Credit: Courtesy of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner/Museum of the Moving Image
In the face of the newly incumbent Trump administration’s divisive rhetoric, actor Shia LaBeouf and his collaborators have launched a four-year art performance art project entitled ‘He Will Not Divide Us‘ at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image.
Created by LaBeouf as part of his ongoing collaboration with British artist and author of The Metamodernist Manifesto, Luke Turner, and Finnish artist, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, the participatory piece encourages members of the public to recite the mantra “He will not divide us” into a camera mounted on the external wall of the museum, repeating the phrase as many times as they want for as long as they wish. The performance commenced this past weekend at 9:00am on the day of President Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States with an appearance from Jaden Smith.
An accompanying artists’ statement reads that the piece will remain “Open to all, 24 hours a day, seven days a week” and will be “live-streamed continuously at www.hewillnotdivide.us for four years, or the duration of the presidency.
“In this way, the mantra “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.”
LaBeouf began his high-profile career as a performance artist in collaboration with Turner and Rönkkö when he appeared on the red carpet at the Berlin Film Festival in February 2014 wearing a paper bag over his head emblazoned with the words, ‘I Am Not Famous Anymore’.
In the years since, the three have worked on more than a dozen performance pieces together, including a three-day live stream of LaBeouf’s filmography in a New York cinema at which the actor was present, and more recently, a road trip across America using a route crowdsourced using audience participation over Twitter.
Most recently, as part of the inaugural Bingefest celebration of pop culture at the Sydney Opera House, LaBeouf, Rönkkö and Turner invited participants to deliver a message to the artists in person, one at a time, inside an empty theatre at the Opera House. Their only request was that each message begin with the words, “And in the end…”
Credit: Twitter/Shia LaBeouf
Most of their collaborative works place a strong emphasis on interaction through social media and the forging of unlikely human connections. Having watched a portion of the live stream this morning, you can’t help but feel as though their message is getting through. Though the crowd ebbs and flows, there remains at all times a sense of solidarity amongst witnesses to the work. At once point, a man called in his friend in Tokyo, who recited the mantra on speakerphone; a crowd of children and their mothers made an appearance bearing protest placards, LaBeouf chanting alongside them; at another point, someone passed around boxes of hot pizza to be shared amongst the crowd. At one point, LaBeouf shared his tea with a passerby. “That’s the beauty of the art exhibit”, a man in a grey hood said directly into the camera. “It’s a wall of peace.”
At the Opera House performance, once the participants communicated their message to the artists their words were simulcast on a dedicated livestream and on a 60-metre-long LED display installed on the exterior walls of the Opera House.
Messages broadcast included, “And in the end, this always was, always will be, Aboriginal land” and “And in the end, you can start or end a war in 140 characters”.
That seems apt. You can watch the livestream here.
Tile image: Shia LaBeouf/Twitter
Cover image: Jaden Smith/Instagram