Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Future imperfect

This week's Closet Thinker from the Telegraph (posted late, for which I apologise); shoes from Alexander McQueen (sadly sold out at net-a-porter, but please tell if you find anything similar on the High Street -- black roses, silver heels and perspex -- v. clever):



A century ago the Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched his Manifesto of Futurism, a startling document published on the front page of Le Figaro in February 1909. The Futurists, he declared, would celebrate ‘a new beauty, the beauty of speed’; the movement’s artists would ‘glorify war – the world’s only hygiene’, and sweep away the art forms of previous generation, in a triumphant uprising of youth: ‘For too long has Italy been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We will free Italy from her innumerable museums which cover her like countless cemeteries.’

An early member of the Italian Fascist Party, Marinetti went on to support Mussolini; but his politics seem not to have deterred a number of contemporary fashion designers from citing Futurism in their current collections. Who knows whether they’ve embarked upon an in-depth study of the Manifesto – a document that will presumably be available at the Tate Modern when its Futurism exhibition opens next week – but it does provide a context for several leading designers’ work this season. Missoni’s spring/summer collection includes prints inspired by Italian Futurist art (in particular Dottori’s ‘aero-paintings’); and the hi-tech futurism displayed at Calvin Klein, Yves St Laurent, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen seems of a piece with Marinetti’s advocacy of technological innovation and slick urban industry. “We want no part of it, the past,” he wrote in his Manifesto, “we the young and strong Futurists!”

Of course, however passionate the commitment to a vision of the future, it can still have a distinct whiff of the past. Gareth Pugh’s version of futurism is a sci-fi fantasy with dresses that hover somewhere between costume designs for ‘Predator’ and historical drama, encompassing medieval armour and Elizabeth ruffs, mixed up with extra-terrestrial reptilian scales. As for Francisco Costa’s current collection for Calvin Klein: he uses the silvery semi-sheer fabrics of an eroticised Hollywood space-age movie, the kind where beautiful heroines display a flash of nipple alongside the blaze of their laser-guns.

Marinetti never went as fast as he had hoped – in fact, he wrote his Futurist manifesto after crashing his car into a ditch to avoid two cyclists – and his poems and plays have mostly lapsed into obscurity. It remains to be seen whether fashion’s latest take on Futurism will survive beyond this summer, or sink, deflated, into a morass of discarded clothes. Right now, I’m more intrigued by the report that three astronauts in the International Space Station have been watching the remake of ‘Star Trek’ on a laptop, thereby proving that the past is always present in the future.

10 comments:

kairu said...

I remember writing a paper as a college student, years ago, comparing the paintings and sculpture of the Futurists Umberto Boccioni and Giacomo Balla (which had left me breathless when I stood before them in the Museum of Modern Art in New York) with the photographs of motorists taken by Lartigue. There was such a sense of possibility, of movement towards something utterly and electrifyingly new. The train crossing the canvas, a dog on a leash, a be-goggled motorist shooting towards the edge of the frame like a comet. It has stayed with me all the years since, and will forever.

In the film "Code 46," the director Michael Winterbottom sets the story in the future, but films it in present day locations, giving the the technology of the distant future an unnervingly realistic edge. If what's past is prologue, then the future is present.

harriet said...

I own hardly any shoes -- I only wear boots, sandals or clogs -- but I have to say these ones are total heaven.

Justine Picardie said...

Completely agree -- about shoes and Lartigue.
Haven't seen Code 46, but must do. But it would be hard to better (or be bleaker) than Children of Men.

oxford-reader said...

I'm not a fan of modern art particularly, but Balla makes my heart stop every time I look at his paintings. One, in particular, just takes my breath away. It's 'Streetlight' - I would post the link, but it's so long, it wouldn't work on here.

I love the shoes too - although I could never walk in them!

Justine Picardie said...

Oh, please do post the link. Otherwise I'll have to start googling it, when I should be finishing my book instead.

oxford-reader said...

Anything to stop you procrastinating, and help the author, Justine ;-)

http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Balla_Streetlight_1909.jpg

Justine Picardie said...

V. good.

kairu said...

I have not seen Children of Men, so I don't know about better or bleaker, but Code 46 is a beautiful movie. The cinematography (it was filmed in Shanghai, London, Dubai, and Jaipur) and music are incredible. Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton may not be the usual romantic couple, but they are very interesting in this film.

I love Balla's painting of a dog walking, its legs a blur of motion. I think of my own late canine companion, and how my friend, spying us through his kitchen window, would exclaim, "Your dog has no legs!" (Chow Chows are very furry creatures). That streetlight painting is likewise mesmerizing.

Those McQueen shoes are amazing - modern and romantic, minimalist and luxurious, all at once.

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Yes they look to me like shoes the slightly wicked Queen would wear in a fairytale!This is Primrose by the way. I'm in the process of trying to get my own Blog started (a slow process as I'm not great with technical things even a Google template sadly) I had to comment on these lovelies.

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