The art of Shia LaBeouf
By Taylor Pitt, Contributor
Here’s a statement that’s sure to get under the skin of anyone who follows, enjoys, or has even the smallest passing interest in art: Shia LaBeouf is the greatest artist of the last few years.
You’ve probably heard the odd little rumour about LaBeouf plagiarizing his directorial debut, HowardCantour.com, or how he even plagiarized his apology for plagiarism afterwards. Most people took one look at LaBeouf and said to themselves, “Yeah, what a jerk, he’s exactly the type of kid who would do this kind of thing.”
Personally, I find that there’s a lot more than just a spoiled brat acting out and trying to get more credit than he deserves. To the contrary, I find he’s getting too little credit.
In February 2013, he wrote a plagiarized email apology—which he later published on Twitter—to Alec Baldwin that was lifted from an Esquire article. Everyone noticed this, but it wasn’t really a big deal until his next tweet.
“Invent nothing, deny nothing, speak up, stand up, stay out of school,” LaBeouf stated, taking the words directly from playwright David Mamet.
LaBeouf released his directorial debut on December 16, 2013. Entitled HowardCantour.com, it seemed to have gathered a considerable amount of praise from critics and audiences alike. However, it wasn’t too long before some noticed a few small similarities between it and the graphic novel Justin M. Damiano by Daniel Clowes. It was basically the same story with a different name and a .com suffix stuck on the end of the title.
But that wasn’t enough for LaBeouf. He had to take it one step further and rip off his apology for this blatant rip-off of Clowes’ work by finding a Yahoo! Answers’ comment and pasting it into his Twitter feed. While he only tweeted part of the comment in his statement, here’s the plagiarized quote in its entirety, originally written by Lili on Yahoo! Answers: “Merely copying isn’t particularly creative work, though it’s useful as training and practice. Being inspired by someone else’s idea to produce something new and different IS creative work, and it may even revolutionize the ‘stolen’ concept.”
Look at those last few words and see if you’re beginning to notice a pattern.
In addition, LaBeouf stole from an entire list of celebrities, including Tiger Woods, Kanye West, Lena Dunham, Robert McNamara, and Mark Zuckerberg, taking their famous apologies and turning them into his own.
It all really kicked off in January this year, though, when LaBeouf launched his metamodernist manifesto, located on metamodernism.org, and then promptly delved into the deepest, darkest pits of the Twitterverse. He tweeted “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” a total of 22 times over the course of two months.
Finally, on February 11, he released one more Twitter statement, reading “#IAMSORRY,” which was only the kickoff to an art show he held for a week, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., spent sitting at a table crying and staring at anyone who wished to come in to see him. Which was, of course, taken from artist Marina Abramovic.
While most people see LaBeouf as just another young child star going through the inevitable breakdown cycle of absolute insanity, what I see is a performance art piece that started as soon as he could after the end of the godawful Transformers series.
Is it a parody of the repetitive public breakdowns child stars seem to suffer from? An attempt at commentary on the state of modern art? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I’m hoping that we all get to find out soon.