BLAST (magazine)

BLAST (magazine)

"BLAST" was the short-lived literary magazine of the Vorticist movement in Britain. It had two editions, the first published on 2 July 1914 [It was dated 20th June 1914, but the publication was delayed] [Blasting The Future! Black, Philip Wilson Publishing, 2004 p100] [see page 1 of "BLAST" or Humphrey Carpenter's "A Serious Character: The Life of Ezra Pound", page 249] and the second a year later. Written primarily by the anglo-american artist Wyndham Lewis and covered by a notorious pink cover referred to by Ezra Pound as the "great MAGENTA cover'd opusculus" [ [] ] , the magazine has become famous as emblematic of the first modern art movement in England [ [] ] , and is now recognised as one of the seminal texts of 20th-century modernism. [Jackie Klein, [ Guardian Online] ] [ [ University of Delaware Library] ] The magazine originally cost 2/6.

The Origins of Blast

The Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti had visited London in 1910, [For a part of this speech, se Wikiquotes, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti] as part of a series of well-publicised lectures aimed at galvanizing support across Europe for the new Italian avant-garde. His speech at the Lyceum Club, in which he addressed his audience as "victims of.... traditionalism and its medieval trappings" [Manifestoes, J Lyon, Cornell University Press, 1999, p97] electrified the assembled avant-garde. Within two years, an exhibition of futurist art at the Sackler Gallery, London, brought futurism squarely into the popular imagination, and the press began to use the term to refer to any forward-looking trends in modern art.

Initially galvanized by Marinetti's verve, Wyndham Lewis - like many other members of the London avant-garde - had become increasingly irritated by the Italian's arrogance [ [ From Vortex to Vorticism: Ezra Pound's art and science.] ] . The final straw was the publication of the English Futurist Manifesto, "Vital English Art", published in the Observer in June 1914. Co-authored by Marinetti and the 'last remaining English Futurist' CRW Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis' name, amongst others, had been added to the signatories at the end of the article without permission, in a blatant attempt to assimilate the English avant-garde for Marinetti's own ends. On June 12th, during recitations of this manifesto and a performance by Marinetti of his poem "The Battle Of Adrianople" with Nevinson accompanying on drums, Lewis, Hulme, Epstein, Gaudier-Brzeska, Wadsworth and 5 others roundly interrupted the performance with jeering and shouting. [Blasting The Future! Black, Philip Wilson Publishing, 2004 p100] Wyndham Lewis stated in an article written a few days later, using typically vitriolic language; "England practically invented this civilisation that Signor Marinetti has come to preach to us about" [Wyndham Lewis, quoted in [ From Vortex to Vorticism] ] .

The final riposte came with the publication of "Blast", (later known as "Blast 1"), written and illustrated by a group of artists assembled by Lewis from "a determined band of miscellaneous anti-futurists" [Wyndham Lewis, quoted in [ From Vortex to Vorticism] ] The name Vorticism was coined by Ezra Pound, a close friend of Lewis and the group's main publicist. [ [ Vorticism Online] ]

Writing to James Joyce in April 1914, Pound had described the magazine in ambiguous terms; "Lewis is starting a new Futurist, Cubist, Imagiste Quarterly.... I cant tell, it is mostly a painters magazine with me to do the poems". [ [ Pound quoted in From Vortex to Vorticism] ] By July, the magazine had a name, a home-grown movement to support, a typographic style all its own, and had forged a distinctly English identity, confident enough to praise Kandinsky, question Picasso ["These wayward little objects have a splendid air, starting up in pure creation, with their invariable and lofty detachment from any utilitarian end or purpose. But they do not seem to possess the necessary physical stamina to survive, You feel the glue will come unstuck and that you would only have to blow with your mouth to shatter them" Relativism and Picasso's Latest Work, Lewis, quoted in Blast 1, p139] , and openly mock Marinetti.

Blast 1

"BLAST 1" was edited and largely written by Wyndham Lewis with contributions from Ezra Pound, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Jacob Epstein, Spencer Gore, Edward Wadsworth, Rebecca West and an extract from Ford Madox Hueffer's novel "The Saddest Story", better known by its later title "The Good Soldier" (published under his subsequent pseudonym Ford Madox Ford). The first edition was printed in folio format, with the oblique title "BLAST" splashed across its bright pink soft cover. Inside, Lewis used a range of bold typographic innovations and tricks to engage the reader, that are reminiscent of Marinetti's contemporary concrete poetry such as Zang Tumb Tumb.

