BLAST (Vorticist Manifesto, 1914)

This is a transcript from a number of key pages of the “Vorticist Manifesto” printed in June, 1914.

The Vorticists were a British arts movment loosely inspired by Futurism and Modernism; or more loosely still, the idea of art that focused the present or the now. They imagined creativity as a vortex containing all the chaos of life, while the centre of the vortex was still and calm; that centre was the source of all vortist art.

Much of this manifesto appears incoherent, many of the references are deeply outdated and some of the views it suggests are also dated; however I hope that wont stop you from appreciating the feeling of vitality and energy it has. Remember, this is 1914! World War One had not started yet, Russia was still a monarchy, The Museum of Modern Art in New York would not open for another 15 years, Los Angeles was a small city of just 350,000 people, the Victorian era was more recent to them than the launch of Windows XP is to us; the social change of the 20th century was still just a glimmer in the distance.

Its also unclear to me if there was a single writer, or if this is more of a collective zine with contributions from many people; however the editing is attributed to Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957). The original print copy had some pretty radical graphic design and text layout, I have tried to retain some of it here, however most is lost.

 

Long Live the Vortex!

Long live the great art vortex sprung up in the centre of this town!
We stand for the Reality of the Present--not for the sentimental Future, or the sacripant Past.
We want to leave Nature and Men alone.
We do not want to make people wear Futurist Patches, or fuss men to take to pink and sky-blue trousers.
We are not their wives or tailors.
The only way Humanity can help artists is to remain Independent and work unconsciously.
WE NEED THE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF HUMANITY- their stupidity, animalism and dreams.
We believe in no perfectibility except our own.
Intrinsic beauty is in the Interpreter and Seer, not in the object or content.
We do not want to change the appearance of the world, because we are not Naturalists, Impressionists or Futurists (the latest form of Impressionism), and do not depend on the appearance of the world for our art.
WE ONLY WANT THE WORLD TO LIVE, and to feel it's crude energy flowing through us.
It may be said that great artists in England are always revolutionary, just as in France any really fine artist had a strong traditional vein.
Blast sets out to be an avenue for all those vivid and violent ideas that could reach the Public in no other way.
Blast will be popular, essentially. It will not appeal to any particular class, but to the fundamental and popular instincts in every class and description of people, TO THE INDIVIDUAL. The moment a man feels or realizes himself as an artist, he ceases to belong to any millen or time. Blast is created for this timeless, fundamental Artist that exists in everybody.
The Man in the Street and the Gentleman are equally ignored.
Popular art does not mean the art of the poor people, as it is usually supposed to. It means the art of the individuals.
Education (art education and general education) tends to destroy the creative Instinct. Therefore It is in times when education has been non-existent that art chiefly flourished. But it is nothing to do with "the People.” It is a mere accident that that is the most favourable time for the Individual to appear.
To make the rich of the community shed their education skin, to destroy politeness, standardization and academic, that is civilized, vision, is the task we have set ourselves.
We want to make In England not a popular art, not a revival of lost folk art, or a romantic fostering of such unactual conditions, but to make Individuals, wherever found.
We will convert the King it possible.
A VORTICIST KING! WHY NOT?
DO YOU THINK LLOYD GEORGE HAS THE VORTEX IN HIM?
MAY WE HOPE FOR ART FROM LADY MOND?
We are against the glorification of "the People," as we are against snobbery.
It is not necessary to be an outcast bohemian, to be unkempt or poor, any more than it is necessary to be rich or handsome, to be an artist. Art is nothing to do with the coat you wear. A top-hat can well hold the Sixtine. A cheap cap could bide the image of Kephren.
AUTOMOBILISM (Marinetteism) bores us. We don't want to go about making a hullo-bulloo about motor cars, anymore than about knives and forks, elephants or gas-pipes.
Elephants are VERY BIG. Motor cars go quickly.
Wilde gushed twenty years ago about the beauty of machinery. Gissing, in his romantic delight with modern lodging houses was futurist in this sense.
The futurist is a sensational and sentimental mixture of the aesthete of 1890 and the realist of 1870.
The "Poor" are detestable animals! They are only picturesque and amusing for the sentimentalist or the romantic! The "Rich" are bores without a single exception, en tant que riches!
We want those simple and great people found everywhere.
Blast presents an art of Individuals.

1.

