For some time now I’ve been amused and perhaps faintly alarmed by the lengths Shia LaBeouf will go to make himself into a ‘real’ artist. But after all the tears and tantrums, it seems like the tide is turning, and the impenetrable fortress that is the art world is lowering the draw bridge.
LaBeouf’s latest installation ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ takes the form of a mounted camera outside the Museum of Moving Image in New York and yes, like many cultural happenings these days, it is inspired by Trump. Visitors are invited to say the phrase ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ and the results are streamed live. Simple yet effective, the project has certainly given voice to what many Americans are feeling right now. And it is also the first time that Shia (oh Shia…) has tapped into something really emotionally arresting.
We all remember LaBeouf’s appearance on the red carpet wearing a paper bag that read ‘I am not famous anymore’ and claims that he was raped during his performance of #IAMSORRY at a Los Angeles gallery with the same paper bag covering his face. True or not, LaBeouf’s strange and erratic behaviour in a series of performance events over the last few years, provoked by a pretty vicious public shaming of his plagiarism, seemed more like a cry for help than a legitimate bid for artist status. Perhaps LaBeouf had just taken the Queen of performance art Marina Abramovic a little too seriously of late.
On his CV LaBeouf now boasts 144 laps of an Amsterdam museum, a 24 hour period in an elevator with some strangers and a screening of all of his movies back to back, one after the other (one can only hope he slept through The Transformers films).
Perhaps it is the general overcast of anti-Trump feeling, but LaBeouf along with his collaborators Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö seem to have really fallen on something for ‘He Will Not Divide Us’. Pared back and honest the project speaks volumes about the minds of millions. Of course, we might also like it becomes it prompted LaBeouf to confront a Neo-Nazi with his fist on camera – something that always goes down well.
Madness, genius, self-promotion or a load of tripe: whatever the reason, for the first time you have my attention Shia – and for the right reasons.