He will not divide us … or keep Shia LaBeouf and his collaborators from sharing their art with the world.
After the New York art instillation HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US was shut down, LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner announced on Saturday that they were relaunching the project at the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and slammed their former venue — the Museum of the Moving Image — for canceling the project earlier this month.
“On February 10, 2017, The Museum of the Moving Image abandoned HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US. Their evident lack of commitment to the project is damning,” the artists said in a joint statement on LaBeouf’s website. “From the outset, the museum failed to address our concerns about the misleading framing of our piece as a political rally, rather than as a participatory performance artwork resisting the normalization of division.
“In fact, the museum demonstrated a spectacular lack of judgement—and courtesy to us as artists—by neglecting to consult us when they staged a political rally at the site of our artwork on January 29, 2017.
“On numerous occasions, we voiced serious concerns to the museum about hate speech occurring at the site of our project, and requested that the museum act responsibly in moderating this and providing the public a means of reporting such incidents. Our requests were not even acknowledged, let alone acted upon.
“Nonetheless, there had been no incidents of physical violence at the site of our project that we are aware of, nor that we had been informed of at any stage by the museum.
“It is our understanding that the museum bowed to political pressure in ceasing their involvement with our project. We were only informed of the museum’s capitulation in an email from their attorney, Brendan O’Rourke — a lawyer who we note also represents the current president.
“It is clear, therefore, that the Museum of the Moving Image is not fit to speak of our intent as artists.”
(An intellectual property lawyer named Brendan J. O’Rourke says on his website that he has successfully led ICANN proceedings for a number of celebrities, including Trump, in the past but is is unclear if he still represents the president or if it is the same lawyer who works with the Museum of Moving Image.)
The American Honey actor made headlines in January when LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner launched a four-year art project that featured a livestream outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York, where people were encouraged to face the camera to state “he will not divide us.”
The project was launched on President Donald Trump’s inauguration day on Jan. 20 and was intended to run through the entirety of his first term as president. The message of “he will not divide us” was meant to be in a message of hope against the divisive political climate in the United States following the 2016 election.
However, the project became a target for the alt-right, who sought to gain attention by preaching anti-Semitic, sexist and racist sentiments on the unguarded livestream.
Days after the project launched, LaBeouf was arrested after he allegedly assaulted a 25-year-old man at the instillation site. LaBeouf was charged with misdemeanor assault and a harassment violation and is due in court on April 7.
The arrest — and the alleged incident — was all captured on the livestream. The argument allegedly started when an unidentified man posed with LaBeouf, who is of Jewish decent, in front of the camera and said “Hitler did nothing wrong.” The actor responded by shoving the man away.
“Hey, why did you attack me?” the man asked.
On Feb. 10, the Museum of the Moving Image announced that they had shut down the installation, calling it an “ongoing public safety hazard.”