Wednesday 2 February 2011


Giacomo Balla, 'Il Giardino Futurista', 1916-1930
reconstruction at Nordenhake gallery in 2003

'Compenetrazione iridescente - Eucalyptus', 1914

Giacomo Balla, 'Il Giardino Futurista', 1930

Giacomo Balla, 'Futurist Suit', 1913-1918

The Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe
by Giacomo Balla and Fortunato Depero
March 11, 1915

We Futurists, Balla and Depero, seek to realize this total fusion in order to reconstruct the universe making it more joyful, in other words by a complete re-creation. We will give skeleton and flesh to the invisible, the impalpable, the imponderable and the imperceptible. We will find abstract equivalents for every form and element in the universe, and then we will combine them according to the caprice of our inspiration, creating plastic complexes which we will set in motion. Balla initially studied the speed of automobiles, thus discovering the laws and essential line-forces of speed. After more than twenty exploratory paintings, he understood that the flat plane of the canvas prevented him from reproducing the dynamic volume of speed in depth. Balla felt the need to construct, with strands of wire, cardboard sheets, fabrics, tissue paper, etc., the first dynamic plastic complex.

1. Abstract.
2. Dynamic. Relative movement (cinematographic) + absolute movement.
3. Extremely transparent. Because of the speed and volatility of the plastic complex, which must appear and disappear, light and impalpable.
4. Brightly colored and extremely luminous (using internal lights).
5. Autonomous, that is, resembling itself alone.
6. Transformable.
7. Dramatic.
8. Volatile.
9. Odorous.
10. Noise-creating. Simultaneous plastic noisiness with plastic expression.
11. Explosive, elements appear and disappear simultaneously with a bang.

The free-wordist Marinetti, when we showed him our first plastic complexes, said enthusiastically: “Before us, art consisted of memory, anguished re-evocation of a lost Object (happiness, love, landscape), and therefore nostalgia, immobility, pain, distance. With Futurism art has become action-art, that is, energy of will, optimism, aggression, possession, penetration, joy, brutal reality in art. (e.g. onomatopoeia; e.g. intonarumori = motors), geometric splendor of forces, forward projection. Art becomes Presence, a new Object, the new reality created with the abstract elements of the universe. The hands of the traditionalist artist ached for the lost Object; our hands longed for a new object to create. That is why the new object (plastic complex) appears miraculously in yours.”

Necessary means: Colored strands of wire, cotton, wool, silk, of every thickness. Colored glass, tissue paper, celluloid, wire netting, every sort of transparent and bright material. Fabrics, mirrors, sheets of metal, colored tin-foil, every sort of gaudy material. Mechanical and electrical devices; musical and noise-making elements, chemically luminous liquids of variable colors; springs, levers, tubes, etc. With these means we will construct:
1. Plastic complexes rotating on a pivot (horizontal, vertical, oblique).
2. Plastic complexes rotating on several pivots:
a. in the same direction but with varying speeds;
b. in opposite directions;
c. in the same and opposite directions.

3. Plastic complexes which break up:
a. into volumes;
b. into layers;
c. in successive transformations (cones, pyramids, spheres, etc.).
4. Plastic complexes which break up, talk, make noises and play music simultaneously.

Decomposition, Transformation → Form + Expansion → Onomatopoeias, Sounds, Noises.

Miracle Magic:
5. Plastic complexes which appear and disappear:
a. slowly;
b. by repeated jerks (in scales);
c. with unexpected explosions. Pyrotechnics—Water—Fire—Smoke.

Using complex, constructive, noise-producing abstraction, in short, the Futurist style. Every action developed in space, every emotion felt, will represent for us a possible discovery. Examples: Watching an aeroplane swiftly climbing while a band played in the square, we had the idea of plasticmotor- noise music in space and the launching of aerial concerts above the city. The need to keep changing our environment, together with sport, led us to the idea of transformable clothes (mechanical trimmings, surprises, tricks, disappearance of individuals). The simultaneity of speed and noises inspired the rotoplastic noise fountain. Tearing up a book and throwing it down into a courtyard resulted in phono-moto-plastic advertisement and pyrotechnic-plastic-abstract contests. A spring garden blown by the wind led to the concept of the Magical transformable motor-noise flower. — Clouds flying in a storm suggested buildings in noise-ist transformable style.

In games and toys, as in all traditionalist manifestations, there is nothing but grotesque imitation, timidity (little trains, prams, puppets), immobile objects, stupid caricatures of domestic objects, antigymnastic and monotonous, which can only cretinize and depress a child. With plastic complexes we will construct toys which will accustom the child:
1. to completely spontaneous laughter (through absurdly comical tricks);
2. to maximum elasticity (without resorting to thrown projectiles, whip cracking, pin pricks, etc.);
3. to imaginative impulses (by using fantastic toys to be studied under a magnifying glass, small boxes to be opened at night containing pyrotechnic marvels, transforming devices, etc.)
4. to the continual exercise and sharpening of his sensitivity (in the unbounded realms of acute and exciting noises, smells and colors)
5. to physical courage, to fighting and to war (with gigantic, dangerous and aggressive toys that will work outdoors).
The Futurist toy will be very useful to adults too, keeping them young, agile, jubilant, spontaneous, ready for anything, untiring, instinctive and intuitive.

