Abbreviated Poetronics: An Introduction to Gianni Toti



Gianni Toti is considered the father of video poetry and one of the most important international video artists. His diverse biography as a poet, writer, author of films and theatre pieces gives a profile of an organic intellectual who indefatigably confronted the theoretical depth and cultural activity with publishing initiatives and with militant intervention through his activity in the Roman resistance, and then as a journalist and special envoy of the newspaper L’Unitá. The willingness to experiment with new languages and his vocation for the logical-syntactic disassembly of the word, something that marks his poetry, led him to discover video, pushing to extremes the electronic image as the sum of all the arts. Toti made some video poetry in the research and experimentation sector of the RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana), thus kickstarting a career in which he would go on to create (more abroad than in Italy) thirteen works, best defined as VideoPoemOperas, given the synthesis of musical, imaginative and poetic languages that characterize them. In the 1990s he participated actively in video festivals and manifestations in Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Peru. Toti takes Latin American thought to the symbolic and figurative domain of electronic language, passing through the area of semantics from literature to cinematography, always keeping in mind the fusion of all the arts, with the perspective of the total work of art and of “syntheatronics”.
This selection is intended as a brief introduction to the work of Gianni Toti, showing some short but representative works of the different stages of his videocreation. The selection begins with the documentary PlaneToti-Notes, made by researcher Sandra Lischi, a close friend and collaborator of the author, portraying Toti’s fascinating life and his particular form of creating. The next work Order, Chaos and Phaos is part of the series The Scientific Imaginary, for which Toti was inspired by recent scientific advances, from comets discovered at that time to medical computerization. This work deals with new mental models, including particularly the theory of fractals. This is followed by two short pieces, Tennez Tenis and L’originedite, which show the abstract development of his experimentation in video poetry in the 1990s. The last work in the selection, Plant song to Pachamamacoca, was made with Marko Mormil and Elisa Zurlo, and is an allegory inspired by figures of Latin American culture, with which Toti had a very close relationship.
This selection complies some of the works from the exhibition Poetronics: Gianni Toti and the Origins of Videopoetry, which took place in Lima, in the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) and in the Casa de la Literatura Peruana, and which will be shown in 2017 in Buenos Aires and Bangalore.

31’ | Betacam | Color | Stereo

1997

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

Italy

PlaneToti-Notes

New media researcher Sandra Lischi made this video portrait of Gianni Toti as an experimental documentary, introducing his peculiar intellectual and personal universe, as well as stages in his creative process, which he called “poetronics”. In Lischi’s words: “Poetronics is created, therefore, from the articulation of verbal languages, of writing, of images; but above all, it is the result of the combination of these elements with each other, and with other ‘text’ fragments (musical, theatrical, cinematographic, pictorial quotations or creations?)” In this short documentary the images of Gianni Toti, his house overrun with books and notes, blend with the anecdotes, stories and reflections of the filmmaker.

24’ | U-matic | Color | Stereo

1986

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

France

Order, Chaos and Phaos

In 1986, Totti produced with the support of the Society of Computer Music and the City of Sciences and Industry, Paris (La Villette), a series of video creations that discuss everything from the relationship of cosmic theories and the final structure of the universe to the study of the human body. The images of man and machine dialogue harmoniously in these works. Many of these works were made from discussions of Toti’s with recognized researchers. Order, Chaos and Phaos is a piece about the new mental models of emerging science: fractals, strange attractors, cosmic knots; confrontation between the old and the imaginary new, in the prospect of a unitary model of artistic and scientific creativity.

15’ | Betacam | Color - B&N | Stereo

1992

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

Italy

Tennez Tenis

Toti’s collaboration with the RAI –in this case, through the site in the Lombardi region—would lead to this work, made to mark the 900th anniversary of the Università di Bologna. Valeria Magli plays the unbeatable 1920s tennis player Suzanne Lenglen in this videoballet that fuses dance, sport and music (with an original soundtrack by John Cage). The work was projected for the first time in the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, located in the heart of the University, on 12 October 1990. The years of collaboration with the RAI would later be looked back on with a very critically, renouncing the public network’s work and its continual refusal to give space and support to thought and creation.

18’ | Betacam | Color - B&N | Stereo

1994

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

France

L’Originedite

This work, the title of which is a play on “origin” and “unpublished”, is Toti’s first computer graphics video. In it he asks questions about this new experience, this binary universe made of zeroes and ones that dance and compose new forms. A challenge, a provocation, this is the numerical image, to which Toti responds with punches of humanistic culture, scientific imaginary, poetic and artistic references. The synthesis images were made at the Atelier Brouillard-Précis, with the collaboration of the Ministry of Culture and Francophonie, the Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (DRAC PACA), the Municipality of Marseille, and the Office Régional de la Culture del Centre International de Poésie de Marseille. The synthesis images were created with the Anyflo programme, developed by Michel Bret.

5’ 30’’ | Betacam | Color - B&W | Stereo

1997

Screening format: Standard-definition digital video

France

Plant song to Pachamamacoca

Made by Marko Mormil, Elisa Zurlo and Gianni Toti. The coca gospel, according to the Pacha Maria, the Quechua Madonna, is a legend “for travellers” and “workers of the wind”. It is the story of Galchovang, Mother Earth, and of the hero Sintana, of their daughter Bunkejim and her brother Miuiva, of María Teyuna and of the Shaman “hidden bird”, of hallucinations and “cocatronics”, as told by Mama Quilla and Madre Luna. A short poem sung in the language of the Incas and played on the quena, the Indian flute. A “plant song” of the “little sacred plant” and of the “false ideological consciences” of coca contradictions, beyond the now archaic myths and prejudices about erythroxyline. A short poem for the Cuca Cuca excocaculturally “pachamamacocadanced”.

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