Last Friday began like any other. I was preparing for a weekend trip to London that afternoon, so got my bags packed, did some work and reading, took a book from the library. Totally normal. Except, me and my housemate decided that we would check out what Shia LaBeouf was up to in Oxford. Yes, Shia LaBeouf was on Oxford (!) Pause for a moment whilst I stop squealing.
So for those who not familiar, the Hollywood actor Shia LaBeouf has brought his focus to the world of performance art, and has done some many interesting things in the past. He is part of a trio which includes Luke Turner and Nastja Säde Rönkkö, making them ‘LaBeouf, Turner, Rönkkö’. One of the last things they did was occupy a gallery room in Liverpool’s FACT, answering the public’s calls in an attempt to ‘touch their soul’. I tried calling 200 times to no avail. So when I heard that the trio were going to be occupying a lift in the centre of Oxford for 24 hours, I had to take my chance. However, what I hadn’t realised was that the wait would take hours. 4-5 hours to be precise.
Naive me turned up with my housemate at 10.30 am, expecting to be finished by 12 pm at the latest, to then go on and continue our day. How wrong we were. 2.30pm, and we were still in the queue. With the anxiety of already waiting so long, and for it to be just a waste of time, we decided we would stick it out. Although every hour we ended up saying that we would only wait another 30 mins then we were leaving. So by 4pm we were finally in. For 20 minutes we occupied a life with Shia LaBeouf and co. After standing in the queue for what felt like a life time, we had prepared and thought over and over about what we would talk about. It was going to be insightful, philosophical, we’d have them in stitches! No. No we didn’t. As soon as I greeted the trio and the doors closed in the elevator, the realisation hit me. We were here. With this Hollywood actor. I had grown up watching Shia in Even Stevens the TV show, and to be standing next to him, eating his pizza that he offered up was beyond surreal. My mind went numb, and I completely forgot all the things I had said I would talk about. It was awkward. There were silences. There were hummings and nervous shifting around on the spot. Thank goodness for my housemate Geoff and our new friend Joey (who we had the pleasure of queuing up with) – they came out with some interesting questions, which in turn stopped me from my verbal diarrhoea.
Even though I found it slightly awkward, I thought that it was definitely an interesting experience. I mean, how often do you get the chance to be in an elevator with Shia LaBeouf!? I guess you’re probably reading this and thinking how the hell this was ‘art’. Well, the trio explained that the whole purpose of situating themselves for 24 hours within this tiny elevator (which only went up 2 floors) was a way of connecting with people. Having been asked to give a talk at the Oxford Union, the art trio thought it would be a more interesting and intimate experience to be able to offer people the chance of spending quality time with them, rather than just listen to them in the hall. And it definitely was intimate, although somewhat contrived, which I felt took away from the experience.
But hey, like I said, how often do you get the chance to rub shoulders (literally!) with a Hollywood Actor? One thing that I did feel uncomfortable about was the fact that I bet (myself included), most people were actually there just to meet Shia. What about Luke and Nastja? How did they find the prospect of this? Is it just part of the whole experience? I guess having a famous actor as part of your art performance helps bring attention, but I wondered if they felt a little disregarded during the whole process. Yes, these are the many questions I thought about before meeting and after, yet didn’t ask them! Alas. So, what are your thoughts about the performance piece? Thought-provoking and intimate, or just pretentious?
Check the video out around 6 hours 48 mins!