By Jordana Bragg
Shia LaBeouf official twitter page: https://twitter.com/thecampaignbook
Late in 2013, Shia LaBeouf published a stream of tweets on twitter under the hashtag #IAMSORRY, including the statements “got lost in the artistic process” and “I fucked up”, in retaliation to the plagiarism scandal surrounding a 12 minute short film he produced titled: Howard Cantour.com that aired at The Cannes Film Festival, (2013). Howard Cantour.com was noted by many critics and audience members as a direct counterfeiting of the graphic novel Justin M. Damiano, (2007) by cartoonist Daniel Clowes, with the comic’s publisher Eric Reynold proclaiming LaBeouf’s short film to be “shameless theft”.
Shia LaBeouf’s independent exhibition/performance piece #IAMSORRY ran for six days in March 2014 out of the Cohen Gallery Space in Los Angeles. After standing in line outside, once inside the main foyer participants were instructed by security to enter a small exhibition space one at a time. Upon entering, two tables became apparent to the participant. One displayed several objects, including: an Indiana Jones whip, a model transformer toy, a bouquet of plastic daisies, a pink ukulele, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, a basket of abusive tweets aimed at LaBeouf and the book Hershey Kisses written by Daniel Clowes, (the author he was accused of plagiarising). The other table featured LaBeouf sitting alone, opposite an empty chair, with a paper bag over his head with the hand written text ‘I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE’ concealing his face.
The objects laid out on the table were intended to be used by the audience on LaBeouf as they wished, while LaBeouf sat staring forward through the cut outs in the paper bag over his head, (reportedly looking disheveled as if he had been crying) passive to any attempt on the audience’s part to prompt interaction and conversation. With the passive artist sitting at a table and inviting the audience to use objects on him as they desire, there can be no denial of the fact that this performance could be considered both an adaptation and/or a direct usurping of original content from already canonised works within the history of performance art, including:
Yoko Ono | Cut Piece | 1965 | (Yamaichi Concert Hall, Kyoto, Japan).
Marina Abramović | Rhythm 0 | 1974 | (Modern Galerija, Ljubljiana).
Marina Abramović | The Artist is Present | 2010 | (Museum of Modern Art, NYC).
I consider #IAMSORRY as an ironic artistic retaliation to plagiarism (allegations). LaBeouf’s ‘apology’ comes in the form of plagiarising other artists, with this feigned ignorance serving to demonstrate his awareness of artistic authenticity.