Four Signs for All Times
In the history of humanity never have four concepts that have so strongly
transformed human behaviour converged as much these have: Dialectical
Materialism (1848), Evolution (1850), Psychoanalysis (1890) and
Relativity (1905), and indeed, they have left notable footprints in the arts.
According to the Webster Dictionary "Manifesto" is defined as "a written statement declaring publicly the
intentions, motives, or views of its issuer".
The social and political turmoil that had arisen since the time of the French Revolution led to the
emergence of socialist societies by the early 20th century. These societies set out their ideals through
a document equivalent to the Tablets of the Law of Moses, which they called a "Manifesto". This
specifically came from the theory of dialectical materialism, which in turn conceived historical
materialism and the concept of class struggle. Its authors defined it as "a detailed theoretical and
practical programme whose aim is to be a publicity tool, but which also serves as the (Communist) Party
In February, 1848 the document "Manifest der Partei Kommuniftifchen", or "Communist Manifesto" by Karl
Marx and Frederick Engels was published. Subsequently, various political and social movements were born
also endorsed by a "manifesto".
Thus, in February 1909, on the front page of Le Figaro, in Paris the first artistic manifesto was
published by Filippo Marinetti, a document that established an aesthetic that would respond to a
paradigm of its time.
Filippo Tommaso Marinetti was born in 1876 in Alexandria, Egypt.
Marinetti did not paint nor was he a musician, but he created his art by the use of political and
military change as his "basic materials". Marinetti became the little idol that permeated the art
that was associated with fascism and its followers. In the same way as Andy Warhol would follow in
the United States of America several years later, Marinetti believed that he was participating in the
founding of an ideal society.
He believed that war was "the world's only hygiene."
In one of his most amazing passages, he disclosed the news that the Japanese army was using human
bones for the production of gunpowder, whereupon he said:
"Glory to the indomitable ash of man who lives on in a cannon!".
This would qualify as a case of "synthetic violence".
As has always happened and will continue to happen, human groups who worship a paradigm, cling together
through art. Around fascism, the agitated politics and war, that artist was Marinetti and there were
many others with other specialties who belonged to that group.
The idea of the manifesto became popular and the next batch of artists believed for many years that art
could be conceived a priori and be declared by an endorsement in the shape of a manifesto.
The second sign is the theory of evolution, which explains the sequence of processes by which variations
can be observed in a species. It was also seen as a way to explain cultural changes, which is an
aberration, since in evolution theory in order to generate a change in the majority of the population a
trait must repeated a great many times. However this is not observed with painting, for example. Despite
this, it is common to see histories of art that begin in prehistory but do not show an evolutionary
relationship between, say, neoclassical and Metaphysical painting.
The third sign is the Theory of Psychoanalysis, the method in which for the first time it was
demonstrated that the inviolable temple of the mind could be penetrated and put on view for others
to see. Many artists started to talk about psychic automatism, or that certain works of art are
psychoanalytical representations. Psychoanalysis came to be applied to social behaviour, with
Lacan and Marcuse.
The theory of psychoanalysis probably produced a huge impact on human behaviour because it penetrated
inside the mind, and it seemed as if it were to violate a sphere which up until then it was believed
that only God could know.
André Breton, who was an active creator of vanguard groups in art, wrote the first Surrealist
Manifesto, which was a name coined by Guillaume Apollinaire earlier, and in which he redefined it as:
"Noun, masculine. Pure Psychic Automatism, by which it is intended to express, verbally, in writing
or in any other manner, the real functioning of thought. It is a dictation of thought, without
regulatory intervention of reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern".
Breton referred specifically to psychic automatism, which is what interested him, probably because
he himself was a professional psychiatrist.
He wrote: "Freud has shown that in this 'abyssal' depth reigns the absence of contradiction, and
mobility, due to retreats and advances of the emotional levels, the timelessness and substitution
of external reality by physical reality, submissive only to the principle of pleasure. Automatism
heads in a straight line directly to that region. The other route offered to surrealism is the
fixation of the images of dreams called trompel'oeil (precisely its weakness), but it has been
found from experience that this is a much less secure road with abundant risk and loss". This text
appeared in a surrealist exhibition catalogue in 1945, and was later quoted by Jean Cassou in
"Panorama of Contemporary Plastic Arts", 1960.
Finally, the fourth sign is the Theory of Relativity, which tells of a story of an astronaut
returning from space and who meets up with his twin brother. But paradoxically, the twin who
remained on Earth is noticeably older. So far it could formpart of a type of creative imagination,
but if there are scientists who affirm that it is the truth, then this produces a great disturbance
in the intuitive mind. One can understand that if an apple breaks off from a tree, then it fall is
due to the enormous quantity and weight of the earth, but Einstein's theory seems almost absurd,
so it's hard to believe something like that, unless studies are made in advanced physics. This
relationship with time, worried Marcel Duchamp, who created enigmatic works that had a certain
relationship with relativity.
The emergence of mass transport proliferated with industrialisation, as did the technologies that
allow us to see extremely small objects and others that are extremely large and far away.
Einstein's Theory of Relativity, published in 1905, stated that time, which was believed to be
constant and independent of everything else that happened in the cosmos, in reality was variable,
and can be accelerated or slowed down depending on the speed with which objects move!
And as if that were not enough, it says that nothing can move faster than light. This concept was
dramatic at a time in which everything that was built, moved with each new version, increasingly
faster. There are factories full of machines that producemillions of products per hour, vehicles
capable of carrying people to other regions of the world in a few hours. And finally, Einstein
showed us that everything could go faster, but there is a limit and an end: nothing is faster
Even by that time, he had measured the speed of light and knew it was 300,000 kilometres per
second. When you turn on the light-bulb in a room, it seems that the light appears instantaneously
on every corner. It was very difficult to imagine that light had a speed and that there is nothing
that can go faster.
Such ideas, emphatically confirmed by all scientists of the planet, are disturbing and bizarre
for ordinary people.
All of this resulted in rampant ideas where fascinating and absurd worlds were imagined. Humans
are characterised byimagining worlds, and with this theory, a colossal escape valve was released.
It is clear that the literary genre of science fiction has been heavily influenced by temporal
translocations, travel through time to see what happened or what will happen and confront oneself
with the paradoxical feeling of déjà vu where you feel that you have had an experience
but which you know is impossible or the theoretical existence of parallel worlds. One can also see
that the latest theories of physics continue to feed the literature of other rarities within the