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Love Dog

Masha Tupitsyn

(Penny-Ante; US: Jun 2013)

I see the title Love Dog and of course think of Kate Bush “Hounds of Love”, and Kate Bush shows up in Masha Tupitsyn’s book, the music being both the text and the space where the text resides. Only the song Tupitsyn includes is “Oh to Be in Love”—“Oh to be in love! And never get out again.”


It makes sense that Tupitsyn picks this song, because in “Hounds of Love” Kate Bush needs to run (away from love), before she can submit (to love). But reading Love Dog, you get the sense—or you start to know, based on what she tells you, and me, and “X”, her unnamed addressee, her love object—that Tupitsyn rarely (never?) runs from love, only towards it. I think of Jessie Ware’s voice, incredulous and frustrated, and also knowing, when she sings these lines: “Who says no to love? And what were you/we thinking of?” I think of this as one of Tupitsyn’s enduring questions.


* * *


The publisher’s page for Tupitsyn’s book states that Love Dog is “an art book that is part love manifesto, part philosophical notebook, part digital liturgy”. For some reason, I can’t review Love Dog like I review other books. It doesn’t call for a standard review. This might be partly because I’m on antibiotics for a throat infection. But it’s also because we need new forms of love and writing. Love Dog is one such offering.


* * *


The bits and pieces of culture that produce subjectivity. In one way, Love Dog can be read this way. Or how subjectivity reproduces itself through culture. In and out. Tupitsyn writes that she is comfortable in “ruins, remnants, cracks, and dirt” and I wonder if this is how the modern bourgeois self is sometimes perceived—as the ruins of pop culture. Infected by culture.


* * * *


Tupitsyn asks: “What decisions do you have to make in order not to die? In order to really live? To not walk around as though you are dead? Hamlet paces back and forth, trying to decide.” The concept of time, or the right time, is like a ghost. It haunts you, maybe even torments you, with all the possibilities you can imagine.


Throughout Love Dog Tupitsyn ruminates on the ancient Greek concept of kairos and the acts that precede waiting for the right moment, the act of readying oneself for the moment, whether readiness is all in love. She writes to X, “I want the reason this love didn’t happen to be because you are between acts, ‘hesitating, about to act but not yet.’ I want it to be because you, X, are trying to decide. How to really live, and therefore, maybe how to really love.”


Hamlet readies himself his whole life in order not to die—so that when he is about to die, he decides to live, through Horatio. As Tupitsyn writes, “It’s time we are up against.” When time is up, you (sometimes) make the leap.


* * *


On Tumblr I followed Tupitsyn’s blog, Love Dog, the digital liturgy part of this project, had read LACONIA: 1, 200 Tweets on Film and was thus already ready for Love Dog. Tupitsyn envisions Love Dog as part of a larger project, a trilogy that begins with LACONIA. Love Dog contains a series of tweets on creative anxiety and performance that was originally meant to be included in a sequel to LACONIA, now shelved:


We’ve lost the valuable feeling of being away from things. Of being removed. Of
hermitage. Of waiting. Of keeping things in before you let them out.
OCT 10, 7:54 PM


Of when to and when not to. The anxiety of influence has become something new.
Something public. With the hypervaluation
OCT 10, 7:55 PM


of the private, you are successful based on how public you manage to be. How public
you are with your private.
OCT 10, 7:56 PM


Tupitsyn’s work shows how it is to be saturated with culture, but also how to think through these repositories of images and sounds and texts shared by viewers, listeners and readers across generations and boundaries. So it is also in a sense of thinking about how private you are with the public, or how to be private with the public.

I was reading Eva Illouz’s Why Love Hurts while reading this. (Though Illouz’s book should have been properly titled Why Love Hurts Under Capitalism (For White Middle and Upper Class Women of the Global North, Specifically.) According to Illouz, “what makes love uniquely modern is the extent to which it is an anticipatory emotion: that is, it contains well-rehearsed emotional and cultural scenarios, which shape the longing both for an emotion and for the good life attendant on it.”


Illouz: “The cinema perfected what the novel had started—that is, techniques of identification with characters, exploration of unknown visual settings and behaviors, and images of daily life organized within aesthetic vignettes—which expanded the range of techniques to imagine and shape one’s aspirations. More than any other culture in human history, consumer culture has actively and even aggressively elicited the exercise of imagination and daydreaming.”


* * *


There is the attendant problem: “How much everything and everyone has been reduced to watching and footage.” Or, “We waste time watching. Cinema incubates and eats time—it was made for this.”


And: “Before, TV was not like real people, but now real people are not like real people. They are like TV.” A little white later: “You are like a character in a movie and you make me feel like I am one too.” I can tell that Tupitsyn is critical of people in real life being like people on TV, where the line between life and TV is no longer there. Or the line between life and image. Between self-presentation on Twitter or Tumblr and life. But what’s the difference between being like a person on TV and being made to felt like a character in a movie?


Tupitsyn meets a young person in Greece and has a conversation that is unlike a conversation she might have with a young person in the US:


My country’s young are not like this. They are slick and aloof and guarded and cynical and opportunistic and savvy—used to everything. Worst of all, they are way too professional. Even when they don’t want to be, which makes it even more heartbreaking. They are longing to connect but aren’t built to connect. They throw words around but they can’t handle what they mean. They never stick to their words and their words never stick to them. They want to feel, but mostly they can’t. Mostly they play at feeling. Their feelings are from the outside in, not from the inside out.


