Corra: becoming a Futurist

Joining the movement

Arnaldo and Bruno first came into contact with the new ideas of the founder of the Futurist Movement, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, while reading avant-garde magazines.  The encounter came about also thanks to friendships with famous people from the Romagna scenery, who were already close to the Movement, such as the poet, Luigi Donati, and the musician, Francesco Balilla Pratella, who had been members of Futurism since 1910. However, it was due to the latter that Corra manages to get Marinetti to see some of his first compositions. Through the exchange of letters between Marinetti and Pratella, one learns about how the brothers draw nearer to each other, and their various stages of coming closer to each other and to the Futurist movement, a membership that had once been analysed and pondered at length by both individuals. Marinetti wrote:

“In order to manage all the Corradini activities, with Savini and you, in reference to joining the leadership of the movement, and the founding of the newspaper, it is absolutely necessary that all four or five of us meet in Bologna, if you wish, but it must be quite soon. Better in Milan… In order to present the newspapers to the Corradini that show the success we achieved in Ferrara and Mantua. I fear that they are not bold enough nor futuristic enough to have the voluptuousness of continual danger. (Letter from Marinetti to Pratella of 21 January 1911).

The young B. G. Corradini is undoubtedly a young man of great talent… he is clearly the product of a fierce intellectual fever, and the beginning of a very marked originality… Write to him to come and see me. I would be delighted to meet him personally. (Letter from Marinetti to Pratella of 24 January 1911).

Delighted about everything you inform me on concerning Luigi Savini, A. Corradini and Bruno Corradini. We shall talk about all this in Mantua. Together, we will discuss the value of these friendships, and well evaluate their intentions, seriousness and their more or less lasting courage. (Letter from Marinetti to Pratella of 2 April 1911).”

The official meeting between the Ginanni Corradini brothers, and Marinetti along with the leading group of Futurism, took place in Milan around 1912 and right from the start, the brothers attracted a great deal of attention on themselves thanks to the revolutionary theories expounded in their youthful treatises.

Bruno’s position, however, still remained diffident and critical of Futurist ideas as testified in some of his writings. His unconditional membership to the movement occurred in 1914 with the publication of the Futurist manifesto Pesi, misure e prezzi del genio artistico.

It was only after this date that Bruno began signing his name with the Futurist pseudonym ‘Corra’, thought up by the painter Giacomo Balla, who had abbreviated the Corradini surname to the similar word ‘corsa’ (running), just like Arnaldo’s pseudonym, ‘Ginna’ adapted from Ginanni – gymnastics.

Corra: a Futurist in Florence

Around 1912, Bruno moved to Florence where he continued his studies together with his brother Arnaldo and where he deepened his contacts with the Florentine literati: Emilio Settimelli and Mario Carli. With the former, he realized the publication of the ‘Collection of Critical Essays’, composed of a collection of two volumes of literary criticism, and, with the collaboration of both of these individuals, at the end of 1912, he started the magazine ‘Il Centauro’. This magazine, is a weekly publication of art and critical arts and, since its first issue was intended to be an antivocial, anti-critical anti anti dannunzian cultural instrument that continues the rhetoric line of  ‘La difesa dell’arte’ = “the defense of the arts”. This is demonstrated by the opening article signed by Corra, which advocates ‘Liberalism’, i.e. freedom of artistic expression, to which a new system of criticism must correspond, that objectively and scientifically evaluates thought. These are the same theories that, reconstructed into the new Futurist disguise, would appear in the 1914 manifesto Pesi, misure e prezzi del genio artistico.

The following year saw the publication of the first issue of ‘La rivista, settimanale d’arte, di scienza e di vita’, edited by Corra and Settimelli. As in ‘Il Centauro’, an anti-Anthurian and anti-Crocian line is followed here as well, in which a pre-surrealist writing style is favoured. The scientific measurement of the value of an artwork is theorized on both an unbiased and objective level.

With Carli and Settimelli’s adhesion to futurism, a Florentine nucleus of futurist intellectuals was created, to which painters and literary figures such as Achille Lega, Lucio Venna, the Nannetti brothers, Antonio Bruno, Trilluci, Giulio Spina, Maria Crisi, Rosa Rosà and Irma Valeria were added. All together, they gave rise to the so-called ‘Second Florentine Futurism’, also named ‘Pattuglia Azzurra’. The group was born in opposition to the first Florentine Futurists who identified themselves with the magazine ‘Lacerba’, by Papini and Prezzolini, and who in 1916 violently broke away from Futurism due to disagreements with Marinetti. Not by chance, in the same year Corra, Ginna, Carli and Settimelli founded the magazine ‘L’Italia futurista’, that was, during the years of the war, the most representative publication on Futurist thought.

In one of his first articles that appeared in ‘L’Italia futurista’, È bene dipingere subito il mondo (It is good to paint the world now), Corra repeats the Futurist perspective of renewal of the world.

