L’Inhumaine. 1924. France. Directed by Marcel L’Herbier

In his essay “The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,” published February 20, 1909, in the French newspaper Le Figaro, Italian poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944) called for a mass cultural movement that would reject the sober and genteel conventions of the bourgeois world and embrace the speed, technology, and dynamism of the early 20th century. Thus was born the cultural, political, and ideological movement known as Futurism. The Futurists—a loose collection of painters, writers, musicians and filmmakers—promoted an unsentimental aesthetic perception inspired by technology and the machine age. In his manifesto, Marinetti breathlessly announced the coming Futurist revolution, in which the heretofore dark night is “illuminated by the internal glow of electric hearts.” His veneration of a machine age continued in “War, the World’s Only Hygiene” (1911–15), wherein he averred that automobiles, trains, and vast machines driving the technology of his day possessed “personalities, souls, or wills,” and presaged the “nonhuman and mechanical being.”

Throughout cinematic history mechanical creatures—robots, androids, cyborgs—have reflected both the discord and the connection between man and machine. Inspired by the centenary of the founding of Futurism, and in celebration of Performa 09’s November programming, Nuts and Bolts presents films from MoMA’s collection that reflect Marinetti’s vision of the mechanical being in the machine age: endlessly energetic, productive in the factory, free from sentimentality, immune to disease and death, and yet somehow reflective of the human condition.

Organized by Anne Morra, Assistant Curator, Department of Film, in collaboration with Performa, for Performa 09. With sincere thanks to Sony Pictures Entertainment, Toho Co. Ltd., Lana Wilson, and RoseLee Goldberg.

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