did not actually disparage the official support of the Liberal State. This became evident when, in 1920, he was asked by the Italian government to organize its section at the International Modern Art Exhibition in Geneva a task that he freely accepted. In January 1921, Marinetti joined Prampolini in Geneva. While there, he organized a Futurist soire in

which he recited for the first time his new manifesto of Tactilism, thus symbolically planting the Futurist flag in the middle of the Italian display at the International Exhibition. Marinettis exchange with the pacifist and leftist artist Masereel, reported by a Swiss newspaper, illustrates the polemical and strategic uses of his supposed Soviet leanings in relation to Futurisms artistic achievements. To Masereels question What do you think of the Soviets?, Marinetti is reported to have answered That theyll conquer the world. And we will follow them.11 Although Marinettis quip to the international press in Geneva may have been more than simply ironic, it was, however, at this point, and again with the official support of the State Secretary of the Arts, that an Exhibition of Modern Italian Art was planned for the following fall in Prague. The choice of Prague as the second stage from which to re-launch internationally Italian Futurism owed no doubt to contacts that were established with certain Czech artists, most notably with Josef apek, who, it should be noted, had also shown at the Geneva exhibition.12 The Prague project signalled an important shift from the traditional association with Paris, which had marked the history of the Italian movement from its beginnings. Moving to Central Europe, Marinetti hoped to find a cultural and political context better suited to his conception of a progressive, revolutionary avant-garde. Central Europe, with its new political climate, thus became, for Marinetti, the site on which a progressive idea of art could flourish. The Prague exhibition took place at the Rudolfinum from 8 October to 6 November 1921 and staged mainly a selection of the works that had already been exhibited in Geneva the year before, with Boccionis drawings acting as the focal point. Most of the artists were unknown outside of Italy; many were very young. Among the latter, the twenty-one-year-old Ivo Pannaggi quickly became the star of the show, selling two works and being acclaimed as the heir to Boccioni.13 The exhibition was also marked by the mise en scene of twelve Futurists syntheses/performances at the vanda Theater, which were introduced by a speech from Marinetti that earned him the praise of Josef Kodek, an important critic from the journal Tribuna.14 The friendship established between Kodek and the Futurists became a central element to the Futurist revival that followed the 1921 show. The next year,

105

MARIA ELENA VERSARI

a second series of Futurist pantomimes were staged in Prague to great acclaim. Once again, Prampolini played an integral role in the event by designing the sets and costumes. In addition, he also designed the sets and costumes for Marinettis latest play, The Fire Drum.15 At roughly the same moment, J. Macks Czech translation of Marinettis Parole in libert was published by Nakladatel Petr a Tvrd in Prague, with an original print cover by Josef apek. A second edition followed in that same year.16 The overall success of the enterprise was augmented by a number of important contacts made between the Futurists and the local artistic milieu. A group show of the Devtsil artists was planned for the following season in Rome, and associations were made with the painter Emil Filla.17 At the beginning of the following year the exhibition travelled to Berlin. In Berlin, the testimony of Prampolini gave way to that of the young Futurist poet Ruggero Vasari, who had certain connections to Expressionism and was more familiar with the German language. Significantly, what in Prague had been billed as An Exhibition of Modern Italian Art was changed in Berlin to Die Grosse Futuristische Ausstellung. Taking place in the Kabinett J. B. Neumann, the show also featured new works by a small group of artists depicted as International Futurists, among whom were Vera Steiner from Russia, the Japanese artists Nagano and Murayama, and the German Alexander Mohr.18 But there was another, more interesting element that differed from the previous show. Moving away from the semi-officially sanctioned Italian Modern exhibition of Prague, the presence of the Italians in Berlin quickly evolved into the creation of a stable Futurist House of Artists, supported by Der Sturms director Herwarth Walden and by the sculptor and Novembergruppe associate Rudolf Belling. This time, the Futurist works of art had found a permanent home. In addition, a new journal, Der Futurismus, was launched, adding to the already existing Il Futurismo and Le Futurisme. The geography of Futurism was thus developing around this new Milan-Paris-Berlin triangle. The drive to create a visible Italian artistic presence in the middle of Europe in 1922 revealed the increasing importance of Berlin as the new capital of the international avant-garde. What is striking here is the concerted, and essentially unique, effort to establish

3. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, SKRABrrRrraaNNk, Czech translation of a tavola parolibera from Osvobozen slova, 1922, Private Collection, Forl

a centre of operations for an avant-garde movement in a foreign country. It is possible that the main goal of this enterprise was initially to limit the international spread of Dadaism. The Prague exhibition had been staged more or less at the same time as the planned Antidada-Merz-Presentismus tour of Kurt Schwitters and Raul Haussmann, while the Berlin show was set in the Kabinett J. B. Neumann that had hosted a famous dada soire in 1918. This being said, the Futurists primary interlocutors in Berlin quickly revealed themselves to be the local colony of Russian artists. The evolution of the Italian Casa internazionale degli artisti paralleled the increasing development of its Russian counterpart in Berlin, the Dom Iskussv. Among the latter groups members, Ivan Puni was clearly Vasaris most important ally and friend.