BLAST First (from politeness) ENGLAND

CURSE ITS CLIMATE FOR ITS SINS AND INFECTIONS
DISMAL SYMBOL, SET round our bodies, of effeminate lout within.
VICTORIAN VAMPIRE, the LONDON cloud sucks the TOWN'S heart.
A 1000 MILE LONG, 2 KILOMETRE Deep BODY OF WATER even, is pushed against us from the Floridas, TO MAKE US MILD.
OFFICIOUS MOUNTAINS keep back DRASTIC WINDS SO MUCH VAST MACHINERY TO PRODUCE THE CURATE of "Elthem"
BRITANNIC AESTHETE
WILD NATURE CRANK
DOMESTICATED

POLICEMAN
LONDON COLISEUM
SOCIALIST-PLAYWRIGHT
DALY'S MUSICAL COMEDY
GAIETY CHORUS GIRL
TONKS

CURSE

the flabby sky that can manufacture no snow, but can only drop the sea on us in a drizzle like a poem by Mr. Robert Bridges.

CURSE

the lazy air that cannot stiffen the back of the SERPENTINE, or put Aquatic steel half way down the MANCHESTER CANAL.

But ten years ago we saw distinctly both snow and ice here.
May some vulgarly inventive, but useful person, arise, and restore to us the necessary BLIZZARDS.
LET US ONCE MORE WEAR THE ERMINE OF THE NORTH.
WE BELIEVE IN THE EXISTENCE OF THIS USEFUL LITTLE CHEMIST IN OUR MIDST!

2.

OH BLAST FRANCE

pig plagiarism
BELLY
SLIPPERS
POODLE TEMPER
BAD MUSIC

SENTIMENTAL GALLIC GUSH
SENSATIONALISM
FUSSINESS.

PARISIAN PAROCHIALISM.
Complacent young man, so much respect for Papa and his son !--Oh !--Papa is wonderful: but all papas are!

BLAST

APERITIFS (Pernots, Amers picon) Bad change
Naively seductive Houri salon picture Cocottes
Slouching blue porters (can carry a pantechnicon)
Stupidly rapacious people at every step
Economy maniacs
Bouillon   (for being a bad pun)

PARIS. Clap-trap Heaven of amative German professor.
Ubiquitous lines of silly little trees.
Arcs de Triemphe.
Imperturbable, endless prettiness,
Large empty cliques, higher up.
Bad ale for the individual.

BLAST

MECCA OF THE AMERICAN
because it is not other side of Suez Canal, instead of an afternoon's ride from London.

3.

CURSE

WITH EXPLETIVE OF WHIRLWIND THE BRITANNIC AESTHETE
CREAM OF THE SNOBBISH EARTH
ROSE OF SHARON OF GOD-PRIG
OF SIMIAN VANITY
SNEAK AND SWOT OF THE SCHOOL ROOM
IMBERB (or Berbed when In Belsize)-PEDANT

PRACTICAL JOKER
DANDY
CURATE

BLAST all products of phlegmatic cold
Life of LOOKER-ON.

CURSE 

SNOBBERY (disease of femininity)
FEAR OF RIDICULE (arch vice of inactive, sleepy)
PLAY
STYLISM
SINS AND PLAGUES
of this LYMPHATIC finished (we admit in every sense finished)
VEGETABLE HUMANITY.

4.

BLAST

THE SPECIALIST
"PROFESSIONAL"
"GOOD WORKMAN”
“GROVE-MAN"
ONE ORGAN MAN

BLAST THE
AMATEUR
SCIOLIST
ART-PIMP
JOURNALIST
SELF MAN
NO-ORGAN MAN

5.

BLAST HUMOUR

Quack ENGLISH drug for stupidity and sleepiness.
Arch enemy of REAL, conventionalizing like gunshot, freezing supple REAL in ferocious chemistry of laughter.

BLAST SPORT

HUMOUR'S FIRST COUSIN AND ACCOMPLICE.
Impossibility for Englishman to be grave and keep his end up, psychologically.
Impossible for him to use Humour as well and be persistently grave.
Alas! necessity for big doll's show in front of mouth.
Visitation of Heaven on English Miss gums, canines of FIXED GRIN Death's Head symbol of Antl-Life.
CURSE those who will hang over this Manifesto with SILLY CANINES exposed.

