Shia LaBeouf: Turning Apologies into Performances


Shia LaBeouf, of Disney Channel’s Even Stevens and the Transformers franchise, is putting on a collaborative art installation titled, “#IAMSORRY” at Los Angeles’s Cohen Gallery. This is the latest in a stream of apologies from him, beginning with his plagiarism of Daniel Clowes’ comic in LaBeouf’s short film, “,” this past December.

His first official written apology to Clowes was plagiarized; he lifted the first few sentences of his apology from a Yahoo Answers’ comment.  As he continued to tweet out apologies, he copied from those from other people, including BP CEO Tony Hayward, Elliot Spitzer, Alec Baldwin, Tiger Woods, Mark Zuckerberg, Kanye West, and Russell Crowe, among others.

The exhibition in Los Angeles runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, February, 11th to Sunday, February, 16th LaBeouf will be present at the gallery, where patrons will have the opportunity to choose from a selection of objects, which included references to LaBeouf’s career and a copy of a book by Daniel Clowes.  After choosing from the objects on the table, patrons are invited into a second room, where LaBeouf is seated in a tuxedo, wearing a paper bag over his head, with “I am not famous anymore” written across it.  Patrons can choose how to interact with LaBeouf  and the objects in whatever way they wish, with one report reading a slew of mean Tweets directed at LaBeouf, causing him to cry.  The first line of the press release for the exhibition reads, “Shia LaBeouf is sorry. Sincerely sorry.”

HOW analysis

LaBeouf has taken apologies to the level of parody performance.  Where many apologies tend to be assessed as theatrical performances, here LaBeouf takes to an actual stage, making a public, art exhibition out of his apology.  This transparency, by making himself vulnerable to the public, might seem to be a step in the right direction.  According to Dov Seidman, authentic apologies should elicit a change in behavior; LaBouf’s stream of apologies has continued for two months, often in theatrical ways, including skywriting an apology in the air to Clowes. The question remains whether LaBeouf is participating in this exhibition as an authentic act of contrition or purely as yet another bid for attention.  Regardless of intention, LaBeouf’s performance is fueling the public tendency to assess apologies as theatrical performances, instead of assessing apologies by the behavioral changes enacted by the offender. 

Categories: The Apology Project

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