Shia LaBeouf wants you to know: “He will not divide us.”
For the first few days of Donald Trump’s presidency, the actor has been repeating that sentence into a live camera mounted on a wall outside a New York City museum, usually with a backdrop of everyday New Yorkers chanting and singing along.
The livestream from outside the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens is for a participatory public art project LaBeouf and two collaborators intend to have running for the duration of Trump’s presidency.
The camera went live the morning of the inauguration, along with a website inviting the public to show up and repeat the phrase, “He will not divide us,” any time of the day or night.
The scene in front of the livecam has ranged from lively — with scores of young people dancing and clapping — to lonely late at night.
LeBeouf has been a frequent, though not constant presence, wearing the same blue jacket and red hat.
“Trying to keep the conversation going. Trying to keep the fire stoked,” he said Monday after agreeing to be interviewed by an Associated Press reporter, but only in front of the livestream camera. He interspersed responses to interview questions with repetitions of the chant.
The site is around the corner from a New York City performing arts high school and a couple of students were there Monday, singing into the camera. On Inauguration Day, actor Jaden Smith, the son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, led the crowd reciting the chant.
At off hours, the livestream has captured puzzled dog walkers checking out the camera up close, people showing up to play music, a man and woman delivering the message and then kissing and quiet debates between visitors about what it all means. People were out in heavy rain chanting Monday night.
Technically, the project from LaBeouf and his performance art partners Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner isn’t about opposition to Trump.
The project website says the meaning of the mantra “He will not divide us” should be “guided by the spirit of each individual participant.”
“We’re anti-division out here. Everyone’s invited,” LaBeouf said, rocking back and forth. “I’m just saying, ‘Be nice to each other.'”
Tax-exempt public charities, like the museum, are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activity.
The line as to what constitutes partisan politicking is a blurry one, but IRS rules say charities are barred from “intervening in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.”
Jason Eppink, curator of digital media at the museum, said the project wasn’t partisan because those who take part can express themselves any way they like.
People have shown up periodically to flash “Make America Great Again” signs.
Eppink said it was about “creating a forum for conversation about a very fractured moment that we’re experiencing.”
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