It started in 2014 with the controversial #IAMSORRY which pitted Shia Labeouf against the world when it seemed that the Hollywood star was plagiarizing the work of other artists. What it became was the first performance of Labeouf Ronkko & Turner. A trio that spawned the Meta-Modernist movement and blurred the lines between art and the digital age.
Their latest performance comes in the wake of Donald Trump becomes the leader of the free world. #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS is a four-year long performance that invites members of the public to stand in front of a camera outside the New York Museum of the Moving Image and recite the words “He will not divide us.” The camera will stream live 24/7 for the entire four-year duration of Trump’s presidency. The aim? To make a consistent statement of either opposition, optimism or any sense of emotion that the public may feel when taking part.
When I first discovered what was happening I immediately looked to the internet to find the footage of what I thought was going to be a large event. What I saw was an empty space fo land where I thought people would be. All that had happened was a dog walker took a photo to share online and a young couple walking right up to the camera, recite the line once, kissing and leaving.
Before I had realized that it was probably early morning in New York, I thought the fad had died before it even begun. After I went out for the day and came back wondering what was going on across the pond. Staring right into my eyes were a crowd of people singing the phrase as if they were at a church service. There were even littered appearance of Labeouf himself acting as leader of the congregation. As I sit and write now they are singing the phrase over and over again with vigour and spirit.
As I watch the singing, the clapping and the general sense of community between these young millennials, I think to myself one thing. Is this really going to last four years? Will all these people still feel as outraged over Trumps presidency in six months never mind four years? Is what I’m seeing a genuine channel for protest or celebration? Or is the popularity of this project simply a way for people be seen as someone who is an active member of a counter culture?
As a fan of Shia Labeouf’s art and the complexity of human behavior, I will keep a casual yet watchful eye on this performance.