You might not be a fan of the Transformer movies, but you can’t fault Shia LaBeouf’s commitment to performance art. On Wednesday night that commitment saw him arrested live on the internet, charged with assault, and held in a cell for three hours.
The demonstration piece, #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS, was staged at the Museum of the Moving Image, NYC, and was described by its digital media curator, Jason Epping, as a project to ‘create a forum for conversation about a very fractured moment that we’re experiencing’.
As the actor was lead away in NYPD handcuffs, the project seemed to have fulfilled the brief, and then some.
LaBeouf’s arrest—and the apparent reason for it—was captured on his livestream, which was convenient since outdoor mid-winter live performances are not renowned for their enthusiastic attendances.
The video, clearly shows an altercation between LaBeouf and another protestor, before he is approached by NYPD officers and, still looking intently at the camera, handcuffed and lead off, leaving behind his fellow demonstrators, still chanting while looking rather bewildered. The likely cause of the arrest is also on video, a young protestor with a nose ring pulls LaBoeuf into a hug on camera then tells the half-Jewish actor that “Hitler did nothing wrong”, at which point the actor pulls back, and gives the as-yet unidentified 25-year-old a hefty shove.
The HWNDU protestors claim it was crazy to arrest LaBeouf, since he was just defending himself against a man they described as a ‘Nazi.’
Now, the He Will Not Divide Us movement, having mobilised behind the #FreeShia hashtag are celebrating #ShiaIsFree. He had been held at Precinct 14, after being booked for assault at 12.35am, ABC News reported.
The latest in a series of collaborations with artists Rönkkö and Turner, 2008 fine art graduates of London’s prestigious Central Saint Martin’s. #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS intends to have a livestream from a camera mounted on the wall of the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC for the duration of the Trump presidency. Participants are invited to continuously chant ‘he will not divide us” throughout. The protest started on Inauguration Day when the chant was led by Jaden Smith.
When LaBeouf got involved, however, the situation veered towards the controversial, as has been the case with much of his latest work.
In the 2014 piece, #IAMSORRY, LaBeouf sat silently in front of visitors with a paper bag over his head. LaBoeuf claimed that a female visitor started to strip then rape him before running away, avoiding capture.
His collaborators later said when asked if they regretted not having a code of conduct for visitors that ‘I don’t think you need a notice on the wall saying ‘Do not murder the artist’.
Of course this latest arrest is not the first time the young actor has been in the company of the police. In 2015 he was again arrested for drunk and disorderly behavior in Austin, Texas after being denied entry to a bar after apparently having a few too many.
Meanwhile the febrile twittersphere has been full of claim/counter-claim and troll/counter-troll over the incident. Plenty of people might conclude that LaBeouf is an idiot but you can’t argue that he’s breathed new life into a #HEWILLNOTDIVIDEUS project that was struggling to gain traction.