Category Archives: commentary

Creating: You’re doing it wrong, Shia

Shia LaBeouf may or may not be smart. He may or may not be a good actor. But he is a thief. And like that kid in school who would do anything to get out of being caught in a lie, his defense, once caught, is to start digging a great big “I meant to do that” hole.

And it keeps getting deeper and more full of shit.

LaBeouf is an art thief who simply appears incapable of having original ideas. So he steals ideas from those who can and calls it his own. And apparently he thinks that’s should be OK. At least for him. Honestly, it’s hard to tell exactly what he thinks when he’s way down in that hole.

Is he our first famous ‘digital kleptomaniac’?

Part of his problem is that he doesn’t seem to get the distinction between ‘transformative’ and ‘stolen’. He somehow conflates the two with things like iPods and… what? Player pianos? A Sony Walkman?  It’s blinkered thinking that’s meant to do one thing: Absolve Shia LaBeouf of thievery.


His plagiarism is demonstrably true. I don’t need to make allegations. You can see the words and actions straight from the mouth of this intellectual con man.  Even some of his apologies were merely the words of others! But instead of making it right, he dissembles. I’m becoming convinced that he’s unable to consciously see and unwilling to unconsciously admit that he’s not some art genius and this is his primary downfall. And it’s eating him up inside. So he’s desperately trying to flip this shitburger into something edible and call it art.

So he goes on the ‘art offensive’. He’s not a thief, he’s transformative. We’re just too dumb/blinkered/beholden to the past/non-genius to see it. And so he has to keep digging that hole and filling it with more bullshit.

Read that Bleeding Cool conversation. It’s breath-takingly myopic and riddled with the words of others as his ammunition. But he makes no effort to internalize those and give them what the original authors intended: a human filter through whom ideas are steeped, distilled and transformed (FYI, Shia, transformation is not copying). He simply regurgitates the words rather than digesting them and pooping out a nugget of personal truth.

He’s an art robot. Hoo-fucking-ray.

LaBeouf mocks Clowes, saying his next movie will also be plagiarized.

And now after what originally seemed like a sincere apology for his brazen theft of the Daniel Clowes story “Justin M. Damiano“, when he simply said “I fucked up”, he has  chosen to turn the attention from the media for his thievery to his advantage. It’s become a big joke to him. A joke he wants us to believe is public art. (He had a skywriter skytype a strange apology to Clowes.) He’s attempting to turn the wrong done [by him] to Clowes into  Shia World: Everyone Look At Me. Even if that means screwing over Clowes’ — for whom he previously claimed to have respect. I mean he did like his work enough to rip it off — and his very real and very clear claims to infringement of his work and rights as a creator. LaBeouf, who has made millions from the work he has done as an actor, now fails to see the connection between ones efforts and ones livelihood. In Shia World, whatever Shia wants he takes from others. To ‘transform’ [no Transformers joke intended]. And they shouldn’t make a fuss about it. Because… Shia World!

“Appropriation has been the most influential theme in art sense [sic] the 70s.” – Shia LaBeouf to Bleeding Cool

If everyone, given this statement, who paid to see all those Transformers movies and Eagle Eye asked him to give their money back so they could just download it instead, perhaps he’d start to see the connection. Oh, right. No, because he believes that should be protected.

And, adding insult to injury, he’s gone on to blatantly mock Clowes for daring to have the audacity to assert his rights of authorship, to have the gall to insist that he should decide who profits from his work. For the love of Pete, potentially all LaBeouf had to do was ask permission and he didn’t even bother to do that. Instead he shows his ‘respect’ by mocking Clowes for doing work that he wouldn’t then just let LaBeouf appropriate for his own purposes.

“If you look at Warhol’s work and say ” oh well he didn’t paint that – its [sic] just silk screens 
Your [sic] missing the point.
Our notion of genius- a romantic – isolated figure – is fucking outdated” – Shia LaBeouf to Bleeding Cool (by way of Kenneth Goldsmith who originally said that last line) 

Spoken like a man who, deep-down, knows he has no original artistic talent beyond acting. But REALLY wants to be seen as a serious artist anyway. Just look at his comics (which, apart from middle school art, also steal from others [see link for outline]). Panned by nearly everyone who’s seen them (Marilyn Manson, supposedly a friend, called them “fucking terrible“), it seems that LaBeouf has it in his head that the doing (acting?) of art is what’s important. Not the… being talented or original at it. In other words, he wants to be Andy Warhol who, let’s be honest, was a plagiarist whose pop culture popularity got him off the hook, for the most part.

He can’t even refrain from lifting even mundane things like the About page on his website. (click to enlarge)

Shia LaBeouf’s idea of appropriation is ‘summary’. He wants to take the things he found interesting and profound (in his “Whoa, man, that’s like deep” sort of way) and stick them into things with his name on them saying A) he did that and B) he’s doing you a favor. And also please buy his thing.  Also, Shia, seriously? Anyone who’s been in Hollywood for 5 seconds knows that that short film was less about ‘art’ than it was about getting you that sweet studio director’s seat and a big budget.

Recently LaBeouf claimed on his @thecampaignbook Twitter feed that due to “attacks against my artistic integrity” (laugh here if you feel the need) he will be “retiring from all public life.” … Followed by several more tweets including a link to a site which contains the full text of Luke Turner’s Metamodernist Manifesto except it now says “by Shia LaBeouf”. Even if Turner is complicit in this, it’s worth noting that it’s still someone else’s stream, Shia is just a pebble tumbling in it.

And finally as to LaBeouf’s followup skytype which read “#stopcreating”. Yes, Shia. If the result of your creating will always be  theft, then by all means stop ‘creating’. You’re doing it wrong.

On the off-chance you actually read this, I have the worst kind of advice for you: The unsolicited kind. Go do something real. Go do something all your own. If you want real credibility, you need… credibility. You can’t just walk in and say “I’m the new [disruptive artist]!” and expect to be taken at face value just because people know your name. They need to know something about your art… other than you stole it from someone else.

When does a copy become a forgery?

UPDATES: Charlie Jane’s update and a link to the SA story that has way more info.

John Myatt was an art forger. For years he painted copies of works and a fence sold them on the art market. The fence did all the dirty work of faking provenance and selling the story of the piece as he attempted to sell the piece itself. Myatt just painted the picture which, in and of itself, was not illegal.

Except, that is, that he knew that that his copies were being sold as originals. And that’s fraud. If nothing else, the amount of money he was making for each made not knowing that impossible.

Eventually, John Myatt went ‘legit’ and stopped being, according to Scotland Yard,  one of the biggest art frauds of the 20th century. It took jail, though, to turn Myatt around. Once again he’s creating copies of famous paintings, but now he marks them as ‘genuine fakes’ and stays within the bounds of law, if not ethics.

But what if Myatt were copying contemporary paintings? What if he were selling re-created copies of paintings by artists who are still alive and even still working? And what if you were making a shitload of money from them?

Charlie Jane Anders at io9 has an article on Glenn Brown who is doing just that. Make up your own mind, but I hope you’ll keep the above in mind when reading it. The line between homage and rip-off is so very razor thin.


How a Science Fiction Book Cover Became a $5.7 Million Painting