Gramsci - 214 THE AVANT-GARDE 14 ANTONIO...

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Unformatted text preview: 214 THE AVANT-GARDE 14 ANTONIO GRAMSCI (1891—1937) 'MARINE'ITI THE REVOLUTIONARY' 1916; 'THEATRE AND CINEMA' 1921 Italian theorirt and political actioirt, mainh} known for hit writing; on caltaralpoliticr and aesthetics Gramrci war leader (yr the Italian Communist Para! and was a Commnnirt dating; in the Italian parliament when he war arrerted hyfarcirti in Rome in 7926. He spent the cert if lJlJ‘ lifiz in priron and in homital. Hit writings on caltnrefinn an important part of the Marxirt dehater on culture, commitment and Formalirm. Cramrci’r particular contribution to there dehater reooloer around his concern with aoantgarde art and popular culture. Hi: kg concept; of hegemoigi, the relationrhip hetween centre and periphegi, the role of the intellectual and the fanction ty‘ Eli/’51 rociety are deoeloped in Selections from Cultural Writings and Selections from the Prison Notebooks, hath pnhlirhed porthnmowhi. ‘Theatre and Cinema‘ was first pnhlirhed in Avanti! in 1916 and ‘M'arinetti the Reoolntionagt' in L’Ordine Nuovo, in 1921. The); are tramlated h} lVilliam Boelhowerfor Selections from Cultural Writings (David Forgacr and Geojirey Nowell/Smith ed;, London 1985). [fee Hh la] Marinetti the Revolutionary This incredible, enormous, colossal event has happened, which, if divulged, threatens completely to destroy all the prestige and reputation of the Communist International: during the Second Congress in Moscow, comrade Lunacharsky, in his speech to the Italian delegates (a speech given, mark you, in Italian, excellent Italian even; so that any suspicion of a dubious interpretation must a priori be rejected), said that in Italy there lives a revolutionary intellectual by the name of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. The philistines of the workers’ movement are extremely shocked. It is now certain that to the insults of being called ‘Bergsonian voluntarists, pragmatists and spiritualists’ will be added the more deadly one of ‘Futuristsl Marinettians!’ Since such a fate awaits us, let us see if we can raise ourselves to a self—awareness of our new intellectual position. Many groups of workers looked kindly towards Futurism (before the European war). It happened very often (before the war) that groups of workers would defend the Futurists from the attacks of cliques of professional ‘artists’ and ‘littérateurs’. This point established, this historical observation made, the question automatically arises: ‘In this attitude of the workers was there an intuition (here we are with the word intuition: Bergsonians, Bergsonians) of an unsatisfied need in the proletarian field?’ We must answer: ‘Yes. The revolutionary working class was and is aware that it musr found a new state, that by its tenacious and patient labour it must elaborate a new economic structure and found a new civilization.’ It is relatively easy to outline right from this moment the shape of the new state and the new economic structure. In this absolutely practical field, we are convinced that for a certain time the only possible thing to do will be to exercise an iron—like power over the existing organization, over that constructed by the bourgeoisie. From this conviction comes the stimulus to struggle for the conquest of power and from it comes the formula by which Lenin has characterized the workers’ state: ‘For a certain time the workers’ state cannot be other than a bourgeois state without the bourgeoisie.’ FORMU The b2 mysterio passed ft the samt forms wi born? It by a wor for the 5 Nothing proletari field too there wil music pt social or present the ecor that it if prejudic- audacitit workerr or if yo carried ( destroy: the who impetuc age ofhig culture, the wor done. \It not afrz and plaj of a prt They 5: firms h desertir -GARDE 21 i amt/Jean. 1x52 [ta/fan re in prison on try/tare, aroma’ lair elatz'am/gép .9 dew/oped woks, 502% 7976 and V WALT-am well—Smith hreatens national: :h to the ; so that t in Italy etti. The n that to ists’ will waits us, )osition. uropean l defend rs’. This ly arises: 71e word in field?’ : it must e a new me right :. In this possible )n, over tulus to h Lenin nnot be i l l l l i 5 g FORMULATIONS AND DECLARATIONS 215 W The battlefield for the creation of a new civilization is, on the other hand, absolutely mysterious, absolutely characterized by the unforeseeable and the unexpected. Having passed from capitalist power to workers’ power, the factory will continue to produce the same material things that it produces today. But in what way and under what forms will poetry, drama, the novel, music, painting and moral and linguistic works be born? It is not a material factory that produces these works. It cannot be reorganized by a workers’ power according to a plan. One cannot establish its rate of production for the satisfaction of immediate needs, to be controlled and determined statistically. Nothing in this field is foreseeable except for this general hypothesis: there will be a proletarian culture (a civilization) totally different from the bourgeois one and in this field too class distinctions will be shattered. Bourgeois careerism will be shattered and there will be a poetry, a novel, a theatre, a moral code, a language, a painting and a music peculiar to proletarian civilization, the flowering and ornament of proletarian social organization. What remains to be done? Nothing other than to destroy the present form of civilization. In this field, ‘to destroy’ does not mean the same as in the economic field. It does not mean to deprive humanity of the material products that it needs to subsist and to develop. It means to destroy spiritual hierarchies, prejudices, idols and ossified traditions. It means nor to be afraid of innovations and audacities, not to be afraid of monsters, not to believe that the world will collapse if a worker makes grammatical misrakes, if a poem limps, if a picture resembles a hoarding or if young men