Our Vortex – Percy Wyndham Lewis
The present text was originally published in the first issue of Blast, London, June 1914.
Our vortex is not afraid of the Past: it has forgotten its existence. Our vortex regards the Future as as sentimental as the Past.
The Future is distant, like the Past, and therefore sentimental.
The mere element ‘Past’ must be retained to sponge up and absorb our melancholy.
Everything absent, remote, requiring projection in the veiled weakness of the mind, is sentimental
The Present can be intensely sentimental – especially if you exclude the mere element “Past”.
Our vortex does not deal in reactive Action only, nor identify the Present with numbing displays of vitality.
The new vortex plunges to the heart of the Present.
The chemistry of the Present is different to that of the Past. With this different chemistry we produce a New Living Abstraction.
The Rembrandt Vortex swamped the Netherlands with a flood of dreaming.
The Turner Vortex rushed at Europe with a wave of light.
We wish the Past and Future with us, the Past to mop up our melancholy, the Future to absorb our troublesome optimism.
With our Vortex the Present is the only active thing.
Life is the Past and the Future.
The Present is Art.
Our Vortex insists on water-tight compartments.
There is no Present – there is Past and Future, and there is Art.
Any moment not weakly relaxed and slipped back, or, on the other hand, dreaming optimistically, is Art.
‘Just Life’ or soi-disant ‘Reality’ is a fourth quantity, made up of the Past, the Future and Art.
This impure Present our Vortex despises and ignores.
For our Vortex is uncompromising.
We must have the Past and the Future, Life simple, that is, to discharge ourselves in, and keep us pure for non-life, that is Art.
The Past and Future are the prostitutes Nature has provided.
Art is periodic escapes from this Brothel.
Artists put as much vitality and delight into this saintliness, and escape out, as most men do their escapes into similar places from respectable existence.
The Vorticist is at his maximum point of energy when stillest.
The Vorticist is not the Slave of Commotion, but its Master.
The Vorticist does not suck up to Life.
He lets Life know its place in a Vorticist Universe!
III In a Vorticist Universe we don’t get excited at what we have invented. If we did it would look as though it had been a fluke.
It is not a fluke.
We have no Verbotens.
There is one Truth, ourselves, and everything is permitted.
But we are not Templars.
We are proud, handsome and predatory.
We hunt machines, they are our favourite game.
We invent them and then hunt them down.
This is a great Vorticist age, a great still age of artists.
IV As to the lean belated Impressionism at present attempting to eke out a little life in these islands:
Our Vortex is fed up with your dispersals, reasonable chicken-men.
Our Vortex is proud of its polished sides.
Our Vortex will not hear of anything but its disastrous polished dance.
Our Vortex desires the immobile rhythm of its swiftness.
Our Vortex rushes out like an angry dog at your Impressionistic fuss.
Our Vortex is white and abstract with its red-hot swiftness.