A Bomb Won’t Go Off Here

by Daniel Rourke

A bomb won't go off here… (Click to enlarge)

Y: I like the use of the past tense. Saying “weeks before” sets up the seen* as a narrative.

X: Oh yeah.

Y: It’s almost like the story’s not ended, like we now are still part of the story.

X: And that there’s people there all the time.

Y: That they are always on this street.

X: Yeah, in that little square. And they’ve always all got long, blondish hair. Shopping.

Y: Does it mean that a bomb might go off somewhere else?

X: That’s exactly what it means. It means that a bomb’s not going to go off here, but it is going to go off somewhere else.

Y: Somewhere where people aren’t more suspicious?

X: Not people: shoppers.

Y: Somewhere where shoppers aren’t more suspicious.

X: There’s no such thing as people – there’s just shoppers.

Y: By reporting someone studying the CCTV cameras to the police the shopper didn’t become anything of greater value than a shopper. They managed to stay as a shopper and yet still act in a way which protected the rights of all shoppers everywhere.

X: That is the best thing you can be for society. A citizen is secondary to a shopper. For the good of the country there is nothing better than a shopper who reports suspicious looking un-shoppers. If you’re an un-shopper, and you are in a shopping precinct, then you’re not there for the good of the country.

* A play on the words ‘seen’ and ‘scene’ is alluded to here and for the remainder of the conversation.


Y: There’s a couple of things I’m a bit worried about in this seen. One is the location of the photographer who took this picture – and I’m not talking location in space, but actually location as a member of society. Nobody there is watching them. Nobody is aware of their identity as a photographer, giving them the perfect identity of the perfect terrorist. They are un-seen. They are in fact making the seen. There wouldn’t be a ‘seen’ without them.

The other thing that I am worried about is the woman in pink on the left there. She looks a bit suspicious to me. She isn’t shopping.

X: She is shopping! She’s a shopper. You don’t have to worry about her.

Y: She doesn’t look like a shopper, she looks like a looker. She looks like a studier. She is studying the seen.

X: Yeah, but she is looking at the seen with a sense of: “Yes, this is ours and we have to protect it.”

Y: But do you not think that the location of the pink lady on the left is very similar to some of the shadowy figures that Salvador Dali placed within his works? Where the viewer – the shadow of the viewer – is located within the frame.

X: [gasp] The pink lady is us!

Y: The pink lady on the left is meant to be us, looking on the happy seen.

X: The undisrupted – the un-bombed seen.

Y: She’s thinking: “A bomb won’t go off here, because weeks before I reported a viewer – similar to myself – studying this seen.”

X: Yeah. And it’s not just that that one ‘shopping in’ of one suspicious non-shopper protected the seen from that one occasion of being bombed – it has prevented that seen from ever being bombed.

Y: A bomb will never go off here, because sometime before this photo was taken a shopper – perhaps the woman in pink on the left – reported someone studying the CCTV cameras, who wasn’t this photographer.

X: No. Not this one.

Y: This photographer is more interested in studying the shoppers than they are in studying the CCTV cameras. Although the CCTV cameras are in the seen.

X: I am guessing that this suspicious person who was studying the CCTV cameras – and not shopping – was suspicious because they were just in the middle of town, in the middle of the day, on a week day. Why weren’t they at work?

Y: Well they were. They were doing their job. Terror.

X: This place, it’s a very pedestrianised, a very…

Y: …bland.

X: A very bland town. A town where shoppers live. If this was a really beautiful city centre, like Bath Spa, if this was a beautiful Spa town, there would be people taking pictures all over the place of a nice Georgian building here, a nice Georgian building there. I am worried because how am I supposed to tell, when I next go shopping, who is taking pictures in a bad way and whose taking pictures in a good way?

Y: It’s obvious that this seen suggests to us – the lady in pink on the left – that from now on one should shop in as bland locations as possible, in places which visually, aesthetically, have nothing going for them whatsoever. Because it’s only in a place like that that one can be absolutely sure that anybody taking photographs of or near CCTV cameras are doing so for terroristic purposes.

X: Yeah.


Y: I’m a bit concerned about the notion of not relying on others.

X: You can’t rely on other shoppers. They are only concerned about the next bargain, in the next shop. You – as the good shopper, who is so expert at shopping that you can get your shopping done and have time to notice what suspicious things are going on around you – you can only rely on yourself to do that. It’s up to you to protect everybody, but mainly yourself and your own shopping.

Y: There is something about the notion of shopping that completely revolves around the individual. It’s that freedom that we get in a capitalistic society to choose what we want from a selection of identical goods in a series of identical shops, it’s being able to wander through the streets making the choices that define you. But there is something very much related to that in the action of the terrorist. Yeah, ok, every shopping centre, every CCTV camera is the same, but the terrorist has the right to choose which shopping centre or CCTV camera to bomb. They reduce the individual even further to a state of nothingness.

There is the freedom to shop, but there is no freedom in being bombed.

X: But there’s no freedom in not being bombed. We are not being bombed, and they are not being bombed, but the last thing they are is free.

Y: They are not free from not being bombed.

X: No.

Y: They are trapped by the fact that…

X: …by the fact that they are not being bombed. But if they were bombed…

Y: That would be true freedom.

The London Metropolitan Police's new campaign is available online for all concerned citizens to study at their leisure: Counter Terrorism Posters.

by Daniel Rourke