Futurgraphy. Calligraphy and Type in Italian Futurism
During Italian Futurism, calligraphy, lettering and type where testimony of the movement’s rule-breaking spirit. The futurist artist’s use of typefaces pretended to destroy both the solid conventions of nineteenth-century books and the trends of fin de siècle publications by means of returning to and original irrationalism. The claim for madness took futurist writers and painters to reject literary traditions in order to achieve a written rendering of ideas based on utterance and ennunciation. The attack on traditional printed type took the form of longhand and calligraphic texts, a movement that extended over a period of more than thirty years, which resulted in some of the more risky cutting-edge printed productions and which influenced the contemporary and subsequent literary and artistic vanguards. […]
Futurism’s typographic revolution started in 1912, when Marinetti came up with his “parole in libertà” (words in freedom), where poetry assumes an agglutinative role erasing all differences with other arts, particularly painting and music. The anthology “I poeti futuristi” (1912) concludes this Futurist experimentation linked to free verse — a Symbolist habit that signaled the origins of the italian vanguard movement — in order to adapt quicker and more modern expressions through the words in freedom.
The traditional typographic architecture was destroyed on the new creative mediums. Marinetti published directly in French the “Manifesto Tecnico della Letteratura Futurista” (1912) announcing the abolition of every grammatical and syntactic construction. The manifesto was followed by “Supplemento” (1912) which further settled the innovations and was published together with “Battaglia peso + odore” (1912), a poem invaded by belligerence, violence, the ideas os city, the machine and irreverence which was also an example of words in freedom. The aim of setting the words free responded to an automatic element similar to the one created by André Breton in 1919, pure creation without a grammar and syntax force guiding it. […] In October that same year Marinetti resumed the writing of “Zang Tumb Tuuum”, responding with his words to the visual innovations performed by Braque and Picasso. He also published “Distruzione della sintassi. Immaginazione senza fili. Parole in libertà” (1913) where he stands up for a typographic revolution starting with the destruction of colour and type size harmony. “Radiotelegraphic” literature was writing without wires. It had to be able to pass on messages abolishing the medium and the differences between all expressive methodologies. Thus, letters becomes mere objects, signs, conveying a sense of “a new topographically pictorial page” which condemned symbolism and Mallarmé’s innovations. The new typography had to be conformed by modern visual elements, simultaneous images, aeroplanes, dirigibles, cars, trains, energies and explosions and even — Marinettis’ words —, molecules and atoms.
The publication of “Zang Tumb Tuuum” in 1914 surpassed the traditional book form, in the visual pages glyphs breathe as if they were alive. Although most of the book is printed using press type, the significance of drawn letterings is undeniable in sketches such as “Bombardament d’Adrinople” (1913). Starting with the “Zang Tumb Tuuum” publication and until the decay of the movement in the mid forties, many artists and writers made their “tablas paroliberas” (freeword panels) using similar elements with different solutions.