Examining Ruins with Italian poet Gabriele Tinti and actor Marton Csokas

Photo by Mauro Maglione

Through the lens of Italian poet Gabriele Tinti, words are not just words, but are instead little egresses, ways to see desire, beauty, comfort, loss and tragedy as more than just feelings painted across a universal human experience. His latest publication, titled Ruins (set to be released this October by Eris Press) lives hand in hand with the recitation of Tinti’s work, an ongoing live reading series featuring notable actors in stately museum halls. Here, Tinti chats with one such actor, Marton Csokas and writer Gian Ruggero Manzoni, about the “double direction” nature of his writing, why poetry and art need each other and what it means to be a “fanatic of the word.”

Gabriele Tinti and actor Marton Csokas have been working together for some time giving a series of readings at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the Musei Capitolini in Rome and the Museo Archeologico in Venice. Tinti’s ongoing live reading series focused on ancient masterpieces with actors including Joe Mantegna, Robert Davi, Burt Young, Franco Nero, Vincent Piazza and others. The readings have been given at the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the J. Paul Getty Museum and LACMA in Los Angeles, the British Museum in London, the Musei Capitolini in Rome, the Museo Nazionale Romano, the Ara Pacis Museum, the Museo Archeologico in Naples and the Glyptothek in Munich.

Gabriele Tinti by Mauro Maglione

Gian Ruggero Manzoni:
Ruins — how did this project come about and what does it consist of? 

Gabriele Tinti:
Ruins is a series of ekphrastic poetry that moves from the tragic sense of death, of emptiness, that pervades even the masterpieces we would like to think eternal. It is in some ways a phantasmagoria, a project that makes specters speak, in this case the remains, the fragments, that which still lies among the ruins. Because I am convinced that beauty lies in what remains, in something that was and that we can no longer recognize and yet we desire.

GRM:
Why did you decide to entrust your writings to actors and why exactly in museums?

GT:
Mainly because that is where the works that inspired me are kept. Then also because I have always liked moving around in the cemetery of museums, in those spaces of death that, despite the many efforts to bring them alive with new and “contemporary” life (event exhibitions, Sunday teas, evenings devoted to business events), they have never really stopped being containers conserving the impossible hope of being able to give eternal life to our works. As far as the actors go, I involved them because I seek only, as Lessing would say, not the effect of the narrative of the cries but the cries themselves. To do so I could do nothing but entrust my writings “to the living painting of the actor,” once again quoting Lessing. I would say that, more than to the living painting, to the living sculpture, to the colossus that acquires voice.

I am convinced that beauty lies in what remains, in something that was and that we can no longer recognize and yet we desire.

GRM:
From what I understand, is it perhaps the idea “that everything has an end,” to quote Rilke, that set off this new expressive research?

GT:
Exactly. I would like to answer your question with another quotation: “that which concerns the body is a current that passes, that which concerns the spirit dream and vanity; existence is a battle in a foreign land; posthumous glory oblivion” (Marcus Aurelius), I would add, a slow fall into oblivion, into the indifference of the inorganic. Not even our masterpieces are immune to this, likewise that which we most worship. Despite our desperate attempts to preserve them and make them endure.

GRM:
How do you place this latest work in the contemporary and what are the possible doubts that you and your works have? 

GT:
Art was probably once the jealous sister of poetry, at least in the ancient world. I am convinced that this relationship has now been overturned. However, I believe with Joseph Spence that the two arts were originally very closely tied and needed each other. This is why my writing moves in a double direction, involving the images and a body that gives them voice. Of course in the awareness that all this is a game, they are the rules of my personal game.

GRM:
Is there perhaps no way for man to overcome the time that reduces everything to dust?

GT:
“Auch das Schöne muß sterben,” “Even beauty must perish” said Friedrich Schiller. There is not much more to add.

Gabriele Tinti and Marton Csokas by Mauro Maglione

My writing moves in a double direction, involving the images and a body that gives them voice.

Marton Csokas by Mauro Maglione

GRM:
Tell us about the book that brings all this together and is soon to be published by Eris Press.

GT:
It is a book containing pieces written between 2014 and 2019 with, I think, numerous pathosformel, pathos formulas that persist, not only in art, as Warburg noted, but also in literature. One of the pathos formulas found in Ruins is the almost exclusive use of the elegiac couplet and so the meter of the epigram, the elegy, of inscriptions and funeral lamentations. Mine is of course an irregular use that is more conceptual than technical. Basically the only one possible today because, as Cioran clearly said, we are all “too wounded and too impoverished, too weary and too barbarous in our weariness to still appreciate the craft.”

