BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Following an increase in violence after the launch of actor Shia LaBeouf’s “He Will Not Divide Us” exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, the site has announced that the presentation, which was created to encourage inclusiveness in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, is now closed.
“We are proud to have launched this engaging and thought-provoking digital art installation, which was experienced by millions of online viewers worldwide,” the museum said in a statement. “Until public safety concerns overrode the intent of the installation, ‘He Will Not Divide Us’ generated an important conversation allowing interaction among people from many backgrounds and with different viewpoints. However, ending our engagement with the installation is the most prudent path forward to restore public safety to the museum, its visitors, staff and the community.”
The Internet-streaming performance launched on Jan. 20, Inauguration Day, and was to continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until the end of Trump’s presidency. However, according to the museum, the installation created a public safety hazard for the museum and local businesses.
The increase in threat complaints and arrests forced police officers to be permanently stationed at the exhibit in case any incidents occurred.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said that not only had the 114th Precinct responded to dozens of threats at the installation, but Community Board 1 had also received calls and concerns about public safety.
“The fact that the 114th Precinct felt it needed to guard the installation 24 hours a day, seven days a week to keep people safe tells you all you need to know about what was happening there,” Van Bramer said. “Needless to say, I was also shocked and outraged by the hateful symbols and rhetoric used by far too many at the exhibit. I witnessed racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, sexism and unabashedly pro-Nazi symbols and remarks on this live feed. I’m proud to have led a rally at the site to denounce such hatred.
Dissents, and dissenting voices, are always welcome at cultural institutions. But while I am a great supporter of culture in New York City and believe strongly in the Museum of the Moving Image’s decision to take on challenging works, including this one, it is clear that this installation became a public nuisance and a public safety hazard. That could not continue.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org