On the Scene: Shia LaBeouf's #IAMSORRY art exhibit in Los Angeles
The internet was abuzz when word got out Tuesday that Shia LaBeouf, the actor-turned-plagiarist-turned-“artist,” was opening up his own exhibit in Los Angeles to apologize for his recent string of bizarre behavior. People flocked to the small storefront art gallery to see if the Transformers star actually transformed at all, but who are these people willing to wait hours for some silent eye contact with a brown paper bag? EW went on the scene to see why people were showing up and waiting for hours, some even days.
The #IAMSORRY installation officially runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day until Sunday. Well, at least that’s what the door says. However, when you arrive at the “performance” space, you are told that the duration of the day depends completely on the artist and his particular mood and feeling that day — meaning LaBeouf could stop seeing anyone at any point of the day, whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. However, there is no indication whatsoever as to how long you will be waiting or if you will ever even get to go inside and actually participate. Still knowing this, some people started waiting in line at 8 a.m. By 3 p.m., they were still waiting. There was even another journalist on site who apparently had waited six hours the day before only to be promised by a security guard that he would let him in the next day. Unfortunately, that security guard didn’t end up working the next day, and the journalist had to wait again all day and still wasn’t guaranteed to get in.
Luckily, the multiple security guards managing the line and door had a good sense of humor about the entire experience. “My boss called me last night, told me to be here at a certain time and to Google it to find out more information,” one guard told EW with a laugh. When asked if there was a restriction to how long someone could be inside with Shia for, the guard said it was up to the discretion of you and the artist, and that one person earlier in the day had apparently been in there “for hours.” So what exactly is everyone waiting for? Once patted down by a guard and a metal-detector wand, participants enter a dark room and pick out an object that has to do with his previous work (Indiana Jones’ crystal skull and a pink ukulele, among other objects) and then sit across from LaBeouf with the now-infamous brown paper bag over his head, silent. Apparently Shia has been crying a lot during these performances, but so far hasn’t spoken.
Of course, the performance piece was not without controversy. Many are saying that this is another example of LaBeouf’s plagiarism, citing a piece by Marina Abramovic where she sat silently while audience members were welcome to do whatever they want with a group of objects, including knives and a loaded gun. Abramovic’s work was a little more serious for sure and didn’t involve any security guards (or hashtags).
Outside in the line, Scotch Wichmann, a performance artist and writer whose manifesto was plagiarized by LaBeouf in a series of tweets in January, tried to put a face to the plagiarism and was hoping to get the apology that everyone came for. “It’s certainly entertaining what he’s doing,” Wichmann told EW, “but he’s gotta move on.” Wichmann first became aware of the plagiarism when an anonymous tipster sent him an AV Club article with Shia’s tweets that were used as an explanation for his behavior, defining performance art. Wichmann was stunned and angry to discover that his words had been taken from an article he had written four years ago that are now being used in a book he is about to publish in April. “It’s a blurred line between celebrity prank and art. It’s symbolic of what goes on in fame. He didn’t make any money off of this. But it’s a typical famous person taking the ideas of a lesser-known individual as their own.”
Most people in the line claimed they were there out of curiosity after the online chatter. Others were looking for some sense of remorse. One woman said she has seen LaBeouf multiple times at the restaurant that she works at and was hoping to “make him aware the he’s an a–hole to the service industry.” Another woman, who claimed to be a clinical psychologist, said she had some concerns about his mental health and thought the entire thing was disingenuous and pretentious, citing the similarity to Joaquin Phoenix’s bizarre antics that turned out to all be for the documentary I’m Still Here. One man actually brought a Shia LaBeouf mask with him with the hopes of having the ultimate face-off. “I mean, who is this for? It’s for the viewer. All of art is. And I figured after staring at strangers all day, this was the one person he’d never expect to see.” However, after five hours of impatiently waiting, the man left.
So, as Shia spends his days saying sorry, it seems he is still adding to his apology list at the same time. The exhibit will be open until Sunday. After that, Shia officially won’t be famous anymore. Until he probably does something again to draw attention to himself. Let’s see if he can make it to Wednesday. #iamsorryiamnotsorry