Reclaiming Intimacy One Film at a Timeby Christine Hou
Laconia: 1,200 Tweets on Film
(Zer0 Books, 2011)
Intimacy. Why do we need it? How do we preserve it in a time when being present means being everywhere and nowhere at once, between Facebook statuses, Google, and Twitter? Masha Tupitsyn’s LACONIA: 1,200 Tweets on Film considers these questions and visual culture at large through the private/public sphere of the Internet. LACONIA is a fascinating experiment in both form and thought, creating what cultural theorist Lauren Berlant would call an “intimate public”: “What makes a public sphere intimate is an expectation that the consumers of its particular stuff already share a worldview and emotional knowledge that they have derived from a broadly common historical experience. A certain circularity structures an intimate public.” The book, written entirely on Twitter between April 2009 and June 2010, uses popular culture to create a personal world. It stays focused and intimate; personal albeit public. Tupitsyn seeks to do what seems almost impossible—inhabiting the present moment to its fullest.
The book calls to mind Blaise Pascal’s Pensées or Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace, fragmented texts or aphorisms that are innately spiritual and political in nature. LACONIA, however, is not so much steeped in religious mysticism as much as it is a demystification of image, celebrity, and consumerism. It is at once diary, film criticism, and cultural collage. Influenced by Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments and Alfredo Jaar’s photography installation, “Lament of the Images,” Tupitsyn writes in her introduction that LACONIA is “a lament of the overproduction of language, a communication overload we’re incapable of keeping up with or making sense of.” However, Tupitsyn doesn’t confine herself to formal restrictions of the 140-character per tweet limit; it’s not the point. Instead, LACONIA ebbs and flows, often incorporating quotes from films and various cultural theorists and threading them into a larger cultural fabric. Each statement is executed with precision, while revealing a personal intimacy and at times, deep sadness in her mode of thinking:
I just can’t bring myself to watch Changeling or Wanted because looking at Angelina Jolie’s already-dead face is like looking at Damien Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull.
The male I/eye is everyone’s eye. The female I/eye is her own.
…Is it because rather than master the art of loving, we’ve mastered the art of capitalism? In other words, does the context have to be artificial and does money have to be the driving impetus? What if it were love?
In a sense, LACONIA is about watching films as a means to keep time, a metronome of visual thoughts: Vertigo, The Piano Teacher, Valentino, Solaris, and Hot Tub Time Machine are just a small handful of the films that appear in the text. A reference section in the back lists the 421 films and books that are mentioned. Themes and quotes weave in and around each other: cities, faces (noses, in particular), corporate capitalism, beauty standards, John Cusack, queer and feminist theories, and the power of the image—a form of staggering and repetition that comes to mind when reading poetry.
In a time when self-expression is a form of entertainment ready to be monetized by social networks, Tupitsyn asks: “In a performance culture like America, what happens if you’re not seen performing? Are you as good as dead?” Yet Tupitsyn is not performing for others; instead, she is draining the socialness out of Twitter, using these “small gestures” as a means to navigate her own poetic investigations. At the heart of Tupitsyn’s work lies an intimate public founded in a deep empathy for the moving image. “After all,” Tupitsyn writes, “if an image has the power to make us fall in love with it, if an image can work its way into our daily life, couldn’t we do the same and take a trip in the other direction?”
Christine Hou is a poet and arts writer living in Brooklyn.