Shia LaBeouf Claims He Was Sexually Assaulted During Performance At Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles

Is there a limit to what the actor is willing to do "in the name of art"?

Shia LaBeouf at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this yearPhoto via: Onehallyu
Shia LaBeouf at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year
Photo via: Onehallyu

When Hollywood-darling-cum-endurance-performer Shia LaBeouf revealed that he had been raped by a woman during his silent performance #IAMSORRY earlier this year, some people gasped in horror while others barely raised an eyebrow. After all, LaBeouf’s bizarre public behaviour of late made it difficult to distinguish whether this was yet another media stunt, an art project, or the confession of a true, ghastly assault.

The details were revealed in the Winter 2014 issue of the UK magazine Dazed & Confused. In it, via email interview, LaBeouf described the fateful events that took place in February of this year at the Cohen Gallery in Los Angeles:

“One woman who came with her boyfriend, who was outside the door when this happened, whipped my legs for ten minutes and then stripped my clothing and proceeded to rape me,” LaBeouf wrote. “It was no good, not just for me but her man as well. On top of that my girl was in line to see me, because it was Valentine’s Day and I was living in the gallery for the duration of the event,” he continued.

“There were hundreds of people in line when she walked out with disheveled hair and smudged lipstick,” LaBeouf also declared, begging the question: why did LaBeouf not struggle, and why did no one in the gallery think of stopping the sexual offender, presumably still at large? But no, LaBeouf remained silent during and after the incident, with his performance prop—a brown paper bag, which read “I am not famous anymore”—firmly over his head.

Yesterday, amidst the media storm that LaBeouf’s revelations immediately provoked, his collaborators, the Finish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö and the British artist Luke Turner—with whom LaBeouf worked with on a series of performances of which #IAMSORRY was the first—decided to intervene.

Both artists took to social media to give their versions of the story, which qualified but did not contradict LaBeouf’s. On Sunday morning, Säde Rönkkö tweeted: “Nowhere did we state that people could do whatever they wanted to Shia during #IAMSORRY” and: “As soon as we were aware of the incident starting to occur, we put a stop to it and ensured that the woman left”.

Piers Morgan, editor-at-large of the MailOnline, asked Turner on Twitter yesterday afternoon: “Why did you let Shia LaBeouf’s rapist just walk away?,” to which Turner responded: “It wasn’t clear at the time precisely what had happened, & the 1st priority was to ensure everybody’s safety in the gallery,” and then, referring to the alleged rapist: “She ran out, rather than simply walking away. Beyond that, it’s not my place to comment.”

The allegations are certainly disturbing. Performance art queens Yoko Ono and Marina Abramović have put their lives in the hands of audiences on many occasions. In historical pieces such as Ono’s Cut Piece (1964) or Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 (1974), they assumed passive positions and provided scissors, knives, and other potentially harmful objects, inviting their audiences to use them freely on their bodies. But nothing as horrific as a rape ever befell them.

And yet, no matter how much LaBeouf is willing to suffer for his art, his efforts always seem more akin to (fellow actor) James Franco’s desperate quest for artistic authenticity than what Ono and Abramović (well, at least, the young Abramović) set themselves to do.

The troubles of LaBeouf began in late 2013, when he was accused of plagiarism by the graphic novelist Daniel Clowes. The fallout triggered a “genuine existential crisis,” according LaBeouf, who embraced performance art to seek answers. Since then, he has performed at the Cohen Gallery, and at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam (see “Shia LaBeouf Will Jog Around the Stedelijk Museum for Art” and “Shia LaBeouf Completes Conceptual Art Marathon“). He has also made a series of Skype performances, has written a “metamodernism manifesto,” and “performed” several bizarre antics on TV shows and at red carpet events.

But it seems that the art immersion hasn’t worked too well for LaBeouf. According to the Guardian, the actor is being treated for addiction, after having been arrested last June for interrupting a Broadway performance of Cabaret with obscene language.


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