On 2 July, 1914, the first volume of BLAST appeared, an oversized, puce-coloured block, an assemblage of poetry, prose, drama and visual art, the manifesto of the Vorticist movement and, in its own right, a radical experiment in typography and avant-garde self-promotion. Vorticism may have been a short-lived phenomenon, but BLAST remains as vivid and challenging today as it was one hundred years ago. Its influences upon the subsequent courses of art, poetry and popular culture have been extraordinary.
To assess some of these influences, and to mark the centenary of the magazine’s first appearance, a one-day symposium will be held in the Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin on 2 July, 2014. Speakers from the disciplines of English, the History of Art and Architecture, and Drama, will speak about BLAST, its contexts, and its influence on the work of later writers and artists. There will also be readings from some of the manifestos and poetry published in the two issues of BLAST, and a performance of Wyndham Lewis’s play Enemy of the Stars directed by Nicholas Johnson. The symposium will be accompanied by an exhibition of the original issues of BLAST in the Long Room of the Old Library, Trinity College Dublin,where the magazine will be placed alongside examples of the contemporary fine-art print culture: journals, magazines, and advertisements. Viewed in this curated context, the radicalism of BLAST is clear, and especially its singular readiness to use the techniques and aesthetics of advertising and popular culture in the early decades of the twentieth century.
A list of the contributors to BLAST gives some sense of the ambitious range of the Vorticist movement. Poetry by T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Sculpture by Jacob Epstein and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Visual art by Wyndham Lewis, Edward Wadsworth, Jessica Dismoor, Helen Saunders, and William Roberts. Prose by Rebecca West and Ford Madox Hueffer. Notably, it also included some of the first translations of Vasily Kandinsky’s writings on art. The ‘great London vortex’ was a concentration of individual energies, a startling and potent grouping of talent, and BLAST was its articulation. BLAST set out to provide an English counterpart to the renaissance of the arts underway in Ireland at the time of its original appearance. One of the themes to be explored in the ‘BLAST at 100’ event, therefore, will be the relationship between BLAST and Irish modernist culture. The magazine’s influence upon the work of Eileen Gray has been noted, while the Irish journal, To-morrow, took its inspiration openly from BLAST. At the same time, BLAST belongs very firmly in the networks of the London art world. Its unity, and its singular confidence, derive from the interconnected nature of the ‘great London vortex’ out of which, in July, 1914, it so suddenly and unexpectedly emerged. ‘BLAST at 100’ will explore its impact and significance one hundred years after its first appearance.