This week, Daily Bruin A&E is counting down to the new year by looking back at the best and worst events in the arts and entertainment world of 2015.
Today, A&E contributor Gabriella Kamran analyzes Shia LaBeouf’s erratic behavior and performance art pieces in 2015.
When Shia LaBeouf wrote “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” on a paper bag, cut some eyeholes and wore it over his head to a 2014 red carpet event, it pretty much validated the public opinion that the actor was spiraling toward a fame-induced mental breakdown.
The incident followed a series of DUI and public disturbance arrests, placing the “Transformers” star on the path toward the abnormality level of Britney Spears’ shaved head.
Fast-forward to 2015, however, and it’s clear that the red carpet incident was actually the first in a series of brilliant performance art pieces designed to attack the superficial concept of celebrity. From behind his paper bag, LaBeouf looked the media in the eyes and challenged its increasing characterization of him as a Hollywood laughingstock.
This year, LaBeouf embarked on a number of new artistic projects that sought to humanize his movie star persona and further mock the media’s expectation of conformity from celebrities.
In March there was #FOLLOWMYHEART, which broadcasted the sound of LaBeouf’s heartbeat onto the Internet, and in December there was #TOUCHMYSOUL, an invitation for people to call LaBeouf on a hotline and tell him something that would touch him emotionally.
Much like the sight of bald Spears, these projects gave me chills – but in a different, more profound way. After listening to LaBeouf’s heartbeat in my silent dorm room and reading the transcript of his conversations with strangers, I had a very odd sense that I had bonded with the actor. The two artistic ventures intended to break down the pedestal that elevates celebrities above the public, and to me, they succeeded.
In August came the viral motivational video that featured a rat-tailed LaBeouf standing in front of a green screen and screaming, “Just do it!” angrily into the camera. LaBeouf proved that the “hilarious and bizarre” approach is the best way to capture the Internet’s attention, and the most effective inspiration often comes without a contrived script and artificial editing.
Then in November, there was my personal favorite: #ALLMYMOVIES, a 58-hour livestream that featured LaBeouf sitting in a movie theater with the general public as he watched all his own movies in reverse chronological order. The project wasn’t a display of celebrity narcissism like many in the media claimed, but the opposite. With the livestream camera trained on the actor rather than his movies, LaBeouf called for an examination of society’s obsession with celebrities’ public and personal lives rather than with the art they create.
For three days, my laptop screen was split between lecture notes and the live video of LaBeouf laughing, sleeping and eating popcorn. It was bizarre, it was mesmerizing, it was art.
LaBeouf is one of several stars (think Jaden Smith or DJ Khaled) who are establishing a middle ground between unhinged celebrity and avant-garde performer. The public is drawn in not only by their entertaining quirks, but also by their refreshing individuality and vision. They grab headlines with erratic behavior, then use their media platform to push boundaries and inspire unconventional thought.
In LaBeouf’s case, he harnesses the very system that obsesses over his idiosyncrasies in order to dismantle it. Celebrity is not destroying Shia LaBeouf anymore – it’s the other way around.
I hope we see more of LaBeouf’s #HEART and #SOUL in 2016. Most of the public has yet to realize there’s a method to his madness.
– Gabriella Kamran