Umberto Boccioni, “Elasticitá” (1912). While Picasso was developing cubism, the Italian futurists were describing the existential condition foretold by large-scale industrialization and the rise of technologization. In this example, we are far from the mindless bureaucracy of Kafka or Fitz Lang’s “Metropolis.” Instead of the human being subjugated to the machine, what we see here is the disformulation of humanity, nature and machine, the conditions of their mutual simulation, and the loss of categories like nature and man. What are these forms? The painting evokes a single plain of being, on which all entities are equally inscrutable.
The futurists in Italy set the stage, then, for a form of technologically seated totalitarianism, the fascism that would be ushered in some ten years later with Mussolini’s rise in 1922. Fascism, like totalitarianism, does not distinguish between nature, human and machine, but instead views them as different perspectives on the order of being itself, which fascism claims to grasp and impose through law: to find the law of nature, which operates like a machine, in man, and to punish any deviation therefrom.
This ethos, especially in the guise of futurism, is aligned with accelerationism, the doctrine that hopes to speed up society’s progress through maximizing industrial and technological development. Sprinting toward the future described by Kant, Marx and other visionaries of the future of Modern society. This sprint itself requires the streamlining and consolidation of the categories of nature, man and machine - and, paradoxically, assumes that human rights must be denied in order for them to be fully realized in the future.
This painting reminds us then of the necessity to move slowly, and in so doing, to remain with the difficult differentiations between natural, human and technological entities, to hold onto difference while we seek unity and solidarity in the political realm.
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