April 23, 2014 9:16 am Weird | 1 Comment | Permalink
April 19, 2014 6:44 pm
Just got back from reading Two Performance Artists at Ventura’s awesome Bank of Books bookstore! Thanks to Banks and everyone who came out—it was a blast! My dad, ever the practical joker, had an especially good time sporting the look he likes to call “Magnum P.I. undercover.” If you pay Banks a visit, make sure to check out the stacks downstairs—they’re packed with cassette, VHS, and 8-track tapes like you won’t believe!
April 18, 2014 9:49 am
Had a blast at Gatsby Books in Long Beach last night talking about Two Performance Artists, performance art, creativity, and of course, the topic that lives on, Shia LaBeouf and his plagiarizing ways. Thanks to Gatsby owner Sean Moor and his furry sidekick Ruby for putting on a really fun event. If you’re in Long Beach, help support indie bookstores like this one!
April 14, 2014 9:02 am
This past week was crazy-busy in Freakshow Books’ booth at the L.A. Times Festival of Books on the USC campus. Publishers, PR reps, agents, bookstores, and writers seemed seriously excited by Two Performance Artists, and it was a great chance to take the grassroots pulse on what’s happening across the literary scene.
One downer: the main L.A. Times stage was right across from us—and we were shocked when a string of famous people serving as interviewers (Maria Shriver, for example) went on to interview some of the most flat-lined personalities ever to take the mic. We listened to one woman drone on about her new (albeit, well-written) “What should I do with my life after college?” