Tell me Shia LaBeouf isn’t crazy. Tell me we aren’t looking at the slow breakdown of a celebrity. Over the last couple of years or so him and his performance artist team (LaBeouf, Ronkko & Turner) have certainly suggested that. From the outside it has been a viewing of an existential crisis as well as watching a man reflect on his own weird individual life. However his latest project is his most impersonal, and a chance to see that him and his partners are attempting to make a movement for good.
The whole thing is really simple: outside the Museum of The Moving Image in New York they have set up a camera & mic that is being broadcast live on the internet, and they have invited anyone to say ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ in front of it. It’s effectively an attempt to bring America together post the appointment of the highly polarising Donald Trump, though the actual website gives a list of convoluted reasons for the project. In short, and after 3 days of the 24hr stream, it’s brilliant. Every time I go to the website something profound is happening and I’ll definitely be spending a lot of time there over the next four years (or however long Trump lasts).
It has done that awful thing to me where I have a sudden faith in humanity and it has shifted by political views back towards the left. This is because I have been glued to the people who have shown up to say the words, or protest against them. Take the guy who took a 12 hour bus from Toronto for example and has been rapping an inch from the camera with Shia today. Or Ally and Maximilian, who for a while formed a community around the camera, a group of friends. The words are now rarely said in repetition, like they were initially by oddity Jaden Smith, and have become more organic. It took less than a day for people to start mixing up the phrase, or singing it. I love these people and every second I watch the stream, I want to be there more and more.
Last night and this morning it really peaked for me. Around UK midnight time a man appeared with a ‘Make America Great Again’ cap on, yet there was no real tension. He stood there with his thick moustache, Harley Davidson t-shirt and tracksuit bottom as he rallied the crowd. At first he was questioning the whole thing, and was crudely whispering to the camera, but after a while he blended in with the scene. It was like he had been converted, or better yet become an example of the project being successful. Everyone around welcomed him in and thus his reactions to it all was fascinating. His aggression was humorous and his warmth likeable, showing no divide between a Trump supporter and non-Trump supporter. Then there this morning when I woke up, the master of fun was there alone. A guy carrying a tent dressed fully in pink, professing his own internet art. He passed on messages of challenging yourself and forcing failure so that you can improve, while of course sometimes throwing in the divide mantra. And this actually inspired me. For whatever reason a random guy hundreds of miles away made me think about my own life, which is a bizarre feeling.
Every so often Shia pops in, to pump up the group. He bounces around saying hello’s and love yous to everyone and these are probably the best moments. It’s when the energy is lifted and the repetition comes. Though it also brings conflict, because understandably people are sceptical of the man. A video that will no doubt go viral and become a staple of the livestream is a few seconds where he screams at a young guy who is against the project. And obviously this defeats the purpose of the coming together and respecting different views idea, but it also shows the passion of it all. I’m a passionate person and I have felt a great deal of it watching this stream. The spirit and joy that these people are in is really admirable. I see only positives, and when something bad happens I’ll look silly, but I cannot get over how cool it is.
I have utterly fallen in love with the stream and it’s literally made me emotional. It shows the power of kindness and from this has swayed me back towards the left side of politics. I’ve found that you have to look past some of stupidity that appears within people and realise that we are all the same. We are all imperfect and shameful, but have the ability at times to show a bit of unity. This stream mostly just makes me laugh, yet still I feel changed by it, and I think that is the ultimate goal of art.
Watch it here and you will understand exactly what I am saying: http://hewillnotdivide.us/
Side-note: This is a form of art explaining another form of art again, so i apologise. I have been moved by all sorts of stuff recently, not just this daft pretentious performance. Mostly by the debut album of Spring King, which is called Tell Me If You Like To, and is absolutely brilliant. I’ve already started assigning people in my life to songs on it when I hear them, which is a sign of something I adore. Listen if you like indie/punk or if you’re a fan of not being depressed.