The White Manifesto – Lucio Fontana
We are continuing the evolution of art
Art is currently in a dormant phase. There is an energy which man cannot convey. In this manifesto we shall express it verbally.
For this reason we call on all those in the world of science who know that art is a fundamental requirement for our species, that they may direct part of their research towards discovering that malleable substance full of light, and instruments that will produce sounds which will enable the development of four-dimensional art.
We will provide the researchers with the necessary information. The ideas are irrefutable. They exist as seeds within the social fabric, awaiting expression by artists and thinkers.
All things arise from necessity and are of value in their own time.
The transformations of the material base of existence have determined man’s psychological states throughout history.
The system which has directed civilization from the beginning is undergoing transformation.
Gradually, it is being replaced by another system, which is its opposite in both essence and form. The fabric and character of both society and the individual will be transformed. Each man will live in an organization integral to his work.
The great scientific discoveries are directed towards this new organization of our lives.
The discovery of new physical forces, the mastery of matter and space, have gradually imposed unprecedented conditions on mankind.
The application of these discoveries to all aspects of our lives brings about a change in human nature. Man’s psychological make-up is transformed. We are living in a mechanical age, in which plaster and paint on canvas are no longer meaningful.
Since the discovery of the known artforms at various junctures throughout history, an analytical process has taken place within each one. Each has its own ordering principles independent of the others.
Everything that could be expressed has been done – all possibilities have come to light and have been developed.
Identical spiritual states have been expressed through music, architecture and poetry.
Man divided his energy in various ways, in response to the need for knowledge.
Wherever the limits of concrete explanation were reached, idealism came to predominate. The workings of nature were neglected. Man became aware of the process of intelligence. Everything lay in the possibilities of intelligence. Knowledge consisted in confused speculations which rarely attained truth.
Art (i.e. plastic or representational art) consisted of ideal portrayals of familiar forms through images which were idealistically seen as lifelike. The observer imagined that one object was, in fact, behind another; he imagined in the portrayal the actual difference between the muscles and the clothing.
Today knowledge acquired from experience has replaced creative, imaginative knowledge. We are aware of a world that exists and which is self-explanatory; a world which cannot be modified in any way by our ideas.
We need an art which is, of itself, valid; an art unsullied by our ideas.
The materialism anchored in every consciousness demands that art have its own values, free from the style of representation which is today stripped of all credibility. Twentieth-century man, shaped by materialism, has become inured to conventional forms of representation and to the constant re-telling of already familiar experiences. Abstraction has been developed as the culmination of successive transformations.
However, this new stage no longer corresponds to the demands of contemporary man.
What is required is a change in both essence and form. It is necessary to transcend painting, sculpture, poetry, and music. We require a greater art, which will be consistent with the demands of the new spirit.
The fundamental conditions of modern art have been clear since the thirteenth century, when space and depth were first represented. The great artists who followed gave renewed momentum to this tendency.
Baroque artists made great progress in this respect – their style of representation had a grandeur which has remained unsurpassed, imbuing the plastic arts with a sense of time. The figures appeared to leap out of the flat surface and to continue their represented movements in actual space.
This conception developed as a result of man’s growing concept of existence. Then, for the first time, physics managed to explain nature through dynamics. As a means of explaining the universe, it was determined that movement was an inherent property of matter.
Having arrived at this evolutionary juncture, the need to represent movement was so great that it could not be met through the plastic arts. Therefore, the evolution continued through music. Painting and sculpture entered the neoclassical period, a stagnant point in the history of art, and the connection between art and time was ignored. Having conquered time, the need for movement grew increasingly clear. Progressive freedom from the restrictions of the church gave music greater and greater dynamism (Bach, Mozart, Beethoven). Art continued to develop around the notion of movement.
Music retained its dominant position for the next two hundred years, and since Impressionism it has developed parallel to the plastic arts. Since then, man’s evolution has been a march towards movement which has developed in time and space. In painting, the elements which obscured the impression of dynamism have been progressively suppressed.
The Impressionists sacrificed drawing and composition. The futurists eliminated some elements and reduced the importance of others as they were subordinated to sensation. Futurism adopted motion as its solitary goal an objective. The Cubists denied that their painting was dynamic; yet the real essence of Cubism was the vision of nature in movement. […]
Man has exhausted pictorial and sculptural forms of art. His own experiences, overwhelmingly repeated time and time again, bear witness to the fact that these art forms are stagnating in values which are alien to our civilization, devoid of the possibility of any future development.
The peaceful, gentle life has come to an end. Speed has become a constant in the life of mankind.
The artistic era of colours and static forms is coming to an end. Man is becoming less and less responsive to fixed, motionless images. The old static images no longer satisfy the modern man who has been shaped by the need for action, and a mechanized lifestyle of constant movement. The aesthetics of organic motion have replaced the out-moded aesthetics of fixed forms.
Calling on this change in man’s nature, the moral and psychological changes of all human relations and activities, we leave behind all known art-forms, and commence the development of an art based on the union of time and space.
The new art takes its elements from nature. Existence, nature and matter come together in a perfect unity. They develop in time and space.
Change is an essential property of existence.
Movement, the capacity to evolve and to develop, is a basic property of matter. The latter exists solely in movement, not in any other manner. Its development is eternal. Colour and sound, bound together in matter, come together in nature.
Matter, colour and sound in motion, are the phenomena whose simultaneous development makes up the new art.
Colour in matter, developing in space, assuming different forms. Sound produced by artefacts as yet unknown. Existing musical instruments are inadequate to meet the challenge of the required fullness and greatness of sound.
We demand an art which is free of all aesthetic artifice.
We use what is true and natural in man. We reject the false aesthetics invented by speculative art.
We will draw closer to nature than ever before in the history of art.
Our love of nature does not compel us to copy it. The sense of beauty which w e get from the shape of a plant, or a bird, or the sexual feelings aroused by a woman’s body, are developed and elevated in man according to his sensitivity. We reject the particular emotions which can be derived from certain shapes. We aim to draw together in synthesis all of man’s experiences which, along With his natural temperament, constitute a true manifestation of existence.
As our point of departure we shall take the earliest artistic experiences. Prehistoric man, who first heard the sound made by striking a hollow object, found himself captivated by the rhythm. Driven by the power of the rhythm he must have danced into a state of euphoria. For primitive man, sensation was everything – the sensation of nature, wild and unknown, the sensation of music and rhythm. We intend to develop that original characteristic of man.
The subconscious, that magnificent well of images perceived by the mind, takes on the essence and form of those images and harbours the notions that make up man’s nature. Thus, as the objective world is transformed, what the subconscious identifies with is also transformed, and this produces changes in man’s mode of conception.
The subconscious determines the historical legacy of pre-civilized states and the manner of our adaptation to new lifestyles. The subconscious shapes, composes and transforms the individual. It gives him a sense of order, which comes from the world and is adopted by the individual. All artistic concepts are due to the workings of the subconscious.
Plastic art developed from its original base of natural shapes. The manifestations of the subconscious adapted easily to natural forms as a consequence of the idealized conception of existence.
Our material consciousness, that is, our need for things which are easily verifiable, demands that art-forms should flow directly from the individual and that they should assume natural form. An art based on forms created by the subconscious and balanced by reason, constitutes a true expression of existence and is the synthesis of a moment in time.
The position of the rational artists is false. In their effort to privilege reason and to deny the workings of the subconscious, they succeed only in rendering them less visible. We can see this process at work in their every endeavour.
Reason does not create. In creating shapes, it is subordinate to the subconscious. In all of his activities, man uses all of his faculties. Their free development is fundamental for creating and interpreting a new kind of art. Analysis and synthesis, meditation and spontaneity, construction and sensation, are all values which come together to work in union; and their development in experience is the only way to achieve a complete demonstration of being.
Society suppresses disparate energies and integrates them into a greater unified force. Modern science is based on the progressive unification of all its elements.
Humanity weaves together its knowledge and its values, in an historic process which has developed over hundreds of years.
A new, integrated art flows from this new state of consciousness, in which existence is shown in its totality.
After several millennia of analytical artistic development, the moment of synthesis has arrived. Prior to this moment, specialization was necessary. Now however this specialization amounts to a disintegration of the unity we envisage.
We imagine synthesis as the sum total of the physical elements: colour, sound, movement, time, space, integrated in physical and mental union. Colour, the element of space; sound, the element of time and movement, which develops in time and space. These are fundamental to the new art which encompasses the four dimensions of existence. Time and space.
The new art requires that all of man’s energies be used productively in creation and interpretation. Existence is shown in an integreated manner, with all its vitality. Colour Sound Movement.
(Bernardo Arias, Horacio Cazeneuve, Marcos Fridman, Pablo Arias, Rodolfo Burgos, Enrique Benito, Cesar Bernal, Luis Coll, Alfredo Hansen, Jorge Roca-monte)
Originally published in 1946.