Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Spend the Trump years watching Shia LaBeouf’s performance art

Photo: Jason LaVeris / Getty

Well, that’s it. Donald J. Trump has been sworn in as President of the United States, officially commencing a government “controlled by the people,” directed by a vindictive multibillionaire who wouldn’t pay a Russian prostitute to piss on the vast majority of them were they on fire. For those anxious about the national fractiousness being ruled by a the statesman equivalent of a Liberal Tears mug might cause, now what are you to do? Organize on the local level, look after your own communities, help the threatened, maybe attempt to bridge this Mariana Trench-sized ideological rift between us that allowed the tube worms scavenging carrion there to swell to enormous size and take on Cabinet positions—sure. Drink, stare at the wall, craft snarky tweets—of course. Excoriate yourself over the way your smug, celebrity-addled liberal bubble deluded you into ignoring the apocalyptic “American carnage” Trump said today in his inauguration speech/preamble to a Paul Verhoeven film rages throughout our poverty-stricken inner cities and Rust Belt small towns, and that only his crack team of sycophants, TV personalities, and Rick Perry can stop. Lose yourself in pointless distractions. Set fire to some shit.

All of these are valid ways to counteract that persistent, enervating sense of dread, despair, and regret. But if you’re looking to be more efficient, now you can combine all that fecklessness and self-flagellation into one streamlined experience. You could just spend Trump’s presidency watching one of Shia LaBeouf’s performance projects.


No stranger to couching doing absolutely nothing as a profound artistic statement, LaBeouf has launched “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US,” a new, sort-of-work, created with his usual collaborators Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner, that consists solely of a webcam that’s been placed outside New York’s Museum of the Moving Image, in front of a wall emblazoned with our current rallying cry: the vaguely hopeful bromide. That camera will be live, 24 hours a day, for the whole of Trump’s tenure, LaBeouf promises, broadcasting from HeWillNotDivide.Us for the next month to 200 years, depending on advances in blood-harvesting or American shame. Passerby are invited to come say, “He will not divide us” into the camera for as long and as many times as they like, until those words become a “mantra” that “acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community,” or they begin to feel self-conscious about the fact that they’re talking about the need for action and compassion to a literal wall.

Already the project has attracted at least one devoted fan in Jaden Smith, who’s spent the past several days tweeting that same message before finally taking it to the street—specifically, 35th Avenue in Astoria, Queens, where its clarion mumble might reach the studio art majors who need it most.

Still, though we may gently mock, isn’t doing something—or at least the performative version of something, which in turn makes us question the very nature of “doing something”—better than doing nothing, then not live-streaming it? It’s a discussion that we’ll be having for years during Trump’s reign, thanks to Shia LaBeouf and the pervasive desire to think about anything, literally anything else.

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