Criticizing New York Museum, Shia LaBeouf Moves Anti-Trump Performance to New Mexico

LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner accuse the museum of 'bowing' to political pressure.

Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner at CalArts on February 4, 2016. Courtesy of Vivi Fragou and the artists.

The live-streamed, participatory performance by LaBeouf, Rönkkö, and Turner, HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US, is back on after a short stretch without a home. Shia LaBeouf and his collaborators have taken the anti-Trump art project to the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico following the shut-down at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image due to safety concerns.

In New York, the performance drew the attention not only of protesters who wished to participate, but also of neo-Nazis and trolls who showed up at the site, leading to altercations and physical encounters, with one incident culminating in LaBeouf’s arrest.

The move to Albuquerque was announced on the artists’ website on February 18, at the very end of a long statement sharply criticizing the New York institution for their “abandoning” of the performance. “Their evident lack of commitment to the project is damning,” the statement reads.

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 normalisation 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.

The trio goes on to accuse the museum of “bowing to political pressure,” and even suggest a conflict of interests with links to Trump: “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,” they conclude.

The three artists have also been invited by Houston’s Experimental Action, a three-day international performance art festival, to bring this or any other of their performances to Texas. The city even launched a campaign called #ShiaShowUp. At the moment, it is still unclear whether the call has been answered. The festival is slated to take place from February 23 to 25, 2017.

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