April 2008, Cynthia Valdez interviews Anne Laplantine

 Anne Laplantine, Just for Fun, Courtesy the artist

Talking with Anne Laplantine

Anne Laplantine is a Parisian artist, musician and avid YouTube and Live Journal creator whose vocabulary is built upon pixels, invisibility, sounds and silence. Her videos are brief, stark yet varied, touching upon subjects that are as difficult to discuss as they are compelling. Before attending a screening of Anne Laplantine's work at the Point Ephémère in Paris, I arrange for a rendezvous with the artist.

I meet Anne Laplantine at the La Fourche metro station, a fork in the road, which way to go?
I'm drawn towards the person who's watching, waiting, expectant. I go toward the woman with whom until today I have only spoken to via email. Together we go to a café in the area, she regrets not being able to smoke. We do a test-run but my recorder picks up nothing more than ambient café banter. We relocate to Anne's apartment which is not very far from where we are. Cozy in the kitchen, Anne fixes me a coffee so that we can discuss her approach to the online medium, an activity that places her on the perimeter of what is generally considered as 'art.'


Cynthia Valdez: You said that your work on YouTube was a way of recording your everyday existence.

Anne Laplantine:
 It's a way of saving a part of me, I always have the feeling that maybe I'll die in the evening, or maybe in five minutes, you never know. I feel like I have to say one last thing before I go.

CV: You're trying to leave a trace of yourself behind?

AL: But it's also to save other people's words. It's a way of encouraging people to express themselves, to ask them about what they've seen. Since most of the people who watch my videos don't have any art knowledge, they show themselves shooting guns and stuff like that. Then they go and watch my videos and I really don't know what it means to them, but they say, 'What the fuck,' 'This is weird,' or 'You're creepy.'
 But they come to see what I do and that makes me think about how there are certain subjects nevertheless that interest me that could interest them, as well. Subjects like violence, politics.

 Anne Laplantine, photo by Cynthia Valdez

Right, it's not like having a gallery show, where you're essentially limiting your audience to people who have knowledge of the art world. You're not really aiming for that, are you?

AL: I think that it would be okay for me to show my work in an art context, but this isn't the place where I like to work, it doesn't interest me. I'm more into meeting people, trying to find out what they think and I how I feel about it. Building relationships between myself and others, bringing people together.

CV: It's interesting the way that you can interact with people online is much different than the way you can face-to-face; it's bringing the public into the private. You're at home, sitting in your room or in your kitchen, in your private sphere and it's a very personal experience, you're surrounded by these familiar things and that's what was really striking about "An Invitation," the video where you take the text from NinjaGirl's video and record yourself saying them. It's a way of accepting her 'Invitation.'

AL: That was very difficult for me to do. I think I like to respond to one person at a time, to have an exchange. This is maybe easier for me to do on the Internet than in real life.

 Anne Laplantine, There, Courtesy the artist


CV: How does it make you feel when people react negatively to your work?

AL: Sometimes I was very sad when it happened because I thought, 'Oh my God, I spend whole days working and trying to think about what happens here and in the world, and I really try to take care of everything and the result is a comment like 'WTF?' So then I feel like giving up. Most of the time I find it funny, actually. Even very bad comments.

CV: But what's interesting is that you are after all talking about violence and pent-up aggression..

AL:  Maybe I like to feel that aggression, that's what I'm showing in "Me War", there's an American soldier coming in to my house, and I'm just there, like, 'Okay, do what you want.'

CV: It seems like you're constantly bringing these issues into your own sphere, and I think that a really personal way of approaching the subject, of making yourself available. Sometimes we have a tendency to want to close ourselves up into a kind of bubble, and the world can't come in through a bubble.

AL: Sometimes I feel a little afraid of sending a message, because that's not my intention; to put a message behind the images. In some videos I think maybe I do say that even if somebody wants to kill me then we are both the same, he'll still be my friend. Sometimes I'm close to giving a message, but I don't like that idea, of trying to say, 'The world is like this or like that.'