6.

BLAST

years 1837 to 1900
Curse abysmal inexcusable middle-class (also Aristocracy and Proletariat).

BLAST

pasty shadow cast by gigantic Boehm (imagined at Introduction of BOURGEOIS VICTORIAN VISTAS).
WRING THE NECK OF all sick Inventions born in that progressive white wake.
BLAST their weeping whiskers-hirsute RHETORIC of EUNUCH and STYLIST SENTIMENTAL HYGIENICS ROUSSEAUISMS (wild Nature cranks) FRATERNISING WITH MONKEYS
DIABOLICS raptures and roses of the erotic bookshelves culminating in PURGATORY OF PUTNEY.

CHAOS OF ENOCH ARDENS

laughing Jennys
Ladies with Pains
good-for-nothing Guineveres.

SNOBBISH BORROVIAN running after GIPSY KINGS and ESPADAS bowing the knee to wild Mother Nature, her feminine contours, Unimaginative insult to MAN.

DAMN

all those to-day who have taken on that Rotten Menagerie, and still crack their whips and tumble in Piccadilly Circus, as though London were a provincial town.
WE WHISPER IN YOUR EAR A GREAT SECRET.
LONDON IS NOT A PROVINCIAL TOWN.
We will allow Wonder Zoos. But we do not want the GLOOMY VICTORIAN CIRCUS In Piccadilly Circus.
IT IS PICCADILLY'S CIRCUS!

NOT MEANT FOR MENAGERIES trundling
out of Sixtles DICKENSIAN CLOWNS,
CORELLI LADY RIDERS,
TROUPS OF PERFORMING
GIPSIES (who complain besides that 1/6 a night does not pay fare back to Clapham).

BLAST

The Post Office
Frank Brangwyn
Robertson Nicol
Rev. Pennyfeather (Bells)
Galloway Kyle (Cluster of Grapes)
Bishop of London and all his posterity
Galsworthy
Dean Inge
Croce
Matthews
Rev. Meyer
Seymour Hicks
Lionel Cust
Hawtrey
C. B. Fry
Bergson
Abdul Bahal
Edward Elgar
Sardlea
Filson Young
Marie Corelli
Geddes
Codliver Oil
St. Loe Strachey
Lyceum Club
Rhabindraneth Tagore
Lord Glenconner of Glen
Weiniger
Norman Angel
Ad. Mahon
Mr. and Mrs. Dearmer
Beecham (Pills, Opera, Thomas)
Ella
A. C. Benson
Sydney Webb
British Academy
Countess of Warwick
Messrs. Chapell
George Edwards
Willie Ferraro
Captain Cook
R. J. Campbell
Clan Thesiger
Martin Harvey
William Archer
George Grossmith
R. H. Benson
Annie Besant
Chenil
Clan Meynell
Father Vaughan
Joseph Holbrooke
Clan Strachey

1.

BLESS ENGLAND!

BLESS ENGLAND

FOR ITS SHIPS which switchback on Blue, Green and Red SEAS all around the PINK EARTH-BALL, BIG BETS ON EACH.
BLESS ALL SEAFARERS.
THEY exchange not one LAND for another, but one ELEMENT for ANOTHER.
The MORE against the LESS ABSTRACT.
BLESS the vast planetary abstraction of the OCEAN.
BLESS THE ARABS OF THE ATLANTIC.
THIS ISLAND MUST BE CONTRASTED WITH THE BLEAK WAVES.

BLESS ALL PORTS.

PORTS, RESTLESS MACHINES of

scooped out basins
heavy Insect dredgers
monotonous cranes
stations
lighthouses, blazing through the frosty starlight, cutting the storm like a cake
beaks of Infant boats, side by side,
heavy chaos of wharves,
steep walls of factories
womanly town

BLESS these MACHINES that work the little boats across clean liquid space, in beelines.

BLESS the great PORTS
HULL
LIVERPOOL
LONDON
NEWCASTLE-ON-TYNE
BRISTOL
GLASGOW

BLESS ENGLAND,
Industrial Island machine, pyramidal workshop, its apex at Shetland, discharging itself on the sea.

BLESS

cold
magnanimous
delicate
gauche
fanciful
stupid

ENGLISHMEN.

2.

