At the beginning of the 20th century the Western world was decorated with machines that rapidly distorted man's view on his environment. Significant technological innovations had taken the place of the Industrial Revolution, creating a new excitement in the air. This dramatically changed the type of output from the avant-garde of the art world. After CÃ©zanne, the viewfinder of painting compositions had left from landscapes to that of the urban scene, recording and depicting man's new day-to-day interactions with surrounding machines. The advent of the ever-improving machine had also brought upon a darker side of man's use of his new toys, at a terrible price"”the World War. For the first time in human history, technology had made it possible for war to become a world issue. Advanced communications had made it more possible for countries from all over to agree or disagree with each other, creating alliances, favoritism and new rivalries. Technology also created better and stronger weapons, making war a lot less romantic and a lot more realistic and competitive. It was clear that both technology and war would make a tremendous impact on artists and art itself. From looking at specific sources from the Italian Futurists, the German Dadaists and the Russian Constructivists, one can see revolutionary motivations that mirror, with decisive opinions, the surrounding new culture of technology and war.
David Lynton, from the Story of Modern Art comments on Marinetti, the man responsible for the declaration of Futurism, "He glorified speed and aggression, patriotism and war ("˜the only true hygiene of the world')." To the Postmodern man this seems very odd, as avant-garde art is not usually associated with the promotion of violence. It can only make sense that the Futurism that started in Italy in the early 1900's coincided with the brewing origins of Fascist ideas in pre-war Italy. Futurists did not expect the upcoming; technology fueled World War to be as damaging as it was. Instead, what they saw was a great opportunity to embrace the contemporary world and leave the traditionalist experience most likely that of the bourgeois. Umberto Boccioni's States of Mind: The Farewells is a painting depicting the Cubist approach of people juxtaposed with a Cubist approach of a dominant steam engine train. The outlook is deemed positive as suggested by the swirling lines of rising steam that parallels with a dream-like state of movement of people. It is a painting that suggests that man and machine may live seamlessly together. As Futurism began to spread all across Europe, the embracing of technology and patriotism became a popular topic of art, until the war in 1914.
As a devastating war progressed in Europe, people began to see it as a failure from the heads of states, who have promised military dominance with a built supply of technologically advanced weapons. The Dadaists were not eager to fall for the hackneyed propaganda. These attitudes that rejected the very institution of the political scene rejected the whole art scene as well. Conceptually started in the Cabaret, Lynton describes how they, ""¦became a loud and public act of dissociation from that world by means of acts and objects created in opposition to Western civilization as a whole. All art, even the avant-garde of yesterday and especially Expressionism, stood condemned as part of the war machine." Dadaism went on to develop artists such as John Heartfield, who daringly took on the German political power in both World Wars. His photomontage, Adolf"”The Superman Swallows and Spouts Junk, is a highly political piece criticizing Hitler of his dangerously influential propaganda. Interestingly, Heartfield embraces technology but not in the way that the Futurists do. His use of the photograph encompasses a Dadaist's techniques by questioning the very process in which art should be made and displayed. Anytime photography is used, the question of authenticity and originality is at stake, going against the ritualistic premonitions of art.
An art movement that also sought to change the basis of art, but in the opposite way of the Dadaists, were the Constructivists in Russia. Focusing on design, they looked to rebuild war-torn Russia from its weakened state and promote a serious Marxist Revolution. Vladmir Tatlin's Model of the Monument to the Third International was the leading work seen as the Constructivist concept. Lynton writes that, "Tatlin's concept could not have come into existence without the support of a "˜many-millioned proletarian consciousness', and described it as "˜the ideal, living and classical expression, in a pure and creative form, of the international alliance of the workers of the world." Constructivism had artists working; them believing that they can fuse technology and art into a radically modern goal that would serve just as well functionally. But the Constructivist romance with proletarian ideals proved damaging to its cause. As Marxism turned to Communism in Russia, the Soviet Communist agenda put the high ambitions of the Constructivists to an eventual end. Tatlin's monument was therefore never accomplished.
Technology and World War have affected the nature of modern art, in one way or another. In Europe, the technology had given birth to many manifestos and movements sparked by cultural awareness and a need to keep up with a fast-paced humanism growing at an increasing velocity. As capitalism and social structures needed to change, so did art. Like a conflict of a World War, the different art movements bounced off each other and challenged each other with new theories and a new consciousness going away from the bourgeois. Walter Benjamin best describes these movements saying, "Instead of being based on ritual, it begins to be based on another practice"”politics. As technology became the motivation for many of the new art forms, it also became as destructive. With the introduction of photography, the art world would be put in check and prove the beginning of the end of Modern art.