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8 / Writing

Book Cover for Zang Tumb Tumb
Book Cover for Zang Tumb Tumb
Artist / Origin Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (Italian, 1876–1944)
Region: Europe
Date 1914
Material Type on colored paper
Dimensions H: 8 1/16 in. (20.4 cm.), W: 5 5/16 in. (13.5 cm.)
Location Private Collection
Credit © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Courtesy of Bridgeman Art Library

expert perspective

Sylvia WolfDirector of the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington, Seattle

Additional Resources

Apollonio, Umbro. Futurist Manifestos. London: Tate Publishing, 2009.

Bohn, Willard. The Aesthetics of Visual Poetry, 1914–1928. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Cohen, Ester, et al. Futurism. Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2009.

Drucker, Johanna. The Visible Word: Experimental Typography and Modern Art, 1909–1923. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

Humphreys, Richard. Futurism (Movements in Modern Art). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

Perloff, Marjorie. The Futurist Movement: Avant-Garde, Avant Guerre, and the Language of Rupture. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

Poggi, Christine. Inventing Futurism: The Art and Politics of Artificial Optimism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

“Words in Freedom: Futurism at 100.” In Exhibitions. The Museum of Modern Art Web site. http://www.moma.org/explore/exhibitions

Book Cover for Zang Tumb Tumb

» Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (Italian, 1876–1944)

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was a poet and political activist who founded and led the Italian Futurist movement, which celebrated technology, industry, speed, and progress.

Marinetti often expressed himself with hyper-masculine bravado, romanticizing violence and advocating radical, if unrealistic, action. He urged, for example, that the museums and libraries of Italy be destroyed on the basis that they belonged to the past rather than the future. Soon after Marinetti published his first Futurist Manifesto in 1909, the movement expanded to include painting, sculpture, and theater, in addition to poetry and political writing. Although Marinetti remained a writer, he began to work in a new format called parole in libertà (“words in freedom”) that employed creative and experimental typography.

Zang Tumb Tumb is a dynamically organized book in which Marinetti recounts his experiences reporting from the front during the Balkan War of 1912. On the cover, seen here, the author’s name and the book’s publishing information are presented in a rather straightforward manner and the title appears in larger type than other words. Little else about the cover meets expectation, however. Text indicating the place and time of the fighting (Adrianople, October 1912) runs horizontally across the middle; other textual information is manipulated into arcs and receding lines. The words parole in libertà are cut through with a series of nonsensical “tuuumbs.”

Consistent with his Futurist ideals, Marinetti puts particular emphasis on new, technologically advanced, mechanical weapons. The words running askew in all different directions visualize the chaos of flying bullets, while the repetition of onomatopoeic words evokes the din of the battlefield. Within the pages of the book, this dynamic typographical design continues. Historians have criticized Marinetti for his uncompassionate enthusiasm for war, as well as for his troublesome political associations with Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, beginning several years after he wrote Zang Tumb Tumb.

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