Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.
You’ve got to feel sorry for thesp-turned-artist Shia LaBeouf. The last time Rakewell checked up on the ‘metamodernist’, he had been forced to move his anti-Trump participatory artwork He Will Not Divide Us (created with collaborators Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö) from New York’s Museum of the Moving Image after it ‘created a serious and ongoing public safety hazard’. Consisting of a live video stream in front of which the public were invited to repeat the title phrase, the work was a red rag to Trump supporters and neo-Nazis, who turned out to shout invective at the webcam.
The artists had intended the work to run for four years, or the duration of Donald Trump’s presidency. Instead, they were forced to transport it to a public space in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alas, He Will Not Divide Us continued to, erm, divide us. After gunshots were heard in the vicinity, LaBeouf and his collaborators decided to relocate the work to what he would only describe as an ‘undisclosed location’, where the live stream was set up showing a flag emblazoned with the work’s defiant title. Trolls pinpointed the work soon after it was set up in its secret new location and tore down the flag.
The artists vowed to continue with the project, even if it meant exile. This week, they unveiled the latest incarnation of the work at a gallery in Liverpool. ‘Events have shown that America is simply not safe enough for this artwork to exist’, they said in a statement. But even Merseyside has a mean side. As the Liverpool Echo reports, the flag has now been taken down (again) after ‘trespassers tried to get it’, just hours after it was hoisted. FACT gallery has confirmed that the flag has been dismantled after ‘dangerous, illegal trespassing’.
The eyes of the world are on Shia’s next move. Might Rakewell suggest a trip to the Antarctica Biennale?
This article was updated on 29 March 2017 to name Shia LaBeouf’s artistic collaborators.