CV: Do you feel that your work is political in any way?

AL: A little bit, I'm not a historian, though so sometimes it gets political. But I don't know much about politics, either so I don't feel like I can talk about that. Most of the time I'm quite ambivalent. But recently, when Bernard Kouchner (France's Minister of Foreign Affairs) came out and said that if Iran continued to produce nuclear arms that France would have to act against their country. I was very sad to hear that because I think it was such a violent spectacle, a way of telling people, 'Don't worry, we're protecting you.' So I made a video with the Iranian flag and the word 'sorrow' at the end.

 Anne Laplantine, photo by Cynthia Valdez

CV: For you what does an image represent?

AL: I really think that pictures have a very special force, much more than sounds do. I wonder why, I think it's because people are showing a lot of pictures everywhere and that's really a part of our lives. Yet most people don't want to be shown in pictures, and I wonder about that; they want to show others but don't want to be shown themselves.
 I often look at pictures and wonder how I feel about them; do I feel something, what does it bring to mind? Most of the time a picture brings me to a fiction, to a story.
 There's a force to that, but I would like the pictures to talk for themselves, not to have too much control over them. And yet I think we really have to take control of these pictures because if we don't we're just making another advertisement.
 I think I'd like to show nearly nothing.. maybe I find most pictures very brutal, overly direct. I'm trying to make my images very soft, less aggressive. Yesterday I stumbled upon more Iraq footage and was quite fascinated by the night footage which are greenish pictures with a strange quality, it almost looks like Super 8 footage or something but it's very digital at the same time, you only see the light moving. I wanted to nearly erase those images, so I made them as white as possible, like if I wanted to erase parts of history. Those pictures are brutal, and I don't really know what to do with them; I just don't know, I try to erase them, I replay them.

It's also a way of processing all of this information that we're constantly being bombarded with.

AL: For me it's trying to find an answer to the question, 'What can we do with these pictures?' What can I do with these violent pictures of actuality that I see, living here and seeing what's happening in the world.. I don't know what to do. Because they are almost fictional images, yet at the same time I know that it's very real and maybe my videos are trying to answer that question, or perhaps just asking it.

CV: I feel like since, as you said, we're constantly surrounded by fiction, having narratives told to us, the idea of reality becomes all the more relevant.

Maybe people make fictions of reality, as well. On YouTube all of the footage from Iraq gets overdubbed with big American music and then it looks like a fiction. If I take the same images and remove the music it's totally transformed- it's not a music video anymore, it's not fun. Maybe I try to take those pictures that, in my opinion, are being misused, and put them back into their proper context, to be viewed and analyzed through what's taking place, by looking at what happens instead of just putting loud music over it, which just pulverizes all of the images as if there wasn't anything real there at all.
 I really like to work with Peka-Erik Auvinen's videos, for example (of the Jokela, Finland school shooting). That's the boy that filmed himself in a forest shooting at an apple; and nobody cared about that action, nobody on YouTube, and I've seen nearly every video posted on Peka-Erik Auvinen.
People post these images with music playing over them and sometimes it's some kind of fast montage intercut with messages like 'Fuck,' things that give an idea of a certain kind of reality, which shows that people don't really care about what's happening. That's another kind of reality. But I think it was nice to take time to show that apple very slowly, to ask 'What does a young boy do when he shoots at an apple in the forest?'

Anne Laplantine, The Forest 1, courtesy the artist

CV: Yes, it's manipulating, but in a different way.

AL: If I show the apple in slow motion, and the boy's face I'm not showing the same thing as when there's a fast montage and loud music. I don't know exactly what I'm showing, but it's not the same thing.

CV: Why don't you tell me about the films you'll be showing at the Point Ephémère?

AL: Those are some of the YouTube videos I did, the first four months. I just put 15 movies, one after the other, which built a kind of narration, it's 25 minutes long.

See Anne Laplantine's work on Youtube:

Anne Laplantine's livejournal

Cynthia Valdez, WM Paris

Cynthia Valdez is a writer in Paris.

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