February 18, 2017

‘He Will Not Divide Us’ comes to ABQ

Andy Lyman

He Will Not Divide Us art installation by Shia LaBeouf in Albuquerque

One week after the Museum of Moving Image in New York City shut down the performance art piece “He Will Not Divide Us”, the artists behind the infamous art installation project resurrected it in an unlikely setting—downtown Albuquerque.

The project, now located on 7th Street in downtown Albuquerque outside the El Rey Theater, consists of a camera set on a wall streamed on the Internet under big black, all-caps words “He Will Not Divide Us.” The project is by LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner.

The art collective’s most famous member, film actor Shia LaBeouf, made headlines when the project kicked off the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The project encourages members of the public to say, “He will not divide us” in front of the livestreamed camera at any time.

The three artists intend for the livestream 24 hours a day to last through Trump’s presidency. The other two members of the art collective are Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö.

Shia LaBeouf and Luke Turner

Owner of the El Rey Stephen Segura told NM Political Report he connected with LeBeouf after the artist came to Albuquerque to film the musician Thundercat at the theater.

“It kind of happened in a random way,” Segura said. “Like, super random.”

The project’s move to Albuquerque began just one week ago, Segura said, shortly after he and others painted over a mural that had been covered with graffiti on the west wall of the El Rey. The blank wall became the perfect spot for the installation, Segura said.

Segura praised the three artists for getting the whole installation up in a week, saying LeBeouf in particular was “all gas and no brakes.”

“It’s awesome to see the level of professionalism they brought to the table,” Segura said.

LaBeouf told onlookers that he chose Albuquerque as the new location because of the city’s diversity.

Melissa Tso, a local advocate active with The Red Nation, kicked off the relaunching of the mantra mid-day Saturday, leading a crowd gathered around her. Shortly before the project went live, Tso spoke about why the mantra was important to her.

“It can apply to anyone in their own way,” Tso said.

LeBeouf also emphasized to be welcoming to Trump supporters should they come to the exhibit unless they are “tyrants and racists.”

“The whole point of this is the anti-normalization of division,” LeBeouf told the crowd.

Tso began the chant on her own, periodically emphasizing the word “not” in the mantra. After a few minutes, the rest of the crowd repeated the mantra after her.

The New York museum shut down the exhibit and said in a statement the instillation presented an “ongoing public safety hazard” after LaBeouf was arrested and charged with assault following an argument with another man.

This happened after white supremacists occupied the livestream in New York and attempted to take over the installation. The New York museum maintained that “He Will Not Divide Us” became “disrupted from its original intent” and turned into “a flashpoint for violence.”