The managed heart, as Arlie Hochschild might say. The professionalisation, or the institutionalisation, of the self. None of this occurs in a vacuum. Under capitalism, we are made to live like we work. Tupitsyn draws a difference between the young people of Greece, whom she meets on her travels, with the young people of America, who are “way too professional”. But the people of Malaysia are like this, too.


The certainty that Tupitsyn has about certain things—that the people she meets abroad are less “guarded” and “professional” than the people in America, or that people in real life being like people on TV is worse than people in real life trying to be like people in movies—seem to boil down to a matter of taste. And it’s a specific taste, shaped and honed by (mostly) European and North American filmmakers, musicians, actors, philosophers, and thinkers.


Mostly I wanted Tupitsyn to explain, or explore, how “playing emotion like another part”, and feeling through words, texts, sounds, and images, are different. Or how one is worse than the other. Or how to determine the realness of a feeling. If we go back to Illouz, then, like the narrator of Madame Bovary we are always anticipating love—feeling and dreaming love—before it even happens, as Tupitsyn so vividly describes in a segment about being ten years old and listening to The Pretenders and already thinking about boys “in that way only a passionate teenage girl does”, her future whole life “mapped out in my head, coursing through my body”.


* * *


Mairead Case interviews Tupitsyn for The New Inquiry and writes that the process of reading Love Dog felt like being surrounded. It’s an apt description for how I felt while reading it. Love Dog plays with time. Or bends it, curves it inward, then outward.


Love Dog is a bit of a bricolage, a Tumblr, an art book, even a zine, and you read it differently. It’s important to experience it, to enter into its world, instead of merely “to read” it. So much of reading on the internet is piecemeal and choppy, fragmented and dispersed. You might think that Love Dog, because it grew out of a blog, might break up your concentration in the same way—but it restructures it. Love Dog makes time expand and open up in front of you like one of the winding roads that fill Tupitsyn’s short films.


I read some text and then paused to listen to a Solomon Burke song or watch a Tarkovksy clip on YouTube. Far from speeding things up, it slowed things down. I feel like Love Dog needs to be read at the right time, as well. Not just any right time, but the reader’s right time. I couldn’t just read it anywhere. Mostly I read it when I was alone in a room, in the late hours of the night, when I knew that no one else was still awake.


* * *


Love Dog’s most straightforward love, or its least complicated, is the one between women. This is not to say that love between women is easy or simple; it just means that when Tupitsyn is talking about her mother or her friend Elaine Castillo, there is a sense of certainty that can only stem from recognition: the recognition that she is indeed loved by her mother, loved by Castillo. In contrast, loving X or attempting to love X, is a suspended form of knowledge with its constantly-shifting boundaries. Maybe all heterosexual love under capitalism works in this manner; it is a game with no rules where no one wins but the women are disproportionately made to bear the cost.


That Tupitsyn loves Castillo is evident. Email transcripts between them fill the pages of Love Dog, but what I find particularly moving in its generosity and enthusiasm is Tupitsyn’s eagerness to share Castillo’s work—her words, her films—with us. So we know Castillo through Tupitsyn, and know Tupitsyn through Castillo.

If I ever think about feminism and love between women as sisterhood, then this must be the clearest example. Tupitsyn, who collects and catalogues greens, who lives greens, who moves in greens, says, “Do I need to say that Elaine is also a green place, a garden? My deepest root blooming flowers when so much has died and not grown?”


* * *


If this is about what I love in Love Dog then maybe it’s the simple things that I love, where Tupitsyn’s searching, compelling, associative mode of thinking takes centre stage without quotes by a host of Euro-philosophers like Zizek, Ronell, Badiou. Like when she talks about Picnic at Hanging Rock, she puts forward the theory that “it’s a woman’ s search for knowledge in this world that makes her go missing. Makes her invisible. To whom can she say what she knows?”


Every woman needs a green place in another woman.


Or when she talks about The Outsiders and says something that rings so true to why I love the movie: “People making the world beautiful again by just talking to each other in a way they’re not supposed to because they are boys.”


In a more general sense, too, the love I have for people talking to each other in a way they’re not supposed to through texts, images, and sounds.


* * *


In Eugène Green’s The Portuguese Nun, the protagonist, Julie—who only plays a nun in the movie within the movie—meets an actual nun (outside of the world of the movie, “in real life”). Julie tells her that like the nun she would like to find that one love, to be familiar with it, but she remains trapped, a “prisoner of this world”. Although Tupitsyn too seems to be in search of that one love, Love Dog doesn’t see itself as a prisoner of this world.


When she quotes Deleuze on cinema, these are the words she chooses to share: “The cinema must film, not the world, but belief in this world, our only link. The nature of the cinema has often been considered. Restoring our belief in the world—this is the power of modern cinema (when it stops being bad). Whether we are Christians or atheists, in our universal schizophrenia, we need reasons to believe in this world.


Tupitsyn is like Julie in her search for love, but like the nun, knows that this doesn’t preclude belief in this world.


“Hide the ideas, but so that people find them. The most important will be the most hidden waits for the right time, hiding in plain sight.” These are Robert Bresson’s words, and so Tupitsyn bides her time or waits for the right moment, hiding in plain sight. As she says, “The most important people are like this, too. Hidden from the rest of the world, most of the world, but not hidden from you. I want to be hidden from everyone but you. I want you (whoever you are) to find me.”

Rating:

Subashini Navaratnam is a copywriter from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia who occasionally blogs. She can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr, ambivalently awaiting the devil's coming.


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