Artist and Musician Biographies

SPACETIME

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"Are we there yet?" is a common question on long airline flights. A trip from Chicago to Los Angeles that would take four or five days by automobile takes only four to five hours by air travel. An easy explanation for this difference in time is the speed of travel – it is faster to fly than to drive. But if you could travel the same distance at 2000 miles per hour, you might reach the West Coast earlier than when you departed from the Midwest. This is a simple example of what is knowns as the collapse of space and time, or the spacetime continuum.

So how would this look in visual form? Artists have been fascinated with the relation of space and time. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was part of a group of artists called Futurists. He was very interested in the changes in understanding of spacetime when the wireless (known later as the radio) came into use.

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti

This animated/live action video is an interpretation of F.T. Marinetti's 1909 Futurist Manifesto.

The Italian artist F. T. Marinetti had something different to say about new visual forms. He was a “Futurist,” who was interested in the advancements of electrified technologies like the wireless radio. Marinetti referred to radio not as the mass broadcasting we know today, but as a wireless two-way communication device. Earlier in the nineteenth century, electrified communication occurred by telegraph. Then the telephone was introduced as the transmission of vocal sounds with electricity. In 1913, the wireless telegraph sent pulses as Morse code through space to form words transmitted without wires.

Marinetti considered the wireless to be a metaphor for his poetry. He used a page format called telelanguage, in which words were placed on the page in random order, in various typefaces. These were what he called words without wires, or words without the structure of syntax and grammar. (Click the link to MoMA to see examples of this poetry.) At its essence, Marinetti's approach was about movement toward the future. Nothing was static and communication, language, and industry were about movement, unrestricted by wires.

The impact was even more dramatic when the first radio broadcasts of the 1920s and 1930s transmitted not just words, but live broadcasts from nightclubs and auditoriums, which introduced a generation of youth to the new sounds of jazz.