There’s been countless rallies across the country since even before Donald Trump took the presidency. Many demonstrations are purely anti-Trump in general, but others are more narrowly focused on things like woman’s rights, civil liberties, gender equality, or healthcare, just to name a few.
No matter who would have won the presidential election on November 8th last year, many people were bound to be disappointed. It’s happened every four years since 1788; it’s impossible to make everyone happy. However, those disheartened citizens feel the need to speak out and protest against the President and his actions. But I’m not here to talk to you about political rallies, per se. That’s overdone. I’m more interested in the live-stream participatory performance artwork that Shia LaBeouf and his two partners started on January 20, 2017.
Starting on Inauguration Day, a camera was mounted on the wall outside the Museum of the Moving Image (in New York) with the words “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” written on the wall above the camera, referring to Trump. That’s it. There was nothing else on or around the wall explaining the reasoning behind this artwork. With the camera rolling live stream 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the next four years, the public is invited to participate in this performance artwork by standing in front of the camera and repeating the phrase “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US.” According to the artists, this mantra is more a show of resistance, opposition or even optimism, rather than a protest against the President.
Considering the style of this participatory performance artwork, I think the Museum of Moving Image was the perfect place to set this up, especially since it’s the only U.S. museum dedicated to film, television and digital media. But apparently, the Museum of Moving Image couldn’t handle the backlash and consequences behind this type of artistic experience. They called the set up a political rally as it drew all kinds of people interested in speaking out about more than anti-division. The Museum of Moving Image ended up shutting down the project after only three weeks, so the artistic collaborators had to decide to let it go, or find a relocation spot. They choose to put the camera back up on a wall outside the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, NM. Why that location? I’m not sure.
Even though the participatory performance artwork was not designed to be a soapbox for people to declare their outrage about the 45th President, the artists had to imagine that this might occur. If you give the public an outlet for free speech, they’ll likely take advantage of it. In fact, people can go up to the camera to share anything they want with the world; it doesn’t even have to include the words “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” because no one is there monitoring to ensure you say it. While I was watching the live feed, I saw a couple of people come up to the camera and, even though the camera has a microphone, hold up a piece of paper indicating viewers to vote for the next mayor of Albuquerque in the upcoming election. As you can see, if there’s an opportunity to vocalize something, the public will take it.
Personally, I think the artists knew this would happen, and maybe since they don’t want to publically announce that they are anti-Trump themselves, instead, they created a platform for others to do so.
Flickr / Photo by Global Justice Now.