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The Futurist Banquet: Nouvelle Cuisine or Performance Art?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 January 2009


The Futurist movement was not only an artistic but also a social and political force for innovation, conceived as a total and permanent revolution encompassing all aspects of human life. One such aspect was food. Banquets had been a highly developed performative art in the Italian Renaissance and were again placed in a theatrical framework by the Futurists after the First World War. They founded three night clubs, where food and drinks were served in Futurist fashion, and opened several restaurants dedicated to a renewal of Italian culinary habits. In the 1930s, the Futurists focused on the creation of a new lifestyle called aerovita, which included cooking and dining as paratheatrical arts. Many of the recipes (or rather scenarios) in the Futurist cookbook La cucina futurista of 1932 derived from banquets that Marinetti, the driving force of Futurism, had organized as a kind of savoury-olfactory-tactile theatre accompanied by music and poetry recitations. The highly imaginative table scenery and food sculptures were complemented by inventive lighting effects and an amazing mise en scéne of interior decor, furniture, and waiters' garb. This essay describes and analyzes some of the Futurist experiments with culinary theatre, the manifestos dedicated to Futurist cuisine, and some of the Futurist concepts of dining as a performative art. Günter Berghaus is Reader in Theatre History and Performance Studies at the Drama Department, University of Bristol, and has published a dozen books and a large number of articles on theatre anthropology, Renaissance and Baroque theatre, dance history, and avant-garde performance. Directing a number of Futurist shows led to the publication of The Genesis of Futurism (1995), Futurism and Politics (1996), Italian Futurist Theatre (1998), and International Futurism in the Arts and Literature (2000).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2001

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