Picture Cycle
Masha Tupitsyn, 'Picture Cycle', 2019. Semiotext(e) / Active Agents

Picture Cycle is a collection of texts originally published in various forms across ten years (2009 and 2018) by artist, writer and filmmaker Masha Tupitsyn. The book melds criticism, philosophy and auto-fiction, collapsing and complicating plot-driven films and proposing methods for experiencing and discussing them. It questions the practice of ‘accurate description’, a method used among film writers to translate film work to the reader as accurately as possible while also communicating to the ‘yet-seer’: the person who may not have seen the film first hand. Tupitsyn acts as a rogue free from playing out the expectations of traditional film criticism.

First expressed in her 24-hour audio cinematic essay Love Sounds and discussed in the chapter ‘I Give You My Word’, the anxiety of ‘missing out’ on totemic ‘love sounds’ (described by writer McKenzie Wark as ‘affective dialogue events’), is tangible in the atmosphere of the writing, highlighting Tupitsyn’s urgent, urging voice.

In the chapter, and film, ‘Love Sounds’, Tupitsyn creates her own all-tonal history of romance in English-speaking, predominantly 20th century, Hollywood cinema. She organises this history via personalised categories such as Desire-Sex, Sexual-Politics, Breakups, Heartbreak, Betrayal, Violence-Death, FateTime-Memory and Love (in that order). ‘Cinema is obsessed with love’, Tupitsyn notes in her first book Beauty Talk & Monsters, but as the chronology of Love Sounds shows us, true love is often given the least attention. Rather, it is performative modes of romance and all their entangled relations that have been highlighted by the films in her study.

By paying close attention to sound, Tupitsyn uses film and experimental criticism as a starting point for self-exploration and cultural analysis, exploring how portrayals of love and friendship in cinema act as an interlocutor for her own love of the medium. Her attempt is to make clear how categorical viewing habits are capable of limiting or betraying a cinematic experience. The most predominant means of watching, the brain via the eyes, often makes us forget that closely viewing a film from start to finish is just one way to experience the form. In Picture Cycle Tupitsyn acts out a fierce disloyalty towards canonical cinema’s conventions and its fear of abandoning plot, by both asking you to witness its end and to witness the candid and direct affect of her language. In other words when cinema says: there is no way out of this story but the end, Tupitsyn just leaves, simultaneously taking the film viewing experience away, out of cinema and into everyday life.

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A photo I took of a projection of Love Sounds (edited down to a 4hr long version) on November 15, 2017 at Filmhaus WORM, Rotterdam.

McKenzie Wark expands on the entanglement between cinema and writer: ‘In Tupitsyn, screens offer tools that work on the border between self and other, self and screen, screen and screen.’[1]

Picture Cycle’s conceit is that Tupitsyn’s relationship to cinema is posited as a never-ending string of love affairs. Philosopher Bibi Straatman once said to me: ‘every love affair is also always a matter of research’, and this is what I think Tupitsyn is attempting to establish between herself and her memories of the films she sees. Developing this thinking in the chapter Analog Days, Tupitsyn works through and against ideas of overlapping reversals and oppositions. She writes feverishly about the impossibility of keeping a fleeting style of bodily romance separate from her watching of films. She speaks of the ways in which depictions of love and friendship portrayed in cinema, can shape how we conceptualise our own relationships, such as a memory of first love:

‘I remember I didn’t tell you that because I didn’t remember that yet. In “Screen Memories”, Freud writes that a screen memory describes any memory which hides or plagiarises an original memory. Was the memory of the first love reappearing 20 years later a cover for the memory of the last? Or was it the other way around?’

The book centres on an acknowledgment that a particular kind of amnesia occurs when we refuse to let cinema spill over into our bodily matter. This is the image politics Tupitsyn agitates against. If we have time to watch films, and think about them intellectually, we should not assume that doing so only gives us things, for example knowledge, pleasure or sadness, but that it may also affect us in ways we cannot control. Film history is a continuum, like the lives of its viewers: the give and take between viewer and viewed is cyclical.

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Kaya Erdinc is a filmmaker based in Glasgow.

Picture Cycle by Masha Tupitsyn with an introduction by Kevin Killian was published in 2019 by Semiotext(e). The book is a multigenre investigation of the personal and cultural annals of memory, identity, and spectatorship, both on and off the screen.

[1] Mackenzie Wark, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart, Again’, in Masha Tupisyn, ‘Love Sounds’ (Penny-Ante Editions, USA, 2015) p24