For about 24 hours, it almost looked like Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner—the trio responsible for the controversial “participatory performance artwork” He Will Not Divide Us, had accepted that their project might just be a “flashpoint for violence” after all.
After LaBeouf tweeted that gunshots were fired nearby the El Rey Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the group took down the project on Thursday morning. But as of early Friday, the livestream was back on.
The project is a protest against the divisive presidency of Donald Trump; it invites passersby to say the phrase “He will not divide us” into a camera intended to stream online seven days a week, 24 hours a day for the duration of the 45th president’s term.
However, there have been no tweets on the decision to resume the project, but it seems the artists are truly intent on making the durational work last. The El Rey Theater did not respond to artnet News’ requests for comment.
According to KRQE News 13, three gunshots could be heard on the livestream early on Thursday. A man who was reciting a poem into the camera when the shots were fired then says, “Somebody just got shot a block away.”
The local news station quoted an onlooker, Chris Paul, saying, “Bad things happen but I don’t think it’s because of the art, I think it’s just because of the neighborhood.”
He Will Not Divide Us was first installed outside the Museum of the Moving Image in New York on inauguration day. It quickly became a target of white supremacist trolls; one man said on camera, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” sparking an altercation that led to LaBeouf’s arrest. The institution took down the livestream after 21 days, citing public safety concerns, and explaining in a statement that it had prompted “dozens” of violent threats, as well as “numerous arrests.”
According to the project’s homepage, the artists’ view is that the museum “abandoned the project.” After eight days of silence, it was relocated to outside the El Rey Theater ion February 18. There, it was vandalized with the phrase “Reject false idols. Do it!”
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