by DeeDee Hughes, Staff Writer
Shia LaBeouf spoke out this week about an alleged rape that occurred at a performance art installation in Los Angeles in February. At the installation, entitled #IAMSORRY, LaBeouf sat in a room with a bag over his head — with “I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE” written on it — and invited viewers to choose a prop relevant to his life, sit down with him and talk. He remained notoriously silent and was often reduced to tears.
The art world is known for its extremism. Traditionally, it is the artists who mutilate themselves in an effort to make a statement, whether it be political, cultural or personal. For instance, Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the Red Square in Moscow to protest one of Vladimir Putin’s policies. In 1971, Chris Burden had his friend shoot him in the arm and then proceeded to have himself nailed to a Volkswagen amidst the Vietnam War and the following riots. Perhaps even more disturbing is French artist Orlan, who has had a number of plastic surgeries since 1990 in an effort to emulate the ideal beauty of Western paintings.
However, LaBeouf’s incident at the art installation not only violated the implicit agreement between the artist and viewer, but also crossed the line into criminal action. A woman allegedly whipped LaBeouf’s legs for ten minutes, stripped his clothing and raped him while her boyfriend stood outside. In accordance with the project, LaBeouf remained silent throughout. The woman left looking disheveled, but no one stopped her as she exited.
While some celebrities have laughed off LaBeouf’s claims as a joke (ahem, Piers Morgan), several other artists and curators at the Cohen Gallery, where the exhibit was held, have spoken out on LaBeouf’s behalf and confirmed that the incident did indeed occur. It is not a scenario that should be taken lightly.
Although LaBeouf has been known to act erratically, this assault is all too real and catapults the art world into modern day rape culture. It calls attention to the stigma surrounding rape and the range in victims and scenarios. For once, I salute Shia LaBeouf for calling attention to the crime.