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The Museum of the Moving Image (MoMI) in Astoria, Queens, has pulled the plug on the anti-Trump artwork “HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US” by LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner — the trio of actor-turned artist Shia LaBeouf, the Finnish artist Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and the British artist Luke Turner — because it “created a serious and ongoing public safety hazard for the Museum, its visitors, staff, local residents, and businesses,” according to the institution.
“The installation had become a flashpoint for violence and was disrupted from its original intent,” the museum’s statement continued. “Over the course of the installation, there have been dozens of threats of violence and numerous arrests, such that police felt compelled to be stationed outside the installation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” Since this morning, the project’s live feed simply displays the words, “the museum has abandoned us,” while an accompanying statement states that, “On February 10, 2017, the Museum of the Moving Image abandoned the project. The artists, however, have not.”
Former Queens borough president Claire Shulman, who is a member of the board of MoMI, told the New York Post that “[i]t was a mistake to do it. It’s unsafe for a public institution to do a project like this.” She added that nonprofit, tax-exempt institutions like MoMI are not allowed to engage in explicitly partisan projects.
Nevertheless, the installation garnered the attention of local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who held a rally at the MoMI on January 29, stating: “This is the land of Jews and black men and women, the land of Muslims and immigrants from all over the world, trans women from Mexico and feminists with great pink hats! We know that he will never divide us.”
Today, however, Van Bramer told Gothamist:
I have personally observed what I believe to be public safety threats and significant issues relating to public nuisance at the installation itself and on the live feed. And I have heard from constituents, who live mere yards from the exhibit, that they felt unsafe as a result. This was an unacceptable, if unintended, outcome of this installation.
The public installation and accompanying live video feed launched on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as US president and was intended to continue for the duration of his presidency. It consisted of an outdoor webcam in front of which members of the public were invited to repeat the titular phrase.
The project quickly drew Trump supporters and other right-wing trolls seeking to subvert its message. The ensuing confrontations were all captured on the live feed and one, on January 26, resulted in LaBeouf’s arrest on a misdemeanor assault charge. Though the museum’s statement claimed that the installation had caused “numerous arrests,” an NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist that LaBeouf was the only person arrested during the run of the project.