The opening 20 pages of "Blast 1" contain the Vorticist manifesto, written by Lewis with assistance from Ezra Pound and signed by Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Pound, William Roberts, Helen Saunders, Lawrence Atkinson, Jessica Dismorr and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Jacob Epstein chose not to sign the manifesto, although their work was featured. There is also a (positive) critique of Kandinsky's "Concerning the Spiritual In Art", a faintly patronising exhortation to suffragettes not to destroy works of art, a review of a London exhibition of Expressionist woodcuts, and a last dig at Marinetti;

'Futurism, as preached by Marinetti, is largely Impressionism up-to-date. To this is added his Automobilism and Nietzsche stunt, With a lot of good sense and vitality at his disposal, he hammers away in the blatant mechanism of his Manifestos, at his idee fixe of Modernity' Wyndham Lewis, [Lewis, The Melodrama of Modernity, Blast 1 p143]

The Manifesto

The manifesto is primarily a long list of things to be 'Blessed' or 'Blasted'. It starts:

# Beyond Action and Reaction we would establish ourselves.
# We start from opposite statements of a chosen world. Set up violent structure of adolescent clearness between two extremes.
# We discharge ourselves on both sides.
# We fight first on one side, then on the other, but always for the SAME cause, which is neither side or both sides and ours.
# Mercenaries were always the best troops.
# We are primitive Mercenaries in the Modern World.
# Our Cause is NO-MAN'S.
# We set Humour at Humour's throat. Stir up Civil War among peaceful apes.
# We only want Humour if it has fought like Tragedy.
# We only want Tragedy if it can clench its side-muscles like hands on its belly, and bring to the surface a laugh like a bomb.

" [Blast 1] included the now famous pages of subjects either 'Blasted' or 'Blessed' depending on how they were seen by the fledgeling Vorticists. 'Blast' pages generally had a go at [Roger Fry| [Roger] Fry] , the Bloomsbury set, the average art critic, and Putney (for some reason). Amongst those being Blessed are hairdressers and mariners. The latter two professions were celebrated because they both battle against elemental nature.

Tonks, the Slade drawing tutor has the unique honour of being both 'Blessed' and 'Blasted'." Vorticism Online [ [] ]

The first edition also contained many illustrations in the Vorticist style by Jacob Epstein, Lewis and others.

Blast 2 (The War Number)

The second edition, published on 20th July 1915, contained a short play by Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot's poems "Preludes" and "Rhapsody on a Windy Night".Another article by Gaudier-Brzeska entitled "Vortex (written from the Trenches)" further described the vorticist aesthetic. It was written whilst Gaudier-Brzeska was fighting in the First World War, a few weeks before he was killed at Verdun.

WW1 And The End of Vorticism

33 days after BLAST 1 was published, war was declared on Germany. The First World War would destroy vorticism [Vorticism, an essay by Richard Cook, Oxford Art Online] ; both Gaudier-Brzeska and TE Hulme were killed at the front & Bomberg lost his faith in modernity. [" [Bomberg's] disillusion with the destructive power of the machine at war led to a few years spent experimenting with ways of making his stark pre-war style more rounded and organic." Quoted from the essay on Bomberg by Richard Cork, Oxford Art Online] Lewis was mobilised in 1916, initially fighting in France as an artillery officer, later working as a war artist for the Canadian Government. He would try to re-invigorate the avant-garde after the war; Lewis wrote to a friend after the war that he intended to publish a third edition of BLAST in November 1919 [Quoted in Blasting The Future! Black, Philip Wilson Publishing, 2004 p102] , organised an exhibition of avant-garde artists called "Group X" [Participating artists were Dismorr, Dobson, Etchells, Ginner, Hamilton, Lewis, Roberts, McKnight Kauffer, Turnbull and Wadsworth] at Heal's Gallery March-April 1920, and later published a new magazine, "The Tyro", of which only two issues appeared. [ [ Tate Online] ] The first failed to appear; neither of the other two ventures managed to achieve the momentum of his pre-war efforts.

'When Lewis returned from the trenches, he hoped to revivify the Vorticist spirit, planning a third issue of Blast and regaining contact with old allies. But the whole context of pre-war experimentation had been dispersed by the destructive power of mechanized warfare, which persuaded most of the former Vorticists to pursue more representational directions thereafter. By 1920 even Lewis was obliged to admit that the movement was dead.' Richard Cook [Vorticism, an essay by Richard Cook, Oxford Art Online]

Public Collections

Both editions have been reprinted a number of times, and are shortly to be made available again by Thames and Hudson; original copies are in the collections of the V&A, Tate, University of Delaware, Chelsea College and others.


* "BLAST" 1 and 2 reprinted in reduced format by Black Sparrow Books (1982), ISBN 0-87685-521-4 and ISBN 0-87685-523-0
* [ Gingko Press] description of their facsimile editions.
* [ Vorticism Online]
* [,M1 Manifestoes By Janet Lyon, 1999]
* [ From Vortex To Vorticism; Ezra Pound]
* Blasting The Future! Black, Philip Wilson Publishing, 2004
* Breaking The Rules, Stephen Bury, British Library, 2007


External links

* [ Scans of all pages of "BLAST"]
* [ Blast 1 pdf]
* [ Blast 2 pdf]
* [ WWI anthologies]
*August 9, 1914, New York Times [ VORTICISM THE LATEST CULT OF REBEL ARTISTS; It Goes a Step Further Than Cubism and Futurism, and Is Sponsored by Brzeska, Epstein and Others. Its Official Mouthpiece Is a Cerise Magazine Called Blast.]

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