106

THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE OF THE 1920S: THE BATTLEGROUND FOR FUTURIST IDENTITY?

As early as 1922, he and his wife, Xenia Boguslawskaya, appear in the pages of Der Futurismus as new artists exhibiting in Vasaris gallery. Their works were also quickly reproduced in a series of Futuristische Postkarten, featuring Italian as well as International artists. In addition to Russian connections, Vasari also developed contacts

The connections established in Prague and Berlin clearly had the effect of promoting a more vibrant image of Italian Futurism in Central Europe, but were also at the heart of a radical renewal inside the movement itself. These events were in fact decisive for the development of a new generation of Italian avant-garde artists. Two

4. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Bitva v 9 poschodch Mont Altissima, Czech translation of a Tavola parolibera from Osvobozen slova, 1922, Private Collection, Forl

with two young Latvian artists residing in Berlin at the time, Karlis Zale and Arnolds Dzirkals. Later, in their own journal, Laikmets, the two would reproduce Futurist and Italian artworks, thereby increasing the confluence between Italian and Central European artists.

young artists, Vinicio Paladini and the aforementioned Pannaggi, offer a symptomatic example of the ongoing contradictions inside Italian Futurism. Influenced in all likelihood by artistic reports from Russia that they filtered ideally with the tradition of

107

MARIA ELENA VERSARI

Balla and Deperos Futurist ballets, Pannaggi and his friend Paladini, in the spring of 1922, decided to stage a Mechanical Futurist Ballet at Bragaglias gallery. Two Russian dancers, Ikar and Ivanoff, dressed as a robot and a proletarian worker, danced on the stage to the Futurist music of two motorcycles. Pannaggis costume of the Mechanical Man and Paladinis costume of The Proletarian testify to the confused mix of political and aesthetic issues that had characterized the Futurists leftist leanings in the years before and that were now regarded as the ideological ground for a so-called mechanical aesthetics. Moreover, following the example of Punis decors for the Sturm-Ball, Pannaggi covered the walls of Bragaglias Futurist bar in Rome with enormous human figures of Jazz musicians, drawn in a synthetic, robot-like style. Finally, in May 1922, Paladini and Pannaggi published a Manifesto of Mechanical Art in which they offered the first attempt to define a new aesthetic based on the modern mechanical environment. The brief text grounded in Boccionis Modernolatria and recalling in part the Aufruf zur Elementaren Kunst signed by Hausmann, Arp, Puni and Moholy-Nagy the year before states the necessity of a clearer stylistic trend moulded on the geometric example of the machine. Even in the confused and somehow ingnue form of this Mechanical Manifesto, Italian Futurism had now to face the spread inside its own ranks of themes from what would be called International Constructivism. Shortly thereafter, the profound division on the question of the status of artistic praxis, which would radically separated the Constructivists and the other art groups at the Dsseldorf Congress, would overtly reveal the unstable foundations of the Italians international ambitions. Recalling the Novembergruppe debates on the necessity of an International Union for the artists, the Italian Futurists had approached the Central European artistic context with a somewhat pragmatic attitude of collaboration between different stylistic trends and groupings. The Prague experience had signalled a pivotal moment in this dialogue. The contacts with the Devtsil group, and in particular with Karel Teige, had shown the persistence of a common ground shaped by Futurist modern ideology, even when counterbalanced by Marxist tenets and a more direct call for a Proletarian art. Things took another turn in Dsseldorf. Derisively calling it an international trade for the exhibition of paint-

