October 22, 2017
Blast from the FutureOn this day in 1914, the first issue of the radical arts magazine, Blast, was published. This was "A Review of the Great English Vortex," and though neither the magazine nor "Vorticism" would last very long, the art-literary Establishment was jolted into taking notice. The cover was a violent pink, the typography and lay-out were an assault on Victorian order and ornateness, and though the specific lists of Blasted (English humor, do-gooders, sportsmen, aesthetics. . .) and Blessed (trade unionists, music halls, hairdressers, aviators. . .) might have been a bit of a puzzle, the manifesto sounded a trumpet for modernism:
We want to leave Nature and men alone.
The only way Humanity can help artists is to remain independent and work unconsciously.
WE NEED THE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF HUMANITY - their stupidity, animalism and dreams.
We believe in no perfectibility except our own.
Intrinsic beauty is in the Interpreter and Seer, not in the object or content.
WE ONLY WANT THE WORLD TO LIVE, and to feel its crude energy flowing through us . . . .
As a word, "Vorticism" was coined by Ezra Pound. As a movement in painting and sculpture, it was a branch of abstract art, as were all its fledgling cousins -- Futurism, Rayonism, Fauvism, Orphism, Suprematism, etc. As a literary movement, it was harder to define, the first issue including poems by Pound (in which he taunted the "continuous gangrene" of "gagged reviewers" and "slut-bellied obstructionists"), a suffragist story by Rebecca West and an early version of Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier." But the major force in Blast and Vorticism, as both painter and writer, was Wyndham Lewis. The first issue of Blast contained his play, "Enemy of the Stars," and many of his declarations in favor of raw energy, hard edges and the helter-skelter life:
Our Vortex regards the Future as as sentimental as the Past.
Our Vortex rushes out like an angry dog at your Impressionistic fuss.
Our Vortex is white and abstract with its red-hot swiftness.
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