“We would like to renew the world. Renew it in everything, all the way, totally. Renew it in its essence. Give men the spiritual formula for a new life. Impose a more evolved conception of reality. Reveal the void of all ideas created to date and populate them with our dizzying explorations. Resolve all problems anew. Reshape philosophies. Recreate the arts. Revise the sciences. Produce new problems, new philosophies, new arts, new sciences. Face humanity above wider horizons. Lean our existences on less childish concepts. Give our actions freer purpose and meaning. Renew the world in what it has of most intimate, concrete and fundamental. Renew it in its consciousness, in its soul. RENEW described the concept in just one word”.

The ideological base of the magazine is characterized both by a strong political connotation with nationalistic views and interventionist ideas and by the exaltation of modernity and the polemic against all literary and bourgeois passatism in total communion with Marinetti’s ideas. Instead, the completely new and peculiar aspect of this ideological base is the interest in the occult and the passion for the esoteric supernatural beliefs, unconscious activities and the psyche, in which the influence of Corra and Ginna is easily recognizable. In this regard, we find their most notable contribution in the manifesto La scienza futurista (Futurist Science), an anomalous manifesto within the context of Marinetti’s Futurism, which gives the group of the second Florentine Futurism a precise and well delineated ideological identity.

There are many other Futurist manifestos signed by Corra. We have already mentioned Pesi, misure e prezzi del genio artistico (Weight, measurement and price of the artistic genius) published in 1914, while in 1915 and 1916 Corra participated in the drafting of two of the most important manifestos of the movement: Manifesto del teatro futurista sintetico (Manifesto of synthetic futurist theatre) in 1915 and Manifesto della cinematografia futurista (Manifesto of futurist cinematography) in 1916.

The publication of these two manifestos corresponds to the moment of the development in a futurist sense of Corra’s two great passions for Theatre (coll. Theatre) and Cinema. (coll. Cinena) Already in 1913, he had embarked together with Settimelli on a brief but intense experience as a theatre entrepreneur, thus giving birth to the first futurist theatre with the performance of futurist plays such as Elettricità di Marinetti. The birth of the Teatro futurista sintetico (Synthetic Futurist Theatre) thus followed this experience and is expressed in the collaboration on the drafting of several plays published in the two collections of synthetic theatre of 1915 and 1916.

Cover of Sam Dunn is dead. 1917

The experiences gained in filmmaking during his youthful years meant that Corra took an active part in the making of the first avant-garde film Vita futurista (Futurist Life), which Ginna was to direct and which as a direct consequence led to the drafting of the manifesto of Futurist cinematography and its publication in the pages of ‘Italia futurista’.

During the prolific Futurist period and in particular during the Florentine years, Corra wrote a large number of short stories and novels, some published in the magazine and others published in the “Libri di valore” series for the “Edizioni dell’Italia Futurista” directed by Maria Crisi Ginanni, Ginna’s wife. Of particular note is the synthetic novel Sam Dunn is Dead, a masterpiece of avant-garde literature.

Corra: a futurist in Milan

Since 1917, Corra had left the direction of the magazine, more often staying in Milan overnight, in order to be close to Marinetti and the Movement’s leadership. In 1918, despite a crippling eyesight defect, Corra voluntarily enrolled for the front line. On his return, at the end of the war, he moved to Milan and worked in publishing with Ginna at Edizioni Facchi where the Edizioni dell’Italia futurista had merged and where the artistic direction of Maria Ginanni continued.

In the meantime, he continued his production of Futurist novels, this time with love-themed novels such as L’Isola dei baci written together with Marinetti in 1918.

The close relationship of respect and collaboration between Corra and Marinetti, made even stronger by their shared passion for theatre and politics, soured a few years later, however, precisely because of a disagreement over these interests.

In the early 1920s, Corra worked on a truly innovative theatre project: La Baracca which was to be the first futurist travelling theatre created to bring together art exhibitions, theatre performances, concerts, etc. in a single body equipped with tents and structures that could be dismantled and transported on trucks. An enormous futurist travelling circus that had already garnered an exceptional number of admissions and reviews even in the United States. But in 1924, Marinetti’s interests were focused on politics and his support for Mussolini and the Fascist Party. It was at this time that the Movement’s forces, including the financial support, converged and Corra’s project failed. Embittered, the artist wrote an article entitled L’Affare della Baracca in which he declared that he no longer felt like a futurist.

“Having failed my career as a great artistic acrobat, I entered the good society of the editorial and journalistic staff … I am in the position of a singer-songwriter who has married and lives flawlessly; but who always finds people in the salons who remember the time when everyone called him Fifì and Lulù … You are still futurists, I no longer am.”

Despite his detachment from the movement, Corra continued to gravitate to the Futurist sphere even after moving to Varese and his literary production was oriented more towards a narrative that, although interesting under certain aspects, responded to more commercial needs and mostly sought success with the general public.

In 1938, he signed a new Futurist manifesto with Marinetti again: Contro il teatro morto, contro il romanzone analitico, contro il negroismo musicale- Against Dead Theatre, Against Analytical Romance, Against Musical Negrism. This last Futurist act would seem to be a way of re-positioning himself within the Movement and of supporting Marinetti in his arduous pursuit of an active role within the increasingly closed and reactionary Fascist cultural world, at a time when the regime, now devoid of any innovative spirit, was moving towards the tragedy of War.

Text by Lavinia Russo, supervision by Lucia Collarile.