ing that only reinforced bourgeois colonial policy,19 the International Faction of Constructivists refused to discuss the project of an international system of finance for art exhibitions, on which the Futurists had hoped to base their system of connections in Central Europe. Paradoxically, the idea of an International Institution of Economic Sponsorship for the Avant-garde had arisen directly from issues brought up in Italy by the Novembergruppe a few years before and by the example of early Soviet artistic politics. In addition, facing the Constructivists stylistic statements, the Italian Futurists found themselves in a difficult position. On one hand, they too wanted a clearer definition of the avantgardistic style, in order to exclude from it all reactionary manifestations of nostalgia found, for example, in the works of their Italian antagonists, the Valori Plastici group. On the other hand, the wide, often contradictory plurality of styles that had always characterized the Futurist movement could hardly fit into El Lissitzkys puritanical canons of collectivism. The Dsseldorf experience had two significant consequences for Futurist identity. First, Pannaggi and Paladinis manifesto was completely rewritten by Prampolini and Marinetti, becoming the Futurist Manifesto of Mechanical Art.20 Sensing the documents timeliness, Prampolini and Marinetti transformed the younger artists proclamation into a Futurist response to Constructivism, emphasizing the machines value as a reference that could in some way bind the object to the ideal of the painter. In other words, Prampolini was trying to save the principle of individual creation and plurality of styles refused by the Constructivists at the Congress. A few months later, in November 1922, an exhibition in Rome of works by Rena Ztkov would present another opportunity to restate these principles. The show, which hosted some outstanding sculptural assemblages, like the Macchina-piantapalafitte [Pile -planting machine], was introduced by a long, strategically cunning essay by Prampolini that depicted Ztkovs as a formal subjective expression and her constructions as the most recent developments of Umberto Boccionis plastic assemblages.21 The emigre Czech artist was thus held up as proof not only of Futurist aesthetics validity in the 1920s, but also of its international language and appeal. Eventually, the Dsseldorf congress resulted in the waning of the Futurists international coalition project.

108

THE CENTRAL EUROPEAN AVANT-GARDE OF THE 1920S: THE BATTLEGROUND FOR FUTURIST IDENTITY?

At the end of the year, the Fascists would March on Rome and seize power in Italy. Forgetting his previous disenchantment with the Soviet example of a State-sponsored avant-garde as well as with his own previous alliance with Mussolini that had ended in failure, Marinetti, in 1923, took the whole program presented in Dsseldorf, renamed it The Artistic Rights Sustained by the Italian Futurists and presented it to Mussolini as a Manifesto to the Fascist government.22 This political move created a definitive fracture between the old and the new generations of Futurist artists. The Mechanical Aesthetics conceptualized in 1922 as a possible convergence and, later, as a response to the internationalization of Constructivism, would be progressively relegated to the margins of official Futurist production, as one of many possible styles. However, it would still survive throughout the 1920s as a sort of foreign identity of the Italian movement, still vital and recognizable on the pages of international magazines. Prampolinis journal Noi would serve as an official interlocutor with the international avant-garde while in Blok, Ma, and Contimpuranul, many of the illustrations of Futurist works of art would still be offered by Pannaggi or Paladini. Significantly, this sort of underground international network would still promote the birth of local Futurist periodicals willing to establish a more resolute stylistic dialogue with contemporary Eastern European examples. This was the case, for instance, of the journals created and directed by young artists such as Pocarini

and Camerlich in the frontier region of Friuli Venezia Giulia.23 Abandoning the ambition to maintain a predominant place in the capitals of the modern art debate, and refusing to compete with an ideological trend that would have disrupted its internal eclecticism, Futurisms choice was to capitalize on the ongoing international artistic vitality for achieving a stronger local identity policy. Eventually, at the end of the 1920s, Pannaggi would enroll in the Bauhaus and Paladini would start an independent avant-garde movement the Immaginismo strongly influenced by Teiges Poetism. This final defection from Italian Futurism illustrates clearly the extent of the influence exercised among the Futurist ranks by the Central European debates of 1922 in the battle for competing visions and theories of the avant-garde. However, the broader Mechanical Art trend established in those very years, with its ideological hesitancy toward Constructivism, would still prove effective in the following decade to provide a wider spectrum of continuous interest and dialogue with the Polish, Czech and Romanian groups. In time, these connections would prove pivotal in the development of the movements new interest in the fields of public arts and exhibition display techniques during the 1930s. Racing to gain a local predominance in arts of the Italian regime, Futurism would maintain a vital channel of contacts with the ongoing Central European scene, thus creating an internal, international periphery to its own new nationalistic ambitions.

1. Respectively published in Ma, Vol. 3, No. 5, 1 May 1918, p. 54 (Boccioni: Szobor) and in Ma, Vol. 4, No. 5, 15 May 1919, p. 91 (Boccioni: Festmny). 2. See, for instance, the title of the article published by Mario Carli only two months before the vote, in which he proposed an alliance with the Italian Left: Mario Carli, Partiti davanguardia: se tentassimo di collaborare? (Avant-Garde Parties: What If We Would Try to Collaborate?), Roma Futurista, Vol. 2, No. 28, 13 July 1919, p. 3. 3. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, [April 20th 1920], in: Idem, Taccuini. 1915-1921, Bologna 1987, pp. 478-479. 4. Anonymous, I fasci futuristi (nostro servizio telefonico - 10 gennaio 1920), [clipping from unidentified newspaper], Getty, Libroni Slides, 920092 Box 45, Vol. 2.

5. L. K. [Lajos Kassk], An die Knstler aller Lnder!, Ma, Vol. 5, No. 1-2, 1 May 1920, pp. 2-4. 6. Marinetti writes: Occorre un pi sistematico intervento delle forze del paese per salvare, riaccendere e utilizzare tutto il vasto proletariato dei geniali. See: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Democrazia Futurista. Dinamismo politico, Milano 1919, p. 140. 7. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Al di l del Comunismo, Milano 1920. Now in: Idem, Teoria e invenzione futurista, Milano 1968, p. 481. 8. Ibidem, p. 485. 9. Propagandistic card of the Futurist movement; Getty, Libroni Slides, 920092, Box 45, Vol. 2. 10. In the catalogue of the Expressionist exhibition in June 1920, Elli Hiserkon, a member of the Union of German Artists, argues for

109

MARIA ELENA VERSARI the necessity of binding the artistic revolution to the political one, intervening in the social field through the renewal of art schools and academies. A growing debate about these statements subsequently appeared on the pages of the Anglo-Italian journal Atys, where Sebastien Voirol launched the slogan Sunir ou disparatre and Charles Tardieu proposes the creation of a Confederation of the Intellectuals associated to the Union of the Technical Workers. See Mostra espressionisti tedeschi Casa dArte Italiana [Roma], 16 June 22 July 1920, p. 2. Aldo Dami, (Chronique Suisse-Romande) La visite de Marinetti Genve. Rflexions daprs coup, [clipping from unidentified journal], Getty, Libroni Slides, 920092, Box 55, Vol. 2. See the catalogue: Exposition internationale dart moderne: peinture, sculpture, etc., Btiment lectoral, Genve, 26 dcembre 1920 25 janvier 1921, Genve 1920. See Pannaggi e larte meccanica futurista, ed. Enrico Crispolti, Milano 1995 and also the interview with Pannaggi concerning his participation to the Prague show, originally published in 1921 and now partially reprinted in Daniela Scarinzi, Pannaggi e la mostra di Praga del 1921, ON. Otto/Novecento, No. 1-2, 1999, pp. 88-91. See Mahulena Nelehov, Impulses of Futurism and Czech Art, in: International Futurism in Arts and Literature, ed. Gnther Berghaus, Berlin 2000, pp. 133-136. See Futuristick rekonstrukce vesmru, ed. Enrico Crispolti and Diego Arich De Finetti, Praha 1994. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Osvobozen slova, Nakladatel Petr a Tvrd, Praha 1922. The first edition was published with a red cover print, whereas the second edition has a violet cover. Letter by Enrico Prampolini to Theo Van Doesburg in: Enrico Prampolini. Carteggio Futurista, ed. Giovanni Lista, Roma 1992, p. 217. Die grosse Futuristische Ausstellung in Berlin, Mrz 1922. Verzeichnis der ausgestellten Kunstwerken, Der Futurismus. Monatliche Zeitschrift, Vol. 1, No. 1, May 1922, pp. 3-5. The statement by the International Faction of Constructivists at the congress is reported in English translation in: The Tradition of Constructivism, ed. by Stephen Bann, New York 1974, pp. 68-69. An abridged version of Prampolini's statement is reported in: De Stijl, Vol. 5, No. 8, August 1922, p. 123. Enrico Prampolini, Ivo Pannaggi, Vinicio Paladini, Larte meccanica. Manifesto futurista, Noi, Series 2, Vol. 1, No. 2, May 1923, pp. 1-2. Enrico Prampolini, Presentazione, in: Invito. Bragaglia Casa dArte Casa Teatrale. 90a Esposizione. Mostra personale di Rugena Zatkov, November 1922, p. 2. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, I diritti artistici propugnati dai Futuristi Italiani. Manifesto al Governo Fascista, Noi, Series 2, Vol. 1, No. 1, April 1923, pp. 1-2. See for instance the journals LAurora and Energie Futuriste in: Bruno Passamani, Umberto Carpi, Frontiere davanguardia. Gli anni del Futurismo nella Venezia Giulia, Provincia di Gorizia, Gorizia 1985.

17.

18.

11.

19.

12.

13.

20.

21.

14.

22.

15. 16.

23.

110