GRM:
Why keep on writing poetry and practicing art in an ephemeral and inexorably uncertain, indefinite reality like the human one?

GT:
Because the tragic, our life itself, has need of art to be soothed and sustained. This is the last refuge, the sole comfort for us all. Writers take language very seriously, so much so that through it they seek a path to salvation. They are, we are, fanatics of the word. Truly unable to accept muteness, the endless banality of language, we try to give it new life seeking the right word to console ourselves. We are failures of action as Cioran said, incapable of real nihilism. Because we are unable to stop deluding ourselves and daring.

GRM:
Marton can you tell us what it meant to you to recite Gabriele’s poetry?

Marton Csokas:
Gabriele Tinti’s words wrestle with the soul’s desire to be free of the trajectory from birth to death, or at least to understand it, through the gods, through mortals and their muses. His prayers and laments carry the thin smoke of both incense and excrement, of blood and saliva, mortal’s jewels, which we offer the gods we invent, both sacred and profane. The characters Tinti draws from the Greek myths, the muses, the slaves, enable ‘the actor’ to inhabit the essential struggle of what it is to be human, like a Noh play, doomed to repetition and the transcendence gained from it, to be human under the burning sun, which both gives life and destroys. Our efforts and yearning, melting in the great fire, like the wings of Icarus, falling, in the glory of the effort, existing then, and now, born and dying into the hope of transcendence, each moment, each word, a prayer, a cry, an offering to the dimension of the Unknown, as represented in ritual and expression, the landscape of ideas built upon the efforts of humanity, recumbent, ruined, and from this stagnation and death, arrives the possibility, like the glint of light from Sisyphus stone, our opportunity.

Marton Csokas Reads Apollo by Gabriele Tinti, Film Direction by Boldizsar CR 


A recent recipient of the 2018 Montale Poetry Award, Gabriele Tinti is an Italian poet and writer. He has worked with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Mu- seum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Roman Museum, the Capitolini Muse- ums, the Archeological Museum in Naples, the Ara Pacis Museums and the Glyptothek of Munich, composing poems for ancient works of art, including The Boxer at Rest, the Discobolus, Arundel Head, the Ludovisi Gaul, the Victorious Youth, the Farnese Hercules, the Hercules by Scopas, the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, the Barberini Faun and many other masterpieces. His poems have been recited by actors like Joe Mantegna, Michael Imperioli, Burt Young, Marton Csokas, Alessandro Haber, Robert Davi, Jamie Mc. Shane, Vincent Piazza, and Franco Nero.

In 2016 he published Last Words (Skira Rizzoli) a collection of found poetry in association with Andres Serrano.
From 2016 to 2018 he composed some poems inspired by Giorgio de Chirico’s masterpieces with mythological subjects. His works have been read at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection by the actor Burt Young, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York by the actor Vincent Piazza, and at the Museo del Novecento in Milan by Alessandro Haber.
In 2018, his ecphrastic poetry project Ruins was awarded the Premio Montale with a ceremony at the Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Altemps.

Publication of his poetry collection with illustrations by the artist Roger Ballen is planned for July 2020 by Powerhouse Books (New York).

Marton Csokas was born in Aotearoa/New Zealand, an actor, of Hungarian descent. He has a Bachelor of Arts, in Acting from, Te Kura Toi Whakaari o Aotearoa/The New Zealand Drama School. He has worked in the theatre internationally; The Sydney Theatre Company, Belvoir Street Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop,Theatre for a New Audience, The National Theatre of Great Britain, The Goodman Theatre,Chicago with theatre directors such as Ivo Van Hove, Bob Falls, Sir Peter Hall, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Pam McKinnon and Darko Trejsnak. Hiswork has included the Shakespearean roles of Antony, Brutus and Orsino. Astrov in Uncle Vanya and George in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf. He was the founding member of Stronghold Theatre in New Zealand. He has worked extensively in cinema and television, in films such as Rain, Asylum, Age of Reason, Romulus My Father, Loving, Star Wars, Triple XXX, The Equaliser and Lord of the Rings, with  directors such as Peter Jackson, Jim Sheridan, Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, George Lucas and Darren Aronofsky.