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For those of you who have been too Shia-saturated to read the onslaught of Shia LaBeouf media reports, you may be surprised to hear that he is being credited–if not celebrated–by many to be a legitimate performance artist.

It all sort of started in December when the Transformer star appeared to go through a particularly transformational month. After multiple media sources reported he’d plagiarized (word for word) one of author Daniel Clowes’ graphic novellas for his short film HowardCantour.com, LaBeouf began a 2-week stream of apologetic tweets–and then expressed his regrets via a particularly audacious message on January 1st: “I AM SORRY DANIEL CLOWES,” was written in the sky. Many questioned if he was having a meltdown; his tactics were described as insincere, and generally ridiculed by the masses. At the time, Seth Rogen quipped, “This is by far the most I’ve ever been entertained by Shia LaBeouf.” In response to harsh comments, LaBeouf tweeted on January tenth, “In light of the recent attacks against my artistic integrity, I am retiring from all public life;” then added, “My love goes out to those who have supported me.” He followed these messages up with a tweet that simply read, “#stopcreating.”

Was that to be the end of LaBeouf’s public career? He’d gone from Disney child actor to TV- and action-film star to a shamed plagiarist to retiree all by the age of 27. Well, is it any surprise he didn’t go away? Instead, he posted two lengthy statements on Twitter claiming his bizarre behavior was merely performance art–that is, in the same vein as the media stunt Joaquin Phoenix pulled in “I’m Still Here.” Next, he wore a paper bag over his head featuring the words, “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE,” on the red carpet for the film Nymphomaniac at the International Film Festival Berlinale. He answered only one question at the press conference before storming away: “When the seagulls follow the trawler, it’s because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea. Thank you very much.” These are words he’s tweeted since “retiring.”

But the public really only began to give Shia credit for his unusual tactics when he announced he was going to open an art installation to prove his remorse. The performance piece entitled #IAMSORRY ran Tuesday through Sunday in Los Angeles. It invited exhibit goers to enter one at a time and pick from an assortment of objects that were related to his previous entertainment work, and then go into a room where LaBeouf himself was sitting silently–or crying–with a bag over his head. This piece was credited to be a group effort among Shia and artists Nastja Sade Ronkko and Luke Turner. Regardless of what readers think of LaBeouf’s level of sincerity, sanity, or artistic talent, it should be noted that attendees of the performance piece are generally giving LaBeouf legitimate respect as an artist. Andrew Romano from The Daily Beast is just one example of those who are celebrating the work: “In the moment after I took that picture, I actually felt something real. Something strange and complex. Something like sympathy…there was more going on in those few seconds than in a lot of contemporary art. LaBeouf’s look-at-me internet penance ritual had become an actual moment between actual people.”

Many have said the piece is heavily inspired by Performance Artist Marina Abramovic’s 2010 popular work The Artist Is Present at the Museum of Modern Art. In the 736-hour and 30-minute static, silent piece, Abramovic sat immobile in the museum’s atrium while museum goers were invited to sit opposite of her one at a time. She also did a performance piece called Rhythm 0 in which she assigned herself a passive role and invited the public to interact with her using 72 objects placed on a table: some able to inflict pleasure and others able to inflict pain (feather, whip, scissors, scalpel, gun with a single bullet). Abramovic’s response to LaBeouf’s performance piece? “First of all, I can’t think that this is directly related to me,” she told Vulture. “He has a paper bag on his head, is that right? 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….It’s so manipulative, and it’s so complicated to answer,” she said. “It’s very interesting to me that the Hollywood world wanted to go back to performance, which is something so different than what they are doing. Maybe they need our experience; maybe they need simplicity; maybe they need to be connected to [the] direct public, which, you know, being a Hollywood actor doesn’t permit you.”

So, some questions posed to you, noble Thespian, are: Do you think Shia has transformed into a compelling performance artist? Has he struck upon a certain truth about shaming and ridiculing in our culture? Do you find him disingenuous or a legitimate apologist? Has Shia buckled to the pressure or is he exploiting the pressure? Being intuitive and experienced in the troubles, travails, and pressures of taking on the personas of fictional characters for a living, your insight is welcomed. Please share.

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