Shia LaBeouf and his collaborators Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö slammed The Museum of the Moving Image in New York City after the site closed down their anti-Trump installation, He Will Not Divide Us.
“Their evident lack of commitment to the project is damning,” a joint statement from the trio posted to LaBeouf’s website 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,” the statement continues. “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.”
He Will Not Divide Us, envisioned as a four-year live stream project, was launched in January just outside the museum in response to Donald Trump’s election. Attendees were encouraged to speak the phrase, “He will not divide us,” into the camera.
The creators state “there had been no incidents of physical violence at the site of our project that we are aware of, nor that we had been informed of at any stage by the museum.” However, a video clip posted to Twitter (the feed has since been suspended) showed LaBeouf getting in a shouting match with a man who appeared to be spouting white supremacist rhetoric. In a separate incident, LaBeouf was arrested by NYPD after a physical altercation with a 25-year-old man.
In a statement from the museum published to its website, the installation was shut down for creating “a serious and ongoing public safety hazard for the Museum, its visitors, staff, local residents, and businesses,” and becoming “a flashpoint for violence.”
LaBeouf, Turner, and Rönkkö claim, “It is our understanding that the museum bowed to political pressure in ceasing their involvement with our project. 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.”
The trio will be reviving He Will Not Divide Us at the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico beginning Feb. 18.
UPDATE: Turner clarified that the Twitter feed posting clips of the shouting incident with LaBeouf was not officially associated with the installation. An earlier version of this article stated that it was and has since been amended.