In the beginning of the 1910’s, Jose de Almada Negreiros, together with the writers Fernando Pessoa and Mario de Sa-Carneiro and the young artists Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, Santa Rita Pintor, Eduardo Viana and Jose Pacheco, tried out daring and unusual formats of writing, drawing and public gestures that reflected Futurist predecessors and acted as a force of change in Portugal. Together, they set up the magazine Orpheu, which became the emblematic periodical of Portuguese Modernism. Almada distinguished himself with his Manifesto Anti-Dantas e por extenso, a polemical pamphlet directed against Julio Dantas and everyone who contributed to the cultural and artistic backwardness of the country, and with the poem-manifesto, A cena do ódio, written for the third issue of Orpheu, which was not published at the time. In the years 1915-17, Almada Negreiros became a propagandist-performer who adapted Marinetti’s technique of Words-in-Freedom (parole in liberta) and almost completely set aside his production as a fine artist. After the creation of a Lisbon Futurist Committee in 1917, Almada presented himself to the public in a first Futurist soiree. Shortly afterwards, the only issue of Portugal futurista appeared and was immediately seized by the police. In 1918, after the death of Santa Rita Pintor and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, Almada’s enthusiasm for the avant-garde began to fade and Portuguese Futurism found an early end. In 1919, before leaving for Paris, Almada became involved in an aristocratic intellectual circle in Lisbon and devoted himself to the creation of ballets inspired by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
In this essay I examine the question of the Catalan avant-garde’s relation to the Mechanical Age in light of works by four artists who approached technology with a ‘futurist’ sensibility, and were enthusiastically swept away by the zeitgeist of the times - the speed, novelty and adventure of the machine era - but who also recognized and negotiated with its destructive elements. By analysing representative works by the painter Joaquim Torres-Garcia, the poet Joan Salvat-Papasseit, the architect Josep Lluis Sert and the film director Segundo de Chomon, I explore how Catalan Futurism engaged with the dynamic forces of modernity, and how it incorporated local and traditional sources of inspiration, thereby balancing internationalist impulses with autochthonous nationalist urges. What Salvat-Papasseit’s anarchic visual poetry, Torre-Garcia’s constructivist paintings, Sert’s rationalist structures and Chomon’s proto-futurist film art share is a radical experimentalism with the materials of their craft. Their oeuvre is simultaneously informed by their authors’ socio-political concerns and tempered by their various degrees of involvement with the Catalan nationalist project. In every case, studying their relationship to the mechanical illuminates their particular and variable understanding of the different Catalan Futurism(s).
This essay argues for an interpretation of Ultraism as a case of hybridity that incorporated disparate avant-garde tendencies - Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism and Expressionism - in order to overcome the preceding modernista tradition. Although this vanguard movement never acquired a privileged position within European experimentalism, it possessed a thriving history in Latin America, where it took roots in the main capitals - Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Caracas, Santiago - and adopted new forms thanks to the efforts of Jorge Luis Borges and Guillermo de Torre. Particularly influenced by Futurist typography, the ultraístas utilized the potentialities of manifestos, articles and poems to bring about direct and immediate effects. This essay examines a series of poems by Guillermo de Torre, Xavier Boveda, Rafael Lasso de la Vega, Jorge Luis Borges and Volt in order to reflect on avant-garde cross-fertilizations and the impact of pictorial images on poetic language. Along these lines, the Spanish episode of Jorge Luis Borges and Norah Borges is a model case of artistic cross-disciplinarity. In an ekphrastic gesture, Norah Borges translated her brother’s prism aesthetics into plastic forms and, reciprocally, Jorge Luis Borges wrote poems based on his sister’s figurative art. Refusing to be confined to an isolated stance, Ultraism partook of migratory movements and exchanges, furthering extremely fertile alignments that conditioned its hybrid identity.
Shortly after two Portuguese newspapers gave notice of Marinetti’s publication of the Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism, a turn towards modernist forms of expression can be found in Portugal, especially in the magazines A águia and Orpheu. It was here that Fernando Pessoa and Mario de Sa-Carneiro began their literary career and inititated a process of cultural innovation. Echoes of Futurist doctrines can be found in Pessoa’s concepts of Paulism, Intersectionism and Sensationism, Almada-Negreiros’ Cena do ódio and in the recitation of this ‘Scene’ at the Teatro Republica (4 April 1917). After the failure to bring out a third issue of Orpheu, a Futurist group assembled in Faro where, in 1917, they published a number of Futurist works in the periodical O heraldo and organized an art exhibition in a gallery. The crowning achievement of the development was undoubtedly the publication of the magazine Portugal futurista (November 1917). The early death of three key figures in the young Futurist circle of Lisbon (Mario de Sa-Carneiro, Santa Rita Pintor and Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso) caused a premature demise of the movement, which was also likely to have been the reason for Marinetti’s much delayed fist visit to Lisbon in 1932.