Shia LaBeouf might be a genius – and here’s the evidence

On January 20, 2017, the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, Shia LaBeouf kicked off his latest art project – a 4-year live-stream in protest of Trump, where members of the public are meant to come and say the same five words ad infinitum. To dedicated stream-watchers, the sentence “He will not divide us” has since gained a weird new significance – a mix of worthiness, protest and performance art. But the stream has also provided some amazing moments, like when Shia roared at a pro-Nazi guy who showed up and got arrested for his troubles. It’s just the latest performance from a man who has turned his entire off-screen life into a long-form performance art piece. And it’s a million times better than James Franco’s. Witness the many ways in which Shia LaBeouf is the artist of a generation. Or at least the artist it deserves.

HE DISSED TRANSFORMERS IN A FREESTYLE RAP

We’re not sure why this is happening but we’re glad it did. Shirtless and with bizarre hair, a ratty ponytail sitting wetly on his shoulder, Shia rapped enthusiastically, if clumsily, at a group of very supportive onlookers. We can’t support his comparisons to Tupac, but we like the bit where he called Transformers “the dummy rap”, even if that doesn’t mean anything. And he’s better than Iggy Azalea.

HE RAN A WEIRD MARATHON

Shia ran the Los Angeles Marathon in 2010 with a respectable time of 4:35, but we’re not interested in that one. In 2014, he ran another marathon, one of his own devising. In Amsterdam, he dashed 144 times around Stedelijk museum, dressed in purple leggings and a mint green vest. 1) That is an impressively athletic art performance. 2) It is dead dead meaningful, showing us both the essential futility and repetitiveness of life, in which we so often walk the same paths over and over again until we can’t go on anymore, and also how we are so busy running that we fail to notice beauty, like he’d find inside the museum if he weren’t so busy charging past it. (We came up with that old nonsense just now. Being an art critic is easy).

HE LIVESTREAMED HIMSELF WATCHING ALL HIS FILMS IN A ROW AND CRINGED THROUGHOUT TRANSFORMERS 3 

Shia’s #allmymovies project had him watching every single one of his films, back-to-back, and live-streaming his own reactions to them. Very early in the morning of November 11, 2015, he sat down to watch the third instalment of shapeshifting alien robot franchise, Transformers – the last he starred in – and made every type of cringe-face available to mankind, all of which were broadcast on the live-stream. It was beautiful.

Shia Labeouf's Allmymovies streamPress

HE WAS ACCUSED OF PLAGIARISM THEN PLAGIARISED HIS APOLOGY

So meta. So Kierkegaardian. When Shia was accused of plagiarising the work of comic book artist Daniel Clowes for a short film he’d made, he apologised. Then it turned out his apologies were all nicked off other people, including Mark Zuckerberg, Alec Baldwin and Nick Clegg. To whom to words belong? What is truth? Can we own thoughts? Are we not on some level all Alec Baldwin?

HE PUNCHED A STUDENT IN AN ELEVATOR

Why? Erm, the guy asked him to for his own ‘performance art’. Shia was in Oxford for his #Elevate project, and spent 24 hours in the lift talking to students. One of them had requested the punch and after some convincing, Shia obliged. You can watch part one of three of the project – but be warned, it’s pretty long.

HE CALLS OUT HIS OWN BAD FILMS
It’s not really polite to dismiss the work of hundreds of people just because you didn’t enjoy it. Everyone involved in a film works very hard and some may be very proud of the work they did. But when LaBeouf said he “dropped the ball on the legacy” with Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and that Transformers was “just a bunch of robots fighting each other” there weren’t many people who disagreed. Truth will out.

HE GOT THE LAST LAUGH WHEN SOMEBODY WROTE A COMEDY TRACK ABOUT HIM

Making fun of actors is not difficult. Most of the internet does it constantly, but few go to as much effort as Rob Cantor, who gathered a full orchestra, choir and dancers for a performance piece about LaBeouf as a cannibalistic killer. Sure. After the grand spectacle is over we see only one person has been watching. Yes, it’s Shia LaBeouf, showing that he is very much in on the joke and capable of laughing at himself.

HE HAD A HUFF IN THE STYLE OF ERIC CANTONA

Following some daft questions, LaBeouf stormed out of a press conference for Nymphomaniac with the words, “When seagulls follow the trawler it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea”. Spoken first, of course, by the great French philosopher Eric Cantona.

HE WORE A PAPER BAG TO HIS OWN PREMIERE

Perhaps the most famous example of LaBeouf’s wackdoodle nature was when he turned up to the premiere of Nymphomaniac wearing a paper bag emblazoned with the words “I am not famous anymore”. If the purpose of a premiere is to get publicity for a film is he not a marketing genius? Has he made the actions of the man famous and not the man himself? Think about it.

HE RECORDED A MOTIVATIONAL VIDEO FOR ART STUDENTS

Ahead of the graduation show for the Central Saint Martins art college LaBeouf and his artistic collaborators, Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner, asked students for a few words to sum up their work. LaBeouf then recorded short films for each artist. They are bonkers. If you’ve ever seen a graduate art show you’ll know this is entirely fitting. He made everyone else’s art his own art. That’s almost the entire basis of the Pop Art movement. And LaBeouf did it on his own. Have that, Warhol.

HE WAS HIS OWN ART EXHIBITION
The only time LaBeouf has made actual art that went in a gallery was when he became the work himself. In the exhibition #iamsorry, which came shortly after his plagiarism incident, LaBeouf sat in a room, inviting strangers to come and join him, bringing a prop from a selection he would supply. Then he would sit in silence. People queued for days to be part of it. Actual art critics praised it. Which just goes to show that all art is subjective, and from our place of subjectivity we judge Shia LaBeouf marvellous.