Say something crazy enough times, and you might start to believe it. Say something too many times – over and over again for four years, say – and the words might start to lose all meaning.
Right now, that’s a risk Jaden Smith is taking is in New York City by taking part in Shia Labeouf’s new project. Standing outside the Museum of the Moving Image, Smith is saying the same five words and six syllables over and over into a camera. “He will not divide us. He” – he pauses – “will not divide us.” Then a stuttering version. “He. Will. Not. Divide. Us.”
Museum of the Moving Image, New York pic.twitter.com/uhaqLufjo2
— Shia LaBeouf (@thecampaignbook) January 20, 2017
Cringe, squirm, laugh at how worthy it is. Get it all out of your system. Now look at the project again, and you might start to think that it’s the best thing Shia Labeouf has done since Even Stevens – or maybe that time he streamed his cringing reactions to his own involvement with Transformers 3. Earlier this month an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that that 54% of US adults were either uncertain (25%) or pessimistic and worried (29%) about the incoming President, as opposed to the remaining 45%, who were optimistic and confident (22%) or satisfied and hopeful (23%). Trump has already divided America; LaBeouf’s project seeks to discharge some of that tension.
In recent years Labeouf has become well known for his performance art – talking to randomers for 24 hours in an Oxford lift; hitchhiking with strangers across central America; answering calls from fans in Liverpool – and now he’s asking people to join Smith, him and his collaborators Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner in standing against Trump with a message of hope and unity. He wants people to come and repeat that defiant mantra – “He will not divide us” – on a livestream that will run for the duration of Trump’s presidency. And if people actually respond to the idea, joining him and turning that mantra into some kind of movement, then there’s no faulting the project.
For a while, Smith was on his todd in the cold, but now he’s gathered a fairly sizeable crowd, considering it’s only just gone 1pm over in NYC. Imagine a huge throng behind Smith repeating those words again and again – “He will not divide us” – and you’ve got a picture of America that looks just a little less bleak. Yeah, there may be people drawing knob graffiti in front of the camera tomorrow, but for today at least, this is low-key resistance that deserves applause.
Check out the livestream here.