sneer at academic and feeble—minded senility. The Futurists have carried out this task in the field of bourgeois culture. They have destroyed, destroyed, destroyed, without worrying if the new creations produced by their activity were on the whole superior to those destroyed. They have had confidence in themselves, in the impetuosity of their youthful energies. They baae (grasped rbarpb: and (fearfi; that our age, the age of big indartgl, aft/36 large pmletariaa rig); aad greateme and Mam/twat lift, was in need ofaew firms oyrarf, pailompéy, behaviour and language. This sharply revolutionary and absolutely Mancist idea came to them when the Socialists were not even vaguely interested in Such a question, when the Socialists certainly did not have as precise an idea in politics and economics, when the Socialists would have been frightened (as is evident from the current fear of many of them) by the thought that it was necessary to shatter the machine of bourgeois power in the state and the factory. In their field, the field of culture, the Futurists are revolutionaries. In this field it is likely to be a long time before the working classes will manage to do anything more creative than the Futurists have done. When they supported the Futurists, the workers’ groups showed that they were not afraid of destruction, certain as they were of being able to create poetry, paintings and plays, like the Futurists; these workers were supporting historicity, the possibility of a proletarian culture created by the workers themselves. Theatre and Cinema They say that the cinema is killing the theatre. They say that in Turin the theatrical firms have kept their hOuses closed during the summer months because the public is deserting the theatre and thronging to the cinemas. The new film industry has sprung 216 THE AVANT-GABDE m up and caught on in Turin. In Turin luxurious cinemas have been opened, with few equals in Europe, and are always crowded out. There would seem to be some basis to the sad observation that the audience’s taste has degenerated and that bad times are round the corner for the theatre. We, however, are thoroughly convinced that these complaints are founded on a jaded aestheticism and can easily be shown to depend on a false assumption. The reason for the success of the cinema and its absorption of former theatre audiences is purely economic. The cinema offers exactly the same sensations as the popular theatre, but under better conditions, without the choreographic contrivances of a false intellectualism, without promising too much while delivering little. The usual stage presentations are nothing but cinema. The most commonly staged productions are nothing but fabrics of external facts, lacking any human content, in which talking puppets move about variously, without ever drawing out a psychological truth, without ever managing to impose on the listener’s creative imagination a character or passions that are truly felt and adequately expressed. Psychological insincerity and lame artistic expression have reduced the theatre to the same level as the pantomime. The sole aim is to create in the audience the illusion of a life which is only outwardly different from everyone’s normal life. Only the geographical horizon, the social environment, of the characters is changed, all the things which in life are subjects for the picture postcard, for visual curiosity, not for artistic curiosity or the curiosity of fantasy. And nobody can deny that in this respect the film is incontrovertibly superior to the stage. It is more complete and more varied. It is silent; in other words it reduces the role of the artists to movement alone, to being machines without souls, to what they really are in the theatre as well. It is ludicrous to take it out on the cinema. Talking about vulgarity, banality, etc., is feeble rhetoric. Those who really believe that the theatre has an artistic function should instead be happy with this competition. It serves to precipitate things, to bring the theatre back to its true character. There is no doubt that a large proportion of the public needs to be entertained (to relax by shifting its field of attention) with a pure visual distraction. By becoming an industry, the theatre has recently tried to satisfy this need alone. It has become quite simply a business, a shop dealing in cheap junk. It is only by accident that they put on productions that have an eternal universal value. The cinema, which can fulfil this function more easily and more cheaply, is more successful than the theatre and is tending to replace it. The theatrical firms and companies will eventually realize that they need to change tack if they want to stay in being. It is not true that the public is deserting the theatres. We have seen theatres that were empty for a large number of productions fill up, become suddenly crowded for a special evening when a masterpiece was exhumed or even more modestly, a typical work of a past style, but which had a particular quality of its own. What the theatre now offers as an exception must become the rule. Shakespeare, Goldoni, Beaumarchais may indeed require active effort to be properly staged but they are also beyond any banal compee tition. D’Annunzio, Bernstein, Bataille will always be more successful in the cinema. The grimace and the physical contortion find in the film material more appropriate to their expression. And the useless, boring and insincere rhetorical tirades will once again become literature, nothing but literature, dead and buried in books and libraries. i i l l l l ! l l l i FORMULA Rama}: lift linguistic ml two graapr, Language () an the form: here come f! iégy concept dirmpt 0r 2 translation 2' Marion]. 5. ‘Art is thii is neverthi together SK Poetryi which pen for ‘a sens this econo ‘Withm have led i been mac thought. Nevertl the usual has survi‘ in the w movemen Many : of ‘roads of poetry as they c images cl to poet, ' Lord’s’. 7 the imagt unchange according their arra ...
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