Performance Art

1 Futurism

On January 12, 1910, at the Teatro Rosetti in Trieste, the first futurist performance (or Serata Futurista) took place. These events grew in size and complexity, but they did maintain an aesthetic core: confrontation (direct engagement with the audience) and simultaneity (more than one thing happening at the same time). Poetry and manifestos would be declaimed at the same time, paintings hung around the stage, music blaring. For Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the founder of the movement, the closest parallel was to be found in variety theater, with its mix of films, acrobats, singers, dancers, clowns—the whole gamut of stupidity, imbecility, doltishness, and absurdity, insensibly pushing the intelligence to the very borders of madness.[1] This storm of simultaneous activity was a true reflection of the conditions of modern urban life, the futurists claimed. Few areas of life were left untouched by them, whether food, film, architecture, painting, theater, literature, or music.

This approach later was most effectively developed by Luigi Russolo, a painter, who set out his agenda in the manifesto The Art of Noises, published in 1913. The promotion of noise as a central element of modern life and modern music required the invention of new instrumental resources, the intonarumori, noise-intoning machines that Russolo built to play his noise music. This noise aesthetic had emerged partly from Marinetti’s sound poetry, perhaps the most famous of which was Zang tumb, tumb (1912). Marinetti’s poetry is visually as well as sonically innovative, mixing fonts, word sizes, and orientation on the page. Russolo also invented a new notation to represent his noise music.