Depero’s Teatro Goldoni (1924) depicts a highly dramatized image of a robot marching into an overwhelming source of light while almost belting a robotic battle cry. When looking at this piece I hear chaos— more specifically, the prelude or aftermath of it all; the part of the story taking a breather but leaves you breathless in anticipation.

This sense of chaos achieved in Depero’s work seems like a stretch because there is only one main subject and with it being robotic, almost gives it some additional order— because it it hardwired to go one path. But in the  context of the Futurist movement as a whole, they were aiming to detach from the past and radically propel into the future of technology. Praising technology and war. This can only lead to the viewer assuming this form of technology is on a path of destruction. Also mentioned earlier, the highly dramatized form of light that the robot is marching toward insists of its direction into a brighter future— a neon lit utopian perspective.

The textual representation of a sound hints at a language insisting a community. A community of these robots and this one here may be only robot number “2310” amongst how many? we can only assume. And once bringing back the idea that they are on a path of destruction along with all these other hints of there being a much larger picture we are cropped out of just adds to the magnitude of this movement. It almost makes you begin to want to submit to these machines in order to survive.

Now with perspective of being in the midst of chaos mixed with a multitude of subjects vocalizing; whether a chant, song or battle cry there is a harmony in it all. Referring this over to music, it would be easy to correlate harmony with a choir or quartet but applying Futurist ideals, technology has to being the mix. One song comes to mind when applying all of these themes of chaos, harmony and technology. This song was interpreted to be about 9/11 because of its intro responding to chaos:

” Where are we?
What the hell is going on?

And rub my eyes
This can’t be happening
When busy streets
A mess with people
Would stop to hold their heads heavy”

This starts you out in a haze with dust settling, further clarity in rubbing her eyes leading to denial and seeing busy streets filled with people. One can see how this assumption could be made. But through series of sources a census has been that the song is about her parents divorce, talking about “crop circles in the carpet”, “Oily marks appear on walls where pleasure moments hung before” and “a collection of childhood memories.” All signifiers of the moving out of a house and reminiscing of what once was. The harmony and technology come into place once you listen to Imogen Heap’s Hide and Seek.

With the use of a technological device called a vocoder, her voice is harmonized. This form of technology is easily confused with autotune but what the difference in autotune is its use is for correcting the pitch of one’s voice; an idealized filter for the human sound. This vocoder ties in with Depero’s work because the vocoder makes a human sound like a robot when all it does is duplicate the human voice. Depero depicts a robot resembling a human with two arms, two legs and executing some form of speech out of its face. A sense of familiarity achieved to remove the sense of potential danger and ultimately causing us to charge our perspective.

There are a few interesting correlations between the two pieces. Both balance on the border of humanity and technology, working interchangeably from different perspectives. Depero shows machine carrying out a movement on behalf of humanity and Imogen Heap uses a machine to create the illusion of multiple people carrying out a message. Further in time we see that more people are sounding like machines with the use of autotune in the music industry and robots (like Siri and Alexa) are communicating in a human voice. Also that humans are being represented technologically as Bitmojis and robots are now taking on further humanistic traits. In this, we see the cycle continue from technology to humanity and humanity into technology.

The Futurist movement was all about “changing the universe” and breaking from the past with technological advances, removing all traditional practices. Vocoders haven’t been used as much as autotune has, but autotunes use has removed the need for the traditional practice of knowing how to sing. This is merely an act of destroying a foundation. Imogen Heap depicts her reaction to her parents’ divorce which is just another example of a foundation destroyed, but on a smaller scale.

Chaos is eminent in these works. One from the perspective of the contributor to this chaos and the other from the victim/ recipient. One from a perspective of order and being prophetic, then the other from confusion and nostalgia. Thought the use of harmony, from both we get a message about the future, though one is great in power and the other deep in despair. Lastly both show the two sides of a broken foundation; one’s ideal dream and the other’s nightmare.

Galen Ward


The “Whatcha Say” Odyssey: From Imogen Heap to Jason Derulo

Imogen Heap and artificial harmony

Hide and Seek- Imogen Heap