The state also places barriers designed to protect us from violence and death -- more and more of them. Gordon Brown yesterday announced that there'll be airport-style searches and screening at Britain's 250 busiest railway stations. Searches and evacuation routines will also extend to cinemas, theatres, restaurants, hotels, sporting venues, hospitals, schools and churches. These changes follow a report by security advisor Lord West -- a report which could not, itself, be published "to avoid alerting terrorists to any weak spots".
This is what I've called the Paranoid Security State at work, and the irony is that the more barriers (x-ray machines, search and check points) it erects between members of the public and potential death, the more the Paranoid Security State makes us all paranoid about public life; the very "securitization" of cinemas, theatres, restaurants, trains etc makes us imagine the reaper everywhere we go. Instead of death being banished, it's beckoned. Meanwhile, of course, while there's any sort of public life at all, there's no possible protection against people determined to kill us. That's been proved by Pekka-Eric Auvinen, by Cho Seung-Hui. As long as there are schools and guns, there will be the possibility that "terrorists without a cause" will enter them and start shooting.
Anne Laplantine is an artist, which means she thinks in unexpected and original ways with her emotions, and shows us the results of that thinking in pictures and music. After we worked together on Summerisle -- a gentle, lyrical record -- Anne got married, left Berlin to live in Paris, and quit music for playing Go. She went to Go clubs and went on Go tours, playing the game obsessively. Then, in April, Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. Anne stopped playing Go. Suddenly, surprisingly, she started making music again. Music she released via YouTube, where millions of people were investigating and debating the shooting in videos, comments, and video comments.
"You know," she told me in an email, "I stopped playing Go just after this event at Virginia Tech. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of Cho Seung-Hui and reading the texts he'd written. They aren't very interesting in themselves, but they reveal an extreme solitude which spoke to me. My first YouTube video was a homage to Cho Seung-Hui, and many of my subsequent videos are too. I oppose myself openly to videos and comments filled with hate against Eric Auvinen, Eric and Dylan from Columbine, Cho Seung-Hui, who for me are saying something very important about our Western societies. I defend them 100%."
What's so remarkable about Anne's videos is that violence, in them, is not distanced. The barriers are gone. Death is not distanced by moralism, it's not divided from lyricism (her songs about school shooters are lyrical and spookily tender) or nature. These events are also not kept distinct from Anne herself. She shows herself holding weapons, her own blood dripping into a glass of water, an American soldier kicking in a house door and finding Anne standing in the room, a scene of jets and helicopters in the West followed by a scene of them being shot down by Islamist guerillas in Iraq, or Anne as a character in a video game. Simple images of nature are intercut with gentle songs full of understanding and captions which say "you want to kill them all. i understand. i want to do the same. it's not with anger. just for fun."
Anne's art videos about violence, released out of the context of art, attracted internet-style crank comments rather than art criticism. "Anorexic FranSSe, I bet you are having an e-date with the Irish Faggot, The Faglector, Chris Gayne, And LeeJinFaggotMemphisCockSuckingSonOfATran
By this point -- a month ago -- Anne had "friended" (in that internet verb which doesn't quite mean the same as "befriending") several YouTube users who film themselves shooting weapons. People with names like "Shooter" and "Sturmgeist89". Last week one of them -- Sturmgeist -- killed eight people in a Finnish school before turning the gun on himself. Anne's name was mentioned in an article in Der Spiegel entitled "How can mass murder be prevented?" The fact that Anne had friended Auvinen, and that her user picture showed Seung-Hui, was, said the journalist, a warning sign. He doesn't seem to have gone so far as to investigate Anne's videos or try and decipher her message.
"I'm a bit scared of being implicated in this story," Anne told me. "I didn't know him personally, but we were online friends. They all had their YouTube accounts closed. And I'm a bit scared of being questioned because, yes, I supported them, and I continue to post images on YouTube which risk being censored. I'm not sure the police understand artistic motivations."
Journalists and the "paranoid security state" don't either. Samina Malik, the self-styled "Lyrical Terrorist" who wrote poems praising suicide bombing -- and worked at WH Smith at Heathrow -- was found guilty on November 9th of possessing records likely to be used for terrorism. A judge will pass sentence in December. The 23 year-old will almost certainly go to jail.
Anne Laplantine, meanwhile, has released CTRY, a DVD of her latest YouTube videos, which contain her latest songs. She's sending it out to film festivals with a press release which states "Anne Laplantine respects the law of Lex Talionis; an eye for an eye".
I find this new work dangerous and disturbing and Dostoyevskian. It's also spookily beautiful. I have to admit that the dark subject matter adds gravitas to Anne's light, lyrical musical style, and that her choice of YouTube rather than the art or music industries as a place to release the work has connected her to current events -- and feelings -- in the world a lot more closely than the art world ever could. Ironically, her attraction to the solitude of killers has released her from the solitude of her own ivory tower, and led her out into the world. I'm just a little sad that it had to be death that finally brought Anne Laplantine back to life.