BLESS the HAIRDRESSER

He attacks Mother Nature for a small fee.
Hourly he ploughs heads for sixpence, Scours chins and lips for threepence.
He makes systematic mercenary war on this WILDNESS.
He trims aimless and retrograde growths into CLEAN ARCHED SHAPES and ANGULAR PLOTS.

BLESS this HESSIAN (or SILESIAN) EXPERT
correcting the grotesque anachronisms of our physique.

3.

BLESS ENGLISH HUMOUR

It is the great barbarous weapon of the genius among races.
The wild MOUNTAIN RAILWAY from IDEA to IDEA, in the ancient Fair of LIFE.

BLESS SWIFT for his solemn bleak wisdom of laughter.

SHAKESPEARE for his bitter Northern Rhetoric of humour.

BLESS ALL ENGLISH EYES that grow crows-feet with their FANCY and ENERGY.
BLESS this hysterical WALL built round the EGO.
BLESS the solitude of LAUGHTER.
BLESS the separating, ungregarious BRITISH GRIN.

4.

BLESS FRANCE

for its BUSHELS of VITALITY to the square inch.
HOME OF MANNERS (the Best, the WORST and interesting mixtures).
MASTERLY PORNOGRAPHY (great enemy of progress).
COMBATIVENESS
GREAT HUMAN SCEPTICS
DEPTHS OF ELEGANCE
FEMALE QUALITIES
FEMALES
BALLADS of its PREHISTORIC APACHE
Superb hardness and hardness of its Voyou type, rebellious adolescent.
Modesty and humanity of many there.
GREAT FLOOD OF LIFE pouring out of wound of 1797.
Also bitterer stream from.1870.
STAYING POWER, like a cat.

BLESS

Bridget
Berrwolf
Bearline
Cranmer Byng
Frieder Graham
The Pope
Maria de Tomaso
Captain Kemp
Munroe
Galy
Jenkins
R. B. Cuningham Grahame (not his brother)
Barker (John and Granville)
Mrs. Wil Finnimore
Madame Strindberg
Carson
Salvation Army
Lord Howard de Walden
Capt. Craig
Charlotte Corday
Cromwell
Mrs. Duval
Mary Robertson
Lillie Lenton
Frank Rutter
Castor Oil
James Joyce
Leveridge
Lydia Yavorska
Preb. Carlyle
Jenny
Mon. le compte de Gabulis
Smithers
Dick Burge
33 Church Street
Sievier
Gertie Millar
Norman Wallis
Miss Fowler
Sir Joseph Lyons
Martin Wolff
Watt
Mrs. Hepburn
Alfree
Tommy
Captain Kendell
Young Ahearn
Wilfred Walter
Kate Lechmere
Henry Newbolt
Lady Aberconway
Frank Harris
Mamel
Gilbert Canaan
Sir James Mathew Barry
Mrs. Belloc Lowdnes
W. L. George
Rayner
George Robey
George Mozart
Harry Weldon
Challapine
George Hirst
Graham White
Hucks
Salmet
Shirley Kellogg
Bandsman Rice
Petty Officer Curran
Applegarth
Konody
Colin Bell
Lewis Mind
LEFRANC
Hubert
Commercial Process Co.

Our Vortex.

1.

Our vortex is not afraid of the Past : it has forgotten it's 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.

2.

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 it's Master.
The Vorticist does not suck up to Life.
He lets Life know its place in a Vorticist Universe!

3.

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.

4.

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 rythm 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.

 

TO SUFFRAGETTES.

A WORD OF ADVICE.
IN DESTRUCTION, AS IN OTHER THINGS stick to what you understand.
WE MAKE YOU A PRESENT OF OUR VOTES.
ONLY LEAVE WORKS OF ART ALONE.

YOU MIGHT SOME DAY DESTROY A GOOD PICTURE BY ACCIDENT.

THEN!
MAIS SOYEZ BONNES FILLES!
NOUS VOUS AIMONS!

WE ADMIRE YOUR ENERGY.   YOU AND ARTISTS ARE THE ONLY THINGS (YOU DON'T MIND BEING CALLED THINGS ?) LEFT IN ENGLAND WITH A LITTLE LIFE IN THEM.

IF YOU DESTROY A GREAT WORK OF ART you are destroying a greater soul than if you annihilated a whole district of London.

LEAVE ART ALONE, BRAVE COMRADES !


Categories philosophy