Taken from a Gallery Interview with Stefano Acunto at the Guggenheim Museum on the opening of the landmark Futurist Exhibition. Mr. Acunto, whose collection of Futurist art travels regularly to museums across the country, is a principal sponsor of the Guggenheim show.

The world was changed as never before, or so it seemed. There were no precedents.

Imagine if you can the way the future looked to the best minds of turn of the century Europe. Imagine if you can the sudden impact of the industrial revolution of the 1880s. Imagine further the heart stopping machine inventions that were world changing at the time, just as we see our world-changing inventions today.

What was the future like to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in Paris of 1909 and to the Italian artists, poets, architects, cooks and expats in Paris, Milano and Torino that year? Yes, the world was changed as never before, or so it seemed. There were no precedents, no paradigms to study. The past was slow and teary-eyed; the present, an electric jolt from a magical formula.

It was troubling and confusing. The choices were profound: you could look backward and embrace the sweet and melancholy 1800s, the 1879 of Vienna, or the Romantic world of the early and mid 19th century. You could be swayed by the rhyme of sentimental poetry, swept up in the insistently rich orchestrations of Brahms or return to relive Beethoven’s peasants dancing in a ring far from the city as a storm approaches. Or you could return to the inevitably tragic view of love of Goethe’s tragically smitten Werther or the plight of Byron’s prisoner of Chillon.

Or, you could accept the noise, the sound, the friction and the dynamism of a new century, of a post-industrial revolution world where screeching noises, the palpable friction of steel running on rails, the heated persistence of smoke pushed hard, puffing from a chimney 75 feet tall, or the thrill of commanding the horseless carriage at 25 miles per hour with a foot pedal. You could accept it and embrace it, let it permeate your new 20th century sensibility as you ride off with a bang, not a whimper.

You could open your soul to make it one with the new mechanistic order of things and see a future for expression that matched the future of life in the new interdependent, fast, steel – hard, two-lanes-ahead world.

Into this milieu in 1909 came a movement that declared itself a revaluation of values. In the 1880s no less a figure than Nietzsche living alternately in Italy, Switzerland and Germany called for exactly that: a revaluation of all values. Other philosophers, poets, artists followed suit, as the antique drum faded and the new sound and color emerged. In this as in so many things, the Italians were among the first to express and realize a new order in art, with a “now” movement that embraced wholly and lovingly the shimmering body of the industrial revolution. Marinetti and his followers stated, effectively, we’ll make war, we’ll exult in the bombs, we’ll take the impersonality of this world and turn it into a structure in art, in architecture, in music, in food, in every area of life. Futurists looked ahead at what was an inevitable remaking of society and of its attendant world view.

Futurism was born as a modus vivendi, a way of living and a way of seeing and hearing. The art then on the walls of the museums seemed “lifeless”, vague and sentimental reliquary. Futurists found master works self-indulgent, decadent, not responsive to the evolving new order – the same, I suppose, as a young person today might see newspapers or printed books or sea voyaging in the age of the Concorde.

Think of it. In 1909 an art of speed, beautiful machinery, long in the creation, new materials, the combustion and friction of life in cities, endless smoke, noise that had no precedent – all of it was engulfing and even drowning artists looking at their easels or their blank pages trying to divine a form or message. Italian Futurists managed to swim in the unexplored current, not drowning, but moving and being vacuum drawn toward the new shore of the real . Every expression should invade and conquer the sensibilities of their time. They reviled art critics; they called them embalmers. Their subject “corpses” were the art that glorified the old world of manners and refinements, of sentimental love and idleness.

They wanted the world to be infected with germs of industry and conflict, war and speed, violent experience and danger and they moved to spread their infection with a new sense of dis-ease borne by machine energy and power. Their paintings would defy the confines of the canvas, with blaring onomatopiea, words expressing noises. They wanted the scope and dimension of their paintings and sculpture to issue sound and energy. They glorified social disturbance, light rays emitted from a street lamp, the movement of a leash as a dog is walked, the forward surge of a train and the spatial extension of a bottle as it is formed and as it occupies its space and the space around it. In the music of Pratella, which would be pure cacophony to Franz Liszt or Mozart, they replayed to their audiences the sounds of the days and nights of the new age, with instruments made from cans or from pipes or played in odd and unusual ways to give a sound that simulated the squeaking of the wheels on a railroad track or a the whirr of a machine heard painfully in a factory. The futurists would relish it,, unlike sentimental artists or academics, if, right in the middle of an interview one’s cell phone went off loudly or if a play were interrupted by shouts of protest or praise. They would think this not an interruption, but a complement to experience.

The movement hasn’t quite ended. Today even graffiti takes its iconoclastic place in a futurist world. It is highly self expressive, it is boldly full of color, it is not the stuff of museums, but, in its way,  it is fresh and, for sure, irritating. We find futurism expressed in architecture, music, industrial design, art, film and even cooking. Futurists loved demonstrations. They would find this article tedious and boring because there was no noise, no surprise blasts, no color and no violence. Please don’t tear up this page, but do think about it, especially if you don’t enjoy this discourse.

Ah, there are cars passing outside, but I can only refer to them. Or maybe into this short essay I should stop and add whoosh, erk, erk, thump, and whaaaaaa!!!!!   as planes pass overhead and as a bus stops and resumes on its way.

To the futurist, the present was not simply a rejection of the past, it was an embrace of inevitable future, a grand embrace of the technology that they believed would transform the world.

And has.