The Beauty of Speed

14 03 2012

“We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace. “

-F.T. Marinetti, The Futurist Manifesto, 1909

I came across this quote while doing some research on the rise and fall of the Modernist movement and its Italian cousin, Futurism (long story).

I like to think that Marinetti was envisioning something like the 1908 Brutus, a 46-liter V12-powered fire-breathing monster, when he penned his Manifesto.

To a resident of Italy, whose industries lagged behind those of Western Europe, a new racing car must have been especially bewildering – like a space ship touching down in a wheat field would be today.

It’s not difficult to understand how “speed,” a word which only took on its modern meaning with the 19th century development of the steam locomotive, became almost an aesthetic onto itself to forward-looking artists and theorists like Marinetti. The concept only became more relevant once mass-production technology put the automobile, and thus, the potential for speed, into the hands of the common man.

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