Shia LaBeouf is widely known for his roles in the major blockbusters like transformers and Indiana Jones, as well as for his occasional eccentric behavior. Lesser audience know him as a metamodernist artist and performer frequently collaborating with fellow art-lovers with Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö. What exactly metamodernism stands for and what makes Shia into a great voice of millennial contemporary art scene we will find out in the following article.
Metamodernism is a young art trend that emerged from the postmodernist era and referrers to the post-postmodernist times. If this explanation seems a bit vast, we can offer some explanation. Basically, metamodernism is a philosophy of the millennials generation who grew up among the postmodern realities; sarcasm, mass culture, appropriation, self-reflection surrounded them since childhood. But researches of metamodernism also point out that it builds a bridge between modernism and postmodernism with the contemporary perspective. It distances itself from deconstruction, cynicism, nihilism and decadent attitudes and moves towards sincerity, romanticism, returning to storytelling traditions and trying to restore strive for meaningfulness taking into account modernist’s experience. According to cultural theorists Timotheus Vermeulen and Robin van den Akker this new art trend “can be conceived of as a kind of informed naivety, a pragmatic idealism”, it constantly aspires to creative self-expression and immediate response to various changes and events.
It’s high time we come back to the main focus of our article – Shiah LaBeouf. So what is so metamodernist about him? The first endeavor of LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner took place back in 2014, when Shia appeared at the red carpet of the Berlin Film Festival wearing the paper bag over his head that said “I am not famous anymore”.
Two days later, a performance #IAMSORRY was held at a Los Angeles gallery during which Labeouf was sitting in his tuxedo and a paper bag in the room with various object and the visitors could approach him in whatever manner they want, reminiscent of the famous Marina Abramovich performance.The objects in the room were all connected with the actor’s past performances and habits.
In 2015 their next project named #INTRODUCTIONS took place and we are sure you have seen some parts of it. Collaborating with Central Saint Martins Fine Art students, the trio released a video based on student’s short scripts with LaBeouf as a narrator. It had been released under a free license, so the public could manipulate and appropriate it freely. “Just do it” part of the video meant as an exaggerated motivational parody went viral and created thousands of memes across the internet.
Another peculiar performance, #ALLMYMOVIES, included Shia LaBeouf watching his own retrospective in reverse order. His facial expressions and reactions were live streamed and the public was invited to join LaBeouf at New York’s Angelika Film Center. Honest reactions to ones past mistakes as well as achievements, reinvention of sincerity and self-reflection of a cinematic reflection of oneself – that’s the essence of the performance.
#TAKEMEANYWHERE is another project executed by the trio and it is definitely a graceful nod to the beatniks and Jack Kerouac. Artists went on a road trip and would post their GPS coordinates on their website and wait for strangers to pick them up and take anywhere fellow travelers want. This route’s coordinates were also live-tracked and displayed at their website. Exploration of the collective mind, trust and technology-based fate are the leitmotivs of this interactive adventure.
With Donald’s Trump election as a president of the United States, the whole world turned political with LaBeouf as no exception. The trio launched a protest action/performance that is meant to last for 4 years (till the next elections). Anyone is welcomed to join! HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US consists of a camera setting outside of the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, with the words “He Will Not Divide Us” written on the wall that is being filmed. The camera is streaming the spot for 24/7 and everyone can speak up and say the phrase as much as they want to. This is a place of “anti-division” and total acceptance, along with a protest against the Trumps’s controversial policies.
Though the museum decided to close up the project because of the safety concerns, the resonance among the audience was quite wide and people keep creating pieces in order to continue this undertaking.
Well, as we are waiting for more creative and interactive projects from LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, it is safe to say that not everything is what it seems. While wide audiences see LaBeouf’s behavior as rather erratic one, knowing his artistic ventures, we can see a full picture. It’s metamodernist reality – when art does not imitate life, but becomes highly interlaced with the viewers and aims at exploration, seeking sense, making change with all means that contemporary technocratic reality can offer us.