Robert Dominic Ventre II
Staff WriterIn the wake of plagiarism allegations against actor-turned-punchline Shia LeBeouf, the increasingly-erratic young star seems intent of proving just how original (or unusual) he can be. Appearing at Los Angeles' Cohen Art Gallery this week in a performance art show that is open to the public and free of charge, LeBeouf presented viewers with a myriad of seemingly-innocuous items that were somehow “personal” to him, all the while looking as if he had been weeping for hours before presenting himself to his fans. The show which began yesterday on February 11th, 2014, will continue until this coming Sunday, and is a collaboration between Shia and performance artists Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner. A photographer from entertainment website TMZ ventured into the Cohen gallery for a firsthand look into LeBeouf's apparent unraveling. What he experienced was nothing short of bizarre. In his own words: "I walk into the gallery. A lady is standing behind a table with an assortment of different items apparently related to his life: whip [from "Indiana Jones"], a Transformer [from "Transformers"], Jack Daniels [he likes to drink?], bouquet of daisies, cologne, pink ukulele, etc.” Slipping further into the belly of the beast, they met with Shia LeBeouf himself, who was, “... sitting down, paper bag on his head, hands firmly planted on the table. I introduce myself, offer him tacos. No response. I tell him I find the bag to be distracting and if he'd be willing to take it off. He obliges." The paper bag now appears to be a consistent part of Shia's “artsy” new image which he seems intent on enforcing, as he made waves in the entertainment circuit by walking out of a press conference for the film Nymphomaniac Volume I after only one question. Shia reemerged thereafter on the red carpet with a paper bag covering his head, which read in bold, black lettering: “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE”. Even worse, during the interview at the Cohen gallery premiere, Monsieur LeBeouf refused to utter one word or answer any questions. He sat, first with bag donned and then without, with red and watering eyes, looking “... as if his cat just died”. In an unfortunate twist, some critics have noted odd similarities between LeBeouf's piece and a 2010 Marina Abramović installation at the Museum of Modern Art, where the artist spent part of the show sitting across from viewers and staring at them in stoic silence. While these new shades of his personality or more than a little unnerving, Shia LeBeouf had already proven that he possessed a slightly darker side when he was handcuffed and questioned by police in 2011 for taking part in an altercation at the Mad Bull's Tavern in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles, where the young actor took a blow to the face. In December of 2013, serious accusations of plagiarism were leveled against LeBeouf upon the release of his short film Howard Cantour.com, which starred comedian Jim Gaffigan and took more than a few passages from Dan Clowes' graphic novel Justin M. Damiano. This was not the first time LeBeouf had been accused of lifting bits and pieces of other artists' work, with some going so far as to say that even his apologies for plagiarizing are, themselves, plagiarized. While LeBeouf claims his sudden transformation is entirely “performance art”, it's hard to be sure. After all, what is art? Is it sitting at a table with a bag on your head, staring at a person attempting to interview you, while presenting them with objects that you, yourself, did not create? One might not think so, but as we all know, Hollywood standards for art (and criminality) are … Different, to say the least.
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