Shia LaBeouf Is Living Proof That Actors Can’t Be Visual Artists


News emerged this week that Shia LaBeouf was ‘raped’ by a spectator at his collaborative show with the artists Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö #IAMSORRY. Hold on a second, Shia LaBeouf has referenced Marina Abramovic’s famous ‘The Artist is Present’ performance?! That’s as depressing as similarly annoying youngish American actor James Franco pinching (and woefully misinterpreting the whole point of) ‘Untitled Film Stills’, i.e. Cindy Sherman’s entire career for his own self aggrandising show at Pace, New York. Instead of adding something new and constructive to the existing works in order to continue and enrich their significance in the development of art, LaBeouf & Co and especially Franco have misguidedly appropriated for their own inconsequential ends. When asked about the ‘homage’, Abramovic reportedly commented: “I’m very happy people are inspired by [my] work, but this is not the same work. I don’t see it as anything to do with me.”

An important distinction needs to be made here: regardless of your opinion on Abramovic’s work, it nonetheless occupies an important place within the discipline of performance art. Certainly as an actor, LaBeouf can lay claim to the title ‘performer’, and indeed many actors have enjoyed similar success in performance pieces: check out Tilda Swinton enacting Cornelia Parker’s ‘The Maybe’, sleeping in a glass box at Moma. Except while Swinton remains solely a working actor, duly making real someone else’s imagined role, LaBeouf & Co have here elevated themselves from actor to director, conceiving their performance amongst a long sequence of unusual antics and bag wearing performances. Here as director all that they are achieving is a cheap remake, heavily relying on the motif of artist sitting with willing participants that made up the core of ‘The Artist is Present’. Like Gus Van Sant’s totally pointless shot-by-shot recreation of Hitchcock’s Psycho: serving only to remind you how good the original was. Like my putting a bag on my head and talking to a dead hare instantly conjures the same degree of gravitas as Joseph Beuys.

LaBeouf, Franco and now musicians present a long and worrying line of artists successful in one discipline misguidedly believing that their visual output instantly matches the calibre of their day work. Joni Mitchell, Ronnie Wood and Bob Dylan’s efforts betray all of the self-confidence but none of the strength of hand and visual dexterity that prove an actual talent in painting or drawing. The poor National Portrait Gallery had no choice but to display Dylan’s intentionally half-arsed grey pastel portraits that aren’t actually of anyone in particular: his name alone demands attention. You can always rely on Dylan to take the piss at everyone else’s expense. Ronnie Wood’s paintings done from photographs of the Stones playing live smack of the A Level art student painting his favourite band with earnest but cack-handed enthusiasm. Monetary wise, it’s one step up from the signed photograph Stones merchandise. The director David Lynch makes for an interesting case in this context, the difference being his films directly emerged from his work at art college and are companion pieces to paintings which pre-date them: they are merely an extension of his own weird but wholly-rounded visual world.

We can see that the natural culmination of their own art bullshit thinly disguised cash grabbing efforts have already been achieved by Vincent Gallo, who currently advertises his own sperm – containing real artist DNA – for sale at $1,000,000.00 a pop (pun absolutely intended), with an additional $500,00.00 charge for natural insemination. If you’re unsure whether it’s a piss-take or not but it has an insane price tag, it must be art, right? I’ll take half a dozen.

Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö work under the collaborative practice “LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner”

The Artbytch © Artlyst 2014


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