By developing the first synthesis of the speed of an automobile, Balla created the first plastic ensemble. This revealed an abstract landscape composed of cones, pyramids, polyhedrons, and the spiral of mountains, rivers, lights and shadows. Evidently a profound analogy exists between the essential line-forces of speed and the essential line-forces of a landscape. We have reached the deepest essence of the universe and have mastered the elements. We shall thus be able to construct.

Fusion of art + science. Chemistry, physics, continuous and unexpected pyrotechnics all incorporated into a new creature, a creature that will speak, shout and dance automatically. We Futurists, Balla and Depero, will construct millions of metallic animals for the greatest war (conflagration of all the creative energies of Europe, Asia, Africa and America, which will undoubtedly follow the current marvelous little human conflagration). The inventions contained in this manifesto are absolute creations, generated entirely by Italian Futurism. No artist in France, Russia, England or Germany anticipated us by inventing anything similar or analogous. Only the Italian genius, which is the most constructive and architectural, could invent the abstract plastic ensemble. With this Futurism has determined its style, which will inevitably dominate the sensibility of many centuries to come.


Futurist Manifesto of Men's Clothing
by Giacomo Balla
Manuscript. 1913

We Futurists, in those brief gaps between our great struggles for renewal, have spent the time discussing, as is our wont, very many subjects. For quite some time now we have been convinced that today's clothes, while they may be somewhat simplified to suit certain modern requirements, are still atrociously passéist.

WE MUST DESTROY ALL PASSÉIST CLOTHES, and everything about them which is tight-fitting, colourless, funereal, decadent, boring and unhygienic. As far as materials are concerned, we must abolish: wishywashy, pretty-pretty, gloomy, and neutral colours, along with patterns composed of lines, checks and spots. In cut and design: the abolition of static lines, all uniformities such as ridiculous turn-ups, vents, etc. Let us finish with the humiliating and hypocritical custom of wearing mourning. Our crowded streets, our theatres and cafés are all imbued with a depressingly funereal tonality, because clothes are made only to reflect the gloomy and dismal moods of today's passéists.

WE MUST INVENT FUTURIST CLOTHES, hap-hap-hap-hap-happy clothes, daring clothes with brilliant colours and dynamic lines. They must be simple, and above all they must be made to last for a short time only in order to encourage industrial activity and to provide constant and novel enjoyment for our bodies. USE materials with forceful MUSCULAR colours - the reddest of reds, the most purple of purples, the greenest of greens, intense yellows, orange, vermilion - and SKELETON tones of white, grey and black. And we must invent dynamic designs to go with them and express them in equally dynamic shapes: triangles, cones, spirals, ellipses, circles, etc. The cut must incorporate dynamic and asymmetrical lines, with the left-hand sleeve and left side of a jacket in circles and the right in squares. And the same for waistcoats, stockings, topcoats, etc. The consequent merry dazzle produced by our clothes in the noisy streets, which we shall have transformed with our FUTURIST architecture, will mean that everything will begin to sparkle like the glorious prism of a jeweler’s gigantic glass-front, and all around us we shall find acrobatic blocks of colours set out like the following wordshapes:

Coffeecomhou Rosegreebastocap transpomotocar legcutshop blueblackwhitehouses aerocigarend skyroofliftyellight anomoviesphot barbebbenpurp.

Human beings, until now, have dressed (more or less) in black mourning.
We are fighting against:
(a) the timidity and symmetry of colours, colours which are arranged in wishy-washy patterns of idiotic spots and stripes;
(b) all forms of lifeless attire which make man feel tired, depressed, miserable and sad, and which restrict movement producing a triste wanness;
(c) so-called 'good taste' and harmony, which weaken the soul and take the spring out of the step.

We want Futurist clothes to be comfortable and practical
Flying (i.e. giving the idea of flying, rising and running)
Illuminating (in order to have light even in the rain)
Lit by electric lamps.

Pattern changes should be available by pneumatic dispatch; in this way anyone may change his clothes according to the needs of mood. Available modifications will include:

As a result we shall have the necessary variety of clothes, even if the people of a given city lack the imagination themselves. The happiness of our Futurist clothes will help to spread the kind of good humour aimed at by my great friend PaIazzeschi in his manifesto against sadness.

Shortly to appear: a Futurist manifesto on Women's Clothing

images of the reconstruction of Balla's futurist garden from

I am thankful to artist Ludovica Giosca for introducing me to Balla's work.


  1. Does any have a picture of the back of Balla's orange/red/yellow/brown Futurist Suit shown on this page?