Futurist Performance and Marketing

Author: Walter Barbieri

Barbieri, Walter, 2018 Futurist Performance and Marketing, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Performance, as a central feature of the Italian futurist movement's artistic output, has been the subject of significant scholarly research, most notably since the late 1970s through the work of Michael Kirby, G√ľnter Berghaus and Claudia Salaris, among others.

Prior to the 1970s, the movement's political interactions with Italian fascism had come under repeated scrutiny, often obfuscating futurism's artistic merits. Despite a re-evaluation of the futurist oeuvre instigated by the recent centenary of the movement's inception, little existing research examines the futurists' marketing practice. Specifically, no research focuses on the way futurist performance interacted with the movement's marketing practices. Seeking to address this lacuna, this study centres on primary sources unearthed in the Getty Research Institute's Italian Futurism archive, Rovereto's MART Museum and the Casa Depero, together with a wide range of secondary sources.

The main objective of the present study is to explore the ways futurist performance and marketing developed symbiotically.

The historical nature of this discussion demands an exploration of the relevant contexts surrounding futurism. These include the political, aesthetic and commercial environments within which the movement operated. Futurism emerges as a significantly influential avant-garde that shook the European artistic status quo and heralded the advent of modernism while displaying many characteristics of postmodernism. Most surprising is the speed of the rise in popularity of futurism in early 20th-century Europe, the causes of which lie in the futurists' obsession with self-promotion and propagation.

This study emphasises the typically commercial nature of the collaboration between exponents of futurism and the advertising industry of the time. This continuous interaction deeply influenced the futurist aesthetic, right through from manifesto writing to the visual arts and performance. The research identifies a series of strategies that taken together constituted futurist marketing practice. Analysis of these strategies reveals that the futurists understood the propagatory power of performativity and injurious speech acts.

The most noteworthy examples of futurist marketing occur in conjunction with their performance art, particularly futurist serate and futurist variety theatre. In reconstructing these types of performances, this inquiry points to the importance of the futurists' developments in site-specific performance and audience theory. Futurist performance presents itself as a commodity in its own right, one that repositions spectators as consumers.

Finally, the branding practice of the futurist movement is brought to light. By drawing upon recent developments in branding theory, this thesis ascertains the extent to which the futurists' practice anticipated today's brand management processes. In their choice of name, of their logo design and in their development of a brand identity, the futurists are seen to practice several characteristics of contemporary brand management. The research pin-points worship of the machine as the central motif of the futurist brand, and then follows the wide-ranging sub-branding of this core symbol in the artistic output of the movement.

The conclusion argues that the futurists grasped the growing importance of attention itself in modern metropolitan societies. This understanding was far-sighted, and was realised through their artistic practices, and most prominently through their performance.

The main thrust of this thesis is, therefore, a re-appreciation of futurism as an early precursor, and perhaps even an instigator, of the late capitalist Western cultures we recognise as today.

Keywords: Futurism, Performance, Marketing, Branding, Marinetti, Futurist, Theatre, Advertising

Subject: Drama

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2018
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Maggie Ivanova