Chicks On Speed piss all over the dead futurists at Tate Modern

Yesterday I went to see the Futurism exhibition at Tate Modern. The first thing in this display is a large blown-up poster of F. T. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism, which included the following: “We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, we will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice… we establish Futurism, because we want to free this land from its smelly gangrene of professors, archaeologists, ciceroni and antiquarians. For too long Italy has been a dealer in second-hand clothes. We mean to free her from the numberless museums that cover her like so many graveyards.”
Tate Modern interpretative material reiterated the importance of these lines: “With the publication of the Founding and Manifesto of Futurism in February 1909, Filippo Tomasso Marinetti laid out the blueprint for an avant-garde movement. He was deliberately provocative in his wholesale rejection of the past: ‘Turn aside the canals to flood the museums!… Take up your pickaxes, your axes and hammers and wreck, wreck the venerable cities, pitilessly!’ Beginning with Italy, which he saw as artistically complacent, he proposed a total modernisation of contemporary culture in line with the advances in technology, philosophy and anarchist politics.”
But instead of destroying the academies, Marinetti and his chums became active participants in Italian fascism. Not only was Marinetti a rich scumbag, he was a seriously sad skunk to boot. Despite the far-Right trajectory of the movement Marinetti instigated, the hack work it churned out is now the stuff of which museum exhibitions are made; tatters from a rotting corpse that are displayed at Tate Modern like so many ‘holy’ relics to be venerated by credulous fools. Today Marinetti’s Futurist manifestos are about as relevant as the British monarchy; they come across as long-winded and terminally outdated in a world dominated by the strap-line, advertising jingles, twitter and spam email. Futurist visual ‘art’ by the likes of Boccioni, Carrà and Balla, is even worse; it is an academic exercise in ocular boredom that totally lacks the dynamism which is supposed to be its raison d’être.
After viewing the spaces dedicated to Italian Futurism, it was a minor relief to hit a room given over to the work of Picasso and Braque. Their Cubist slop looked somewhat more advanced than the sickly romantic street scenes of the Futurists; nonetheless Picasso isn’t ripe he’s rotten! He’s followed by the three Duchamp brothers – Moe, Curly and Larry. Oops, Moe and company are The Three Stooges! What I meant to say was Jacques Villon, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Marcel Duchamp. Then you get Orphism, Russian Cubo-Futurism, nearly a whole room given over to publications (wow, is that dull!), Vorticism, and finally Futurism and war. Much of the material is familiar and all of it is completely superannuated. I found some of this stuff interesting when I was 12 years-old (35 years ago), but in the intervening period it has decomposed badly. Enough of that old Futurist rubbish, we want something new! How about post-aestheticism and a world-wide proletarian revolution with unlicensed pleasure as its only aim?
Wandering through this inert Futurist display, I remembered that Marcel Duchamp once remarked works of art die, and that museums and art history are their graveyards. The pieces by Duchamp and his brothers looked as dead as those of everyone else, and no more likely to get up and start moonwalking than Michael Jackson. The week before I went to the Futurism show, Chicks On Speed kindly sent me their new album Cutting The Edge, and although I’d only managed to listen to the CD a couple of times, some of the tunes started floating through my head while I was at Tate Modern. Art Rules, previously out as a single, whirled around my brain with the greatest aggressive persistence: “Brush it up, art star recipe, it’s two cups of gelatin, mix it well, stir in a concept, technology as well, whip in some finance and a pinch of cocaine, add a harmless scandal, a media plan all cooked up by your right hand man… Always modern, whose on top the artists or the dealers? Where are all the women, underneath the men! Invest in a collection or buy credibility…” This says it all really. You don’t need to bother with old farts like Marinetti when you’ve got Chicks On Speed. Art Rules has to be heard to be believed, it’s a super-retro lo-fi hi-energy dance tune that rocks like it’s 2099!
So rather than wasting any more time on the Futurism show, I raced off to groove to some Chicks On Speed records. And incidentally, more than 25 years ago I was already parodying the tedium of Italian Futurism by writing things like: “We will sing the love of hot running water and colour television…” For more of that see my Neoist Manifestos.
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – – you know it makes (no) sense!


Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-07-04 09:40:58 +0000

Futurism’s so passe…. (whereas retro is the future!)

Comment by nova baudelaire on 2009-07-04 09:54:04 +0000

of course my literal brain was excited at the thought that Chicks on Speed were indeed pissing on the futurists, giving that manifesto the feminist waterworks that it deserves…and while their at it, those hideous futurist paintings could do with a good spray as well.

Comment by Valerie Solanas on 2009-07-04 12:04:48 +0000

I love Chicks On Speed! They are civic-minded, responsible, thrill-seeking females who I see as playing an important role in overthrowing the government, eliminating the money system, instituting complete automation and destroying the male sex….

Comment by Justin on 2009-07-04 13:35:35 +0000

It’s ironic that Marinetti’s declaration of the Futurist blueprint and the rejection of ‘daily visits to museums, libraries, and academies (cemeteries of empty exertion, Calvaries of crucified dreams, registries of aborted beginnings!)’ Only for the art-movement to end up asethetically stuffed, mounted, archived and displayed in Tate Modern. Now if only the exhibition simultaneously pumped out a mash-up soundtrack of say, Michael Jackson vs. Mollie Sugden

Comment by Bruce Wilkinson on 2009-07-04 14:58:58 +0000

Chicks on Speed stopped at our gaff in Brighton a few years ago. Ended up sending them to bed after giving them a ticking off for keeping the neighbours awake.

Comment by Alan Benzie on 2009-07-04 16:45:22 +0000

First album great – second album awful tracks with a 6th form politics lecture about Chomsky over the top.

Comment by Michael K on 2009-07-04 18:01:10 +0000

You’re right about that Futurism exhibition and the prattling texts attempting to gloss over the fact that he Tate has shoddily thrown together a bunch of borrowed and backwater cubist and even surrealist works as ‘Futurist’ adds insult to…erm…insult. Bring back the future!

Comment by Time on 2009-07-04 18:16:02 +0000

Chicks on speed, uppers, downers, allrounders… nice!

Comment by Alexandra Lazar on 2009-07-04 19:59:14 +0000

Spot on. Thanks for saving my valueless time. x

Comment by George Angus on 2009-07-04 21:44:51 +0000


Comment by Annouchka Sputnik on 2009-07-04 22:18:52 +0000

didn’t know you were into watersports, art-stew! there’ll be none of that at the kidnapping! ;p

Comment by Diana McCarty on 2009-07-05 08:11:33 +0000

Chicks rule!

Comment by Simon Evans on 2009-07-05 08:58:53 +0000

Yeah ..thats the only goddam reason to bother visiting it.

Comment by Howling Wizard Shrieking Toad on 2009-07-05 09:35:33 +0000

Voices of…..Animals and Men

Comment by Christopher Nosnibor on 2009-07-05 12:35:24 +0000

I’m also reminded of the Lead into Gold EP, ‘Chicks & Speed: Futurism,’ which I really must dig out and give a spin…

Comment by resentful ideological knickers on 2009-07-06 08:01:52 +0000

resentful ideological knickers

Comment by Karen Karnak on 2009-07-06 21:45:47 +0000

Left, Right and Centre – united in Fascism:
While Capitalism crumbles as international labour continues its historical
subordination of land and capital under its power, the bourgeois ruling
class in London is defending imperial time via the Centenary of the
proto-Fascist Futurist manifesto in another attempt to unify against
Communism – from the government’s propaganda machine, through to
avant-gardists, artists and of course, the so-called revolutionaries from
the left and right of Capital.
First off the mark this month was the Nazi National Anarchists who had a
talk on Futurism at their New Right meeting. Close on their trail was the
notoriously racist BBC who began with interviews on the avant-garde art
with an editor from the avant-garde art magazine Mute, rehashing CIA
frontman Clement Greenburg’s ideas – of avant-garde as kitsch modernism. This 2 dimensional logic – of thesis and antithesis of modernism and postmodernism, without the historical synthesis of the avant-garde only serves to obscure the cultural force of art today – and bring together the avant-garde and the occult, all the while denying both.
This shutting down and denial of consciousness – is nothing new and
reminds us of the proto-fascist Futurist theories of 4 dimensional
painting, shutting down consciousness into 3 spatial and 1 temporal
dimension using a mystical notion of intuition – precisely at the point
when capitalism itself was under threat during the First World War. It’s
no surprise then that another ex-Mute editor was on Radio 4 recently
equating Communism with Fascism in support of the European state’s
celebration of the proto-fascist Futurists centenary – evidence that the
only future for ruling class culture is in the 1 dimensional direction of
the past.
And for an example of something which has even less dimensions, think of the upcoming promotion of the Anarchists of Freedom Press and the
Post-Futurists who want us to equate Communism with a singularity! The 0 dimensional singularity is of course a euphemism for God in European
scientific circles – the moment of the “big bang” of divine creation that
is the aim of the scientists search at CERN -as it has been for centuries
– just like the mythical moment of revolution these idiots want to sell
us. To equate this with Communism reveals a deep seated Eurocentrism.
The only creator is the worker and this creation – and of course Communism- is not a definitive point fixed in space and time but it a constant unfolding and opening of space time and value – by the Revolutionary Proletariat which expands its activities through 3 dimensions of space, 3 dimensions of time and 3 dimensions of logic – and beyond, onwards to ever expanding relations and perspectives of the workers.

Published At