In the wake of the odd behavior actor Shia LaBeouf has been exhibiting in public recently, including his decision to walk the red carpet of his new movie while wearing a paper bag over his head that read I Am Not Famous, we learned earlier this week that Shia opened a performance art installation project thing here in LA at a gallery called #IAMSORRY. In a blatant rip-off/homage to Marina Abramović‘s performance art piece The Artist Is Present, LeBeouf is making himself available to the public by sitting in a room so that people can sit across from him and do whatever they like (within reason) as he sits there. At the urging of a few PITNB readers, I decided to head down to the gallery and check out Shia‘s #IAMSORRY project for myself and report back to all y’all. Yesterday afternoon, my friend Ollie and I made our way to the Cohen Gallery on Beverly Blvd. to see what we could find. Click below for my full report on #IAMSORRY.
#IAMSORRY is open from 11AM – 6PM daily from Tuesday February 11 until Sunday February 16 (today). Ollie and I got there at around 3PM, figuring we had 3 hours to get inside and see what the experience was like. Upon arrival, we saw that there were about 50 people waiting in line, many of them with lawn chairs … which didn’t look promising to the two of us hoping to get inside the gallery in a reasonable amount of time. We got in line and then started listening to the chatter that was going on among the people waiting in line. The group in front of us went to the front of the line to find out how long they had been waiting so that they could gage how long we would have to wait to get in. They came back shocked and appalled that the people at the front of the line at 3PM had been waiting in line since 2AM! After about 30 seconds of discussion, they left. I decided to go up to the front to ask my own questions to see if those people had really been waiting in line for so long. To my dismay I did discover that most of the people at the front of the line, the first 10-15, had been camped out in front of this gallery since the wee hours of the morning. Speaking to one of the girls, I was told that a group of about 10 people were in line in front of them and where the only people that were let inside since the gallery opened at 11AM (ie. 10 people in 4 hours). Because individuals are let inside one at a time and because there is no time restriction as to how long they are allowed to remain inside, people were going in and were staying inside for 20, 30 — up to 45 minutes at a time. For the first 20ish minutes that I was in line, no one had been let inside because the person inside was taking their sweet time with Shia. With 50ish people in line at 3PM, it seemed very unlikely that I was going to get inside to experience #IAMSORRY for myself. While talking to the folks in line, the gallery door opened and the security guard announced that the next person would be allowed in. The next person in line was an 18 year old woman named Kylie. She was patted down and checked with a metal detector by the security guard and then was let inside the gallery:
Altho it seemed unlikely that I was going to get inside, I must admit … it was exciting to see that someone was being let inside. After Kylie went inside, her friends got all excited because they were going to be let inside next. They told me that they promised to keep their visits as short as possible so that other people would be allowed to get inside — but honestly, they told me, they could stay inside for the next 3 hours and be the last people inside the gallery today. After about 5 minutes, the door opened up again and the guard announced that the next person would be let in. Kylie did not come out the front door because entrants are made to exit out the back of the gallery. The next girl allowed in, Ashley, was searched and wanded and was let inside with her gifts for Shia LaBeouf. Ollie and I went to the back of the line to see if anyone else had joined the wait and we saw that Kylie was near the back of the building looking ecstatic. Honestly, she also looked extremely drunk because she could barely stand on her own two feet (I guess one does a lot of drinking when they spend 14ish hours waiting in front of a gallery to experience a performance art piece). Kylie was stumbling around but happy to relay her experience. She told me that her whole goal for her experience was to talk to Shia about the preservation of tigers. As a celebrity, she said, he could affect change if he wanted to and she was hoping to convince him to lend his celebrity fame to saving the tigers of the world. Yeah, I told you she was drunk. Still, she also relayed to me that she saw him smile in response to her tigers plea and she took off his paper bag mask to look him in the face. She says he reacted in a positive way but never spoke once. While Kylie was telling her story, Ashley came out of the back of the gallery to tell her story … and to share the photo that she took of Shia from inside the gallery:
Ashley‘s experience was a bit different. She told me that she kissed Shia on the cheek (through the hole in his paper bag mask) and held hands with him for a time. She brought him a rose, a lemon and an orange — gifts she pilfered from the homes that surround the gallery — because she didn’t want to come to him empty-handed. She read him a poem, interlocked fingers with him, rubbed the tattoos on his hands and then left. I should note that Ashley also seemed a bit drunk but not as drunk as Kylie. Whether or not it was his intent, Shia has made himself available to people who feel compelled to spend rare one-on-one time with celebrities. My guess is that this was not what he intended, my guess is that he intended to just troll us all with this silly project that invariably became a “thing” because of his celebrity. If you think about it, tho, this whole thing started a few months ago when it was discovered that LeBeouf had plagiarized the comic book art of another artist. When he apologized for doing so, he released apologies that he had plagiarized from other people. THEN as an apology for plagiarizing the comic book artist and the subsequent apologies, he decides to apologize again by plagiarizing Marina Abramović with a performance art project called #IAMSORRY. I can’t say that I see “art” in what Shia is doing but it does remind me of the graffiti street art that artists like Mr. Brainwash or even Banksy pull off. Those artists take inspiration and blatantly re-use other people’s art to make art of their own. The interesting unintended result of this #IAMSORRY thing, tho, is that members of the public get to participate in this “thing” that involves a celebrity and those people get an experience and some satisfaction from having access to a celebrity they admire or, at the very least, are aware of. I can’t say that I believe that all of this was planned from the start (back when the comic book plagiarism came to light) but it does seem to me that LaBeouf appears to be making the best out of a situation and turning it into something bigger (at least for a time) — which does appear calculated.
Altho I wasn’t able to get inside myself, I’m glad I went to the gallery to talk to some of the people who got inside. I ran into PITNB reader Frank who was waiting in line and it was my extreme pleasure to meet him:
Frank was about halfway to the front of the line at around 3:40PM so I’m not sure if he made it inside. I’m glad we took our photo tho because it was nice to chat with him for a bit. In terms of pop cultural impact, I am marginally entertained by Shia‘s #IAMSORRY project. It will be a fleeting thing that people won’t be talking about next month but that’s ok because in terms of the way pop culture works these days, it’s par for the course. Internet memes are HOT HOT HOT for maybe a few days before they go away. Everybody enjoys them at the same time and then everybody forgets and moves on to the next HOT HOT HOT meme. #IAMSORRY is like a meme in real life. In just about an hour from right now, Shia LaBeouf will open the gallery doors for the final day of #IAMSORRY. If you’re not in line already, chances are you won’t get inside to experience this project but at least we know what goes on inside those gallery walls. The experience can be whatever you want it to be (again, within reason) but for Shia LaBeouf, the endeavor seems to be a way to make sure that he’s part of the larger pop cultural conversation … at least for a few days … until we invariably get bored and move on to the next HOT HOT HOT thing.