Nathan Le Master
February 1, 2017
Bold, black, and Helvetica. The text He Will Not Divide Us appears above a camera and microphone aside The Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, the latest performance art piece by Shia LaBeouf. Set up on Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as America’s 45th president, Shia intends for the camera to remain there throughout the entire duration of Trump’s presidency. Visiting hewillnotdivide.us, you can watch the live stream.
1/21/16 – 1/25/17
Almost immediately, the camera becomes a lightning rod for controversy. People visit at all times of the day, mostly to chant the “he will not divide us,” dance, and have a pretty good time. Shia makes an appearance everyday. 4chan trolls and Trump supporters also begin showing up. At night, they come in bigger numbers, sporting MAGA hats, recreating ISIS beheadings, or boldly chanting Trump’s name. During the day, an occasional troll visits the camera, inciting Shia to everything from hysterical screaming to forcible kissing and licking. This reaches its boiling point when an individual records himself approaching Shia and whispering, “Hitler did nothing wrong,” prompting Shia to physically push the guy. A few hours later, Shia is arrested by NYPD.
Walking to the Broadway Library from my house, I take a detour by the Museum of the Moving Image. I see a few cops across the street, and a few individuals repeatedly whispering in hushed tones, “he will not divide us,” their bodies rocking to the rhythmic phrase. The closest comparison to make would be Orthodox Jews praying at the Wailing Wall.
I visit the protest again. Having seen on Twitter that accused alt-right sympathizer and Million Dollar Extreme creator, Sam Hyde, was going to pay the camera a visit, I expect a large crowd. When I arrive, people are spilling into the sidewalk across the street. The small lot in front of the camera is asymmetrically divided into two camps. The smaller of the two chant the “he will not the divide us” refrain in front of the camera. The larger camp surrounds Sam Hyde. There’s a shouting match between a Trump protester and Sam Hyde. As tweeted by Sam, this was a cigar party, and the air is thick with smoke. Various small news outlets and journalists make their rounds interviewing bystanders, protesters, and counter protesters. Wherever Sam moves, a gaggle of people follow. Holding flags and signs, people shout everything from, “he will not divide us,” to “praise kek,” to “build the wall,” to “love trumps hate,” to “he is not my waifu.” The day descends into chaos.
I visit the Museum of the Moving Image. This time, I’m surprised to see a metal barrier set up. After talking to a group of Trump supporters, I learn that individuals who express outright support of Donald Trump are banned from the premises. They can stay on the sidewalk, which they ironically label, “The Freedom Zone,” but can’t step foot on the lot in front of the camera. In addition to police, security personnel are posted to enforce the ban.
When I arrive at the camera, I noticed that the crowd is the smallest I’ve seen it to date, consisting almost entirely of Trump supporters, trolls, and–as I learn by talking to him–a Ukrainian-American nationalist. Bored after five minutes, I walk home.