United by art: Participants at LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner installation find common ground - Albuquerque Journal

United by art: Participants at LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner installation find common ground

The message is the same, though the venue has changed, and the tone is way different.

Shia LaBeouf
Shia LaBeouf

And the move of actor Shia LaBeouf’s “He Will Not Divide Us” project to Albuquerque is certainly drawing national attention.

TMZ posted a video mocking a few locals, saying it showed that “people are much more laid back, even while protesting, in New Mexico.”

On Monday, small groups of visitors ebbed and flowed to the side of the Historic El Rey Theater on Central and Seventh to view LaBeouf’s installation.

Someone watching the live stream ordered pizza for them; another offered to buy coffee.

Nearly two weeks ago, the installation was shut down by the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, N.Y., due to its being “a serious and ongoing safety hazard” for visitors, staff, local residents and businesses.

There had been numerous shouting and shoving matches in New York, which resulted in police patrols there.

In Albuquerque, some stayed at the site for hours, others dropped in, took a picture and quickly sped off.

It’s clear that it has quickly become a common ground for dialogue.

People gather in front of actor Shia LaBeouf's 24-hour live-streaming camera in Downtown Albuquerque on Monday
People gather in front of actor Shia LaBeouf’s 24-hour live-streaming camera in Downtown Albuquerque on Monday. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Organizers say the project moved from New York to the Duke City on Saturday because of its “cultural diversity.”

The project is produced by LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö and Luke Turner and is streamed live at www.hewillnotdivide.us. The plan is to stream content continuously “for four years, or the duration of the current presidency.”

Those who visited on Monday had different reasons for being there.

T.J. Muniz got up early and made the more than four-hour drive from Silver City.

“Art installations, they bring art to the people,” he said. “What people don’t realize is there is a common ground. I wanted to see it for myself because it has gotten so much attention.”

Ephraim Colbert, of San Francisco, stood for hours to bring awareness of the death of Juan Carlos Romero.

Romero, a University of New Mexico graduate student, was shot to death on the sidewalk across from the campus on Feb. 7.

Colbert held signs that read, “UNM campus area security is not a priority.”

For a city that is used to public art, some here say LaBeouf’s installation is working.

Suzanne Sbarge, executive director of 516 Arts in Downtown, said her organization has done a lot of public mural projects in the area.

She finds that experiencing arts outdoors in the public realm is something that people respond to positively.

“It’s a populist way of engaging in art,” she said. “You don’t have to know anything about it, or pay for it or go to another venue to see it.”

Sbarge said the public responds to getting art in their daily lives.

Though she hasn’t seen the installation, she said experiencing art in an unexpected way always draws attention.

“It seems spontaneous,” she said. “I’m all for artists coming into the local community and mix the local art community with a larger scale.”

Meanwhile, Justin Cox and Sylvester Padilla both showed up for two straight days. What they found was common ground.

Cox, a transplant from South Carolina who supports President Donald Trump, and Padilla, an Albuquerque native, got into a heated discussion Sunday.

Both men were grateful to have the opportunity to speak with each other and share their views.

“There is a lot of frustration,” Padilla said. “The installation gives us an opportunity to speak our minds.”

Cox said that by being at the installation he wanted to simply say that “nobody will divide us.”

“We’re all here together,” Cox said. “This art piece has started a lot of conversations. It’s doing its job.”

LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner’s anti-Trump art installation vandalized in Albuquerque

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