The ultraism is a Spanish poetic movement of avant-garde of the beginning of the twentieth century.
It is born in 1919 with the publication from “a manifiesto literario”, text in which the signatories (among whom Guillermo de Torre and Pedro Garfias) express their desire to break with the esthetic standards hitherto into force, and which the movement proposes to exceed (lat. ultra > beyond). Strongly influenced by the Cubism French (G. Apollinaire, P. Reverdy), by the poetic Créationnisme of Chilean the Vicente Huidobro, but also by the Italian Futurism of F.T. Marinetti and the movement Hobby-horse, Ultraism is the Spanish emanation of scattered esthetic ideas cultivated in the peripheral European countries. These multiple and sometimes divergent influences mainly explain the esthetic dispersion of the Spanish movement which will never choose a precise orientation. The various proclamations and texts programming sciences ultraïstes - which for the majority anything else declare only the adhesion of the Spanish movement to the principal demands avant-gardists -, will never correct this lack of esthetic determination. In spite of its extension on all the Spanish territory, the publication of many more or less transitory reviews, the organization of taken care and the efforts authorized to make a tendency comparable with the most considered movements of it, Ultraism will remain in margin of the European avant-garde. Admittedly, it maintains the contacts with a great number of foreign tendencies, but put aside in Latin America where it will have a considerable impact, its will have does not exceed war the Spanish borders. With the end of the year 1922, the last reviews openly acquired with the reforming movement disappear or leave a place always increasing to a less experimental poetry. The signatures of those which soon will form what one has habit to call the “Génération of 27” appear then, substituent with those of the ultraïstes.
Precursors of the Spanish movementThe birth of the Spanish movement results from a long advance. Well before the publication of the first proclamation ultraïste, one notes in Spain various attitudes in relation to the European avant-garde which anticipate the precepts developed by the Spanish movement. They are the fruit of authors who are distinguished like true precursors from Spanish art from avant-garde. Among them let us quote Ramón Gómez of Serna - figure iconoclast of the Spanish artistic medium which will plead unceasingly in favor of a modern art in Spain -, and Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, personality inhabitant of Madrid which animates a literary meeting in which the future members of Ultraism will take part. These two authors do not seem to lead to make emerge a movement, even if they contribute effectively to the rooting of the ideas acquired with modern esthetics in Spanish literary youth. It is finally the Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro which will influence the advent of Ultraism decisively. Founder of the Créationnisme - poetic movement very near to the literary Cubism -, Vicente Huidobro makes share with the Spanish poets, in 1918, of the literary innovations of the moment. A few months later, under the combined impulse of these various personalities appear the first proclamation ultraïste.
Esthetics ultraïsteThe first official demonstration of Ultraism goes back to the publication, in January 1919, of the text founder of Ultraism entitled Manifiesto literario. This text does nothing but solemnly express the appearance of a poetic group which proposes to seek an art nouveau. But no original esthetic principle is exposed there. By declaring that the esthetic creed of the movement accepts “all the tendencies without distinction, for little which they express a desire of innovation”, Ultraism is transformed into a unifying movement of the various existing expressions avant-gardists beyond their divergences. In a posterior text, the poet Isaac del Vando-Villar will present Ultraism like a movement in perpetual evolution thus excluding the idea even from constitution of a precise esthetics. In a general way, the writings of the Spanish movement integrate into their “theory” as well components of esthetics cubist or creationnist as certain aspects of futuristic filiation . With that the influence of the iconoclast movement Dada is added very from which the ultraïstes borrow the provocative aspect that one finds inter alia in the “paragraphs programming sciences” dispersed in the pages of Vltra - undoubtedly most famous of their reviews. This recovery of heteroclite precepts explains not only the large variety of the poems which constitute the corpus of the movement, but also its lack of originality. The enthusiastic period of the Twenties, that one also knows under the name of the “mad years”, offers to the avant-garde poetic topics again: humor, the leisures and the chance enter the field of poetry. But it is especially urban environment, place of predilection of the reforming movements, which is essential quickly like central theme of the Avant-garde. The city, in all that it has again, becomes the main actor of modern esthetics. Cars, trams and planes fill up the poems with the futuristic accents. Industrial mechanization, the factories, the bridges with new dimensions, the electric standard lamps, the steel monuments (Eiffel Tower), in short, all the marked elements of the seal of the innovation and technological advance enter the privileged field set of themes of the Spanish avant-garde. This new set of themes is accompanied by a change of the expression. The fixed forms and the rhymes, the symbols locatable of traditional poetry, are the elements which undergo in first the repeated attacks of the various movements of avant-garde, and consequently of Ultraism. Culprits of all the evils, and especially that to prevent creation by forcing the poem to purely adjust with constraints stylistics, the traditional metric structures thus tend to disappear with the profit from the “worms white” (towards nonrhyme), and from the “verse free” (which escapes all preset rules from extension). The punctuation is also theoretically condemned, even if actually its suppression is never but partial. Lastly, the new adjectivation is essential like one of the priorities of the esthetic program of restoration ultraïste. Following the example other reforming movements, the proclamations ultraïstes preach either the total rejection of the adjective, or a use which deviates of its normative use in order to create new bringings together. In spite of the virulence which generally accompanies in proclamations these esthetic proposals, the changes sets of themes, metric, or stylistics preached actually only partially will be implemented. And so certain poems follow to the letter the enacted precepts, most of the Spanish poetic production will never be freed fully from the traditional poetic standards.
Fitting of the poetic textAll these changes generate a reorganization of the poetic text. The worms are juxtaposed the ones with the others, in order to propose a fragmentary and either unit vision poetic fact. This juxtaposition, destroys in fact any fixed or preset structure since it establishes its own structure by arranging the free verse between them. Although absent from proclamations of the movement, the space reorganization of the poem is undoubtedly one of major specificities of Ultraism. There adapting still the graphic structures developed by the main movements European avant-gardists (calligrammes, frameworks of “words in freedom”, joinings, etc), the ultraïstes propose a range at the same time interesting and representative of various graphic and textual constructions of the moment. They will develop even the expressive possibilities of them by proposing relatively short figures in which the various codes (linguistics and visual) merge. This type of figure - to which criticism recently gave the name of “sémiogramme” - does not form a figurative drawing. While exploiting the size of spaces which segment worms or distribute the worms on the page, this figure makes it possible to express a feeling, an impression, or an abstract concept (flow of time, memory, etc) itself semantically given.
The poetic imageThe fragmentation of the poetic expression corresponds perfectly to the bursting of the poetic text which finds in the image its new unit. The concept of image poetic, which deeply marks the poetry of first half of the twentieth century, is not absent from theory ultraïste, even if the image seems to return, according to that which handles it, with various more or less opposite designs. If the writings programming sciences of the Spanish movement often refer to it, rare are those which go so far as to propose a definition of it. For some, close to the ideas of Italian Futurism, the image is nothing more than the expression of the urban dynamism. It thus generates onomatopoeical constructions and generally rests on metaphors which animate the elements of the modern world (automobile, tram, plane). For others, more acquired with the ideas of the poetic Créationnisme of Vicente Huidobro or with the Cubism literary French, the image must make it possible to reveal an entirely new universe. It is presented then in the form of a fruit of the bringing together analogical, instantaneous and right, of two concrete or abstract realities, of which must proceed a new emotion and a new reality. In 1921 and 1922, the theory ultraïste is consolidated by the publication of various theoretical texts signed by Jorge-Shine Borges and in which the South American poet - undoubtedly influenced by Vicente Huidobro -, insists primarily on the questions of creation and the poetic image. These questions, that Ultraism will never slice truly, are found however in the center of the esthetic debates which tear ultraïstes and creationnists.
AssessmentEven if Ultraism succeeded in making take part Spain in the literary news of the Twenties, he did not manage to become a major movement on the European artistic scene. From 1922, it starts its decline. The publication of “Proclaimed Ultraïsta”, genuine proclamation which tries remobiliser the movement, will not change nothing there. On the other hand, being jointly published in the columns of the reviews Vltra (Madrid, n° January 21st, th and th 1922) and in those of Prisma (re-examined mural placarded in the street of Buenos Aires), this text opens with Ultraism, in lose speed on the peninsula, of new prospects on the other side of the Atlantic. The search of innovation and new which Ultraism carries out converts gradually into esthetic purpose, depriving it of the blow of a true theory and transforming it into an only experimental movement. The fragmentary and concise expression which characterizes the majority of the Spanish poetic production of the moment in fact an eminently modern poetry in phase with the remainder of the European productions. With the end of the year 1922, the movement disaggregates almost as quickly as it had been formed. The poets disperse leaving behind them some rare collections of poems. The reasons of this sudden disappearance are surely within the movement which, too eager to transform Madrid into an artistic forum comparable with that of the French capital, forgets some to lay down an general orientation. The breathlessness of dynamics protestor and radical, the decline in the poetic experiments and the emergence of a poetry marked by a return to the traditional standards let foresee a general change of esthetic orientation. This one is carried out around the years 1923-1925 and precedes the arrival on the Spanish cultural scene of the aforesaid the “Génération by 27”. Remain that Ultraism, in spite of its short existence, represents one moment of very great creativity in the Spanish letters. It indisputably opens Spain at the twentieth century and engages it on an artistic way that, unfortunately, the Civil war and the exile will destroy.
Principal authorsGuillermo de Torre, Jorge-Shine Borges, Gerardo Diego, Juan Larrea, Adriano del Valle, Isaac del Vando-Villar, Rafael Lasso of Vega, Humberto Rivas, Jose Rivas Panedas, Lucía Sánchez Saornil, Rogelio Buendía, Jose de Ciria there Escalante, Joaquín of Escosura, Pedro Garfias, Eugenio Montes, Eliodoro Puche, Pedro Raida, Juan Chabás, Francisco Vighi.
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