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fortunato  depero

︎Artist, Futurism, Graphic Design   
︎ Ventral Is Golden


"How often have we not seen upon the cheek of the person with whom we are talking the horse which passes at the end of the street?" - Umberto Boccioni


Born in 1892, and inspired largely by the sculptures of Umberto Boccioni, Fortunato Depero became quickly infused with the Futurist Movement of the early 20th Century. An extremely talented and multifaceted artist, with works spanning the realms of painting, sculpture, collage, illustration, set and costume design, typography and advertisement, Depero and other Futurists became mouthpieces for the various changes brought about by new technological and political revolutions of Italy and subsequently the rest of Europe, in the build up to World War I.




After releasing Depero-Dinamo Azari in 1927, a book known for being bound with bolts and which showcased his talent for graphic design and advertisement, Depero moved to New York, becoming the first – and only – Italian Futurist to move to the United States. While in the United States he would design front covers for publications such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, as well as designing one of his most iconic campaigns for Italian liqueur, Campari.





In today's seemingly fragmented, fluid and ultimately paradoxical cultural climate, where the negative impact of industry, advertising and capitalist systems are fulfilling their more destructive aspects, it isn't often that we hear the praises of industrialisation's consciousness raising effects. This is however one of the main features of the Futurist movement, who's advocates were provoked by the technological advances brought about by inventions such as the aeroplane and motorcar, and subsequent rise of the man-machine integrated Metropolis.
Although ultimately affiliated with the fascism of Mussolini (in a large part affected by the unfair distribution of wealth) The Futurists' Metropolis was characterised by a new movement of mechanical domination over nature, on both psychological and sub-atomic planes.




"The period before 1914 saw a spectacular advance of capitalism, which was developing the productive forces at a dizzying pace. Europe and the USA were industrialising rapidly at the expense of agriculture, the proletariat at the expense of peasantry. Old ideas were crumbling. In the field of science the basis was being laid for a twin revolution, connected with relativity theory and quantum mechanics. The human mind was gradually penetrating beyond the world of appearance and discovering a deeper reality in the sub-atomic world, where the laws of the ordinary world of sense perception did not apply. The sensation existed that this was a new age, an age of progress in which the machine was king." - (Woods)






"The motor bus rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it."


The Futurists displayed extremely modern concepts through literary and visual devices, thought to help disassociate Italy from the burden of it's history, and rebirth the mentality of the country into the 'cult of the modern'; a new capitalist dream based on the integration of man and machine. One of the leading members of the movement, Umberto Boccioni, once wrote that "on account of the persistency of an image upon the retina, moving objects constantly multiply themselves; their form changes like rapid vibrations in their mad career. Thus a running horse has not four legs, but twenty, and their movements are triangular." Rather than perceiving an action as a performance of a single limb, Futurists viewed action as the convergence in time and space of multiple extremities. "The motor bus", Boccioni continues, "rushes into the houses which it passes, and in their turn the houses throw themselves upon the motor bus and are blended with it."


Fashion, initially as a verb or 'a manner of doing something', is what separates it from most other mediums. It thus becomes a social practice: a medium in which the human body dwells, or the body as an interface upon which fashion takes the shape of the information being presented. For Depero, the subversion of the waistcoat acted as the space suit of the Futurist's exploration into the new technological landscape.
Just as Nike in our current culture presents us with the information to transcend individual economic position through sport, in order to aquire the Elixir Vitae (in the form of gold medals, trainers, or anythinh else that can portray health, well-being and performance), Depero's waistcoats presented a new form of thinking, in revolt of the petite bourgeoisie, who stood in the way of self actualisation through new mathematical technologies, that extended the reach of humankind, in the minds of the Futurists, for the better.





After the failure (or necessary steps) of movements such as Futurism and Capitalism to precede our own dilemma of where the limitations of our body will be in hyper space and virtual reality (in terms of the self, privacy, identity, sexuality, etc), it would be wise to pay particular attention to the effects that led the Futurists away from their realisation of a machine inspired emancipation of the human condition, and down the dark alley of fascism.

As the technology of mechanical locomotion overhauled the traditional concept of time and space for the Futurists, so too will bio-nano-technology change our own notions of self and other, subject and object. Similarly, as the aeroplane dramatically altered the traditional perceptive of humankind, so too will the forthcoming event in our own lifetimes of AGI (Artificial General Intelligence) and AR (Augmented Reality).





“In the world of Futurism the machine is god. The human does not disappear entirely, but just enough to be subjugated by their spiritual and technological pursuits.”


In the world of Futurism the machine is god. The human does not disappear entirely, but just enough to be subjugated by their spiritual and technological pursuits. In the world of nano technology and AGI, the human may indeed disappear entirely, but into a technological relationship with nature, a kind of collaboration or aperture through which each looks at the other. This is perhaps a type of consciousness moulded by the perspectives of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Shall this be preparation for the resource exploiting mentality to come, where the individual is expressed through the tribal spark of cultures struggling to come to terms with the heavy handling of a delicate transition towards globalisation, and the megalithic structure of top heavy cultural ideas that can so often result. Or is it instead a preparation for the more equitable possibilities of the technological singularity, and how industry could truly establish a multi-faceted, harmonic relationship with the environment?



“In the epoch of monopoly capitalism, dividing the world between various groups based on private wealth could simply render humanity the subservient race of the technologies they have endeavoured to propagate.”



Machinery, technology, information and fashion, have of course, many useful applications. However, in the epoch of monopoly capitalism, dividing the world between various groups based on private wealth could simply render humanity the subservient race of the technologies they have endeavoured to propagate.

These technologies have not only created both the idea of the 'public' and the public space essential for individual expression, but have also simultaneously fostered the need for phenomenological approaches to the process of individuation.

With patterns of historical failures now presenting themselves as opportunities instead of inevitabilities, we will do well to remember the famous words of leading Futurist, Filippo Marinetti, when he said “an image must be a synthesis. It is not only what one sees, but also what one remembers.”



Further Reading ︎
Depero, Pinterest Board
Vests by Depero, Italian Ways article
Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painting
Italian Futurism, Introduction
Futurism and Fascism, Alan Woods



Mark