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Shia LaBeouf: Plagiarism was 'performance art'

Actor Shia LaBeouf chats with Sony Pictures Classics

Actor Shia LaBeouf chats with Sony Pictures Classics co-presidents Tom Bernard and Michael Barker at the premiere party for "The Company You Keep" hosted by Avion Espresso at Harlow in Manhattan. (April 1, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Shia LaBeouf is now claiming that his recent acts of plagiarism were part of an elaborate piece of "performance art."

The actor was recently exposed for lifting most of his short film "HowardCantour.com" from a story by the comics author Daniel Clowes. LaBeouf then issued a public apology via Twitter, though that also turned out to be partly copied from another source. LaBeouf subsequently apologized to Clowes via a skywriting message, then announced that he would retire from public life.

On Monday night, LaBeouf explained himself in a couple of lengthy Twitter posts which have since been deleted, according to TheWrap.com. In one post, LaBeouf wrote: “All art is either plagarisum [sic] or revolution & to be revolutionary in art today, is to be reactionary. In the midst of being embroiled in acts of intended plagiarism, the world caught me & I reacted. The show began." He added that he was "Risking my public representative's skin to prove my platitudes."

Perhaps to bolster his claim, LaBeouf contends that he created his "meta-modernist" performance with the help of three people: The screenwriter David Ayer ("Training Day"), the poet Kenneth Goldsmith (recently appointed the first poet laureate of Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art) and the British artist-author Luke Turner (founder of the website TheVoid.co.uk).

Is LaBeouf's explanation true, or a cover-story created after the fact?

Turner's Twitter page points visitors to a website called Metamodernism.org, which features an eight-part manifesto by LaBeouf ("We must liberate ourselves from the inertia resulting from a century of modernist ideological naivety and the cynical insincerity of its antonymous bastard child").

Goldsmith, however, appeared to flay LaBeouf in a recent interview with NailedMagazine.com published Jan. 8. "I feel he stepped in --- and is now trying to get out of it in an interesting way," Goldsmith said. "That said, his plagiarizing of those materials and apologies and so forth, have been very sloppy, and as such, not tremendously convincing. Anyone who has worked with shared and borrowed materials for a long time knows that there is a certain degree of craft involved, something LaBeouf has no clue about."

Goldsmith seems amused by the actor's behavior, though he stressed in an email to Newsday that he played no part in it. "I have had no contact whatsoever with Mr. LaBeouf," he wrote. "He has cut and pasted words from the introduction to my book 'Uncreative Writing' (Columbia University Press, 2011) and claimed them as his own. And, quite frankly, I couldn't be more pleased."

If LaBeouf's performance-art conceit sounds once again familiar, that's because it recalls Joaquin Phoenix's similar stunt several years ago, when the actor's public breakdown turned out to be fodder for a 2010 mock-documentary called "I'm Still Here."

Along with all the explaining, LaBeouf is also still apologizing. His recently removed Twitter post ended, "thank you I'm sorry - Shia."

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