On what was known as Black Friday, 18 November 1910, 500 women from the militant Women’s Suffrage Political Union, hearing that suffrage was once again shelved for the future parliamentary session, attempted to rush past police.
‘Everything is in movement,’ wrote Umberto Boccioni in 1910, ‘everything rushes forward, everything is in constant swift change.’ 1
‘Following 1907,’ Sigmund Freud wrote in ‘On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement (1914), ‘when the schools of Vienna and Zurich were united, psychoanalysis made an extraordinary surge forward of which the momentum is felt even today.’ 2
In the years before WWI, while militant suffragettes were smashing store windows and chaining themselves to city railings, Freud and the Italian Futurists worked toward reconceptualizing their epistemological fields. The dynamic violation of bodily integrity promoted by technophilic Futurists found a corresponding echo in Freud’s metapsychological papers. Freud described a human organism pulsing with transgressive drives, held in check by a mental apparatus that he called ‘a device for mastering excitations.’ 3 Indeed Freud’s language in ‘On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement’ bears a striking resemblance to that of certain contemporary artistic and political radicals. In 1911, Boccioni wrote to his friend Gino Severini about the manifestos he had co-written and signed - the ‘Manifesto of the Futurist Painters’ (January 1910) and the ‘Technical Manifesto of Futurist Painters’ (April 1910). The first, an imitation of F. T. Marinetti’s ‘First Futurist Manifesto,’ promised to smash ‘cult of the past, all things old, academic pedantry’; to bear ‘bravely and proudly’ the banner of ‘madness’ with which ‘they’ try to dismiss innovators. 4 In the second Boccioni and his co-signers railed against secessionists and independents. ‘Dear Gino,’ he wrote to Severini, ‘I . . . ask you secretly for your judgment of who can sign our manifesto; we have full confidence in your judgment. But I must warn you that the signers must be young men absolutely convinced of what the manifesto asserts. Adherence must be complete without mental reservations.’ 5
A briefer version of this essay appeared in Theatre Research International, 24 (3): 264-7.