Everyone's favorite artist/thespian is back and is putting his video art skills to sorely-needed political use. Shia LaBeouf's HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US livestream, which launched on Friday, consists of a webcam attached to one of the outside walls of New York's Museum of the Moving Image where people are invited to stand in front of the camera and then repeat the mantra "He will not divide us." The piece will be broadcast 24 hours a day for the entirety of Trump's administration and, according to Vulture, the idea is that the sentence will become a "mantra" that "acts as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community."
So far, it's already shaping up to be a success, with patron saint of artistic teens everywhere, Jaden Smith, dropping by to show support. And this isn't the first time LaBeouf has used livestream in his art work. Last year, he livestreamed himself watching his entire body of film work in his piece #AllMyMovies. But this is arguably his most powerful use of the form yet and, at least from where this writer's standing, it's the art we need right now. That's mostly thanks to its repeated use of mantras.
Mantras are most commonly used in meditation; in fact, you probably know the most common mantra used in meditation even if the very thought of yoga or meditation brings you out in hives, because who hasn't seen cartoons or movies where people meditate on the following word: "OM."
While different sources will give you different answers as to why mantras are used in meditation, according to Ashtanga yoga teacher and professor of religious studies at The University of Virginia, John Campbell, mantras can concentrate the mind: “Like focus on the breath itself, focus on mantra has a unique ability to draw the mind into really tight focus.”
In complicated times, something that encourages us to live in the moment and to quieten our frantic minds would surely function as a form of self-care. Since it's becoming more and more widely accepted that self-care isn't indulgent but downright necessary for political activists who may be exposed to physical and verbal aggression while fighting for basic rights, this overlap between the spiritual and political isn't as random as it may at first seem.
Besides which, mantras don't just have an association with meditation and yoga but boast an explicit link with politics.
According to ABC, "One of the first rules of politics is to define yourself before your opponent does it for you," and this is something you can do via a mantra. As of the moment, probably one of the biggest challenges the opposition to Trump faces is the sheer diversity of what they're against. Whether you can't stand the President-Elect's policies on immigration, his controversial comments about sexual consent, the threat he may pose to the environment, the far-right figures with which he has staffed his Cabinet, or Trump's disregard for fact during his presidential campaign, the reasons to be anti-Trump are multitude. That makes it easy for canny conservatives to set the left against each other.
A mantra to unite this huge mass of people from all walks of life may not be a solution to everything, but it's certainly a great start, especially since the very wording of the mantra spells out what it will do — unite us.
So if you're in New York over the coming four years, make the city's Museum of the Moving Image your first stop. Because LaBeouf makes a truth so simple it's taken for granted powerfully with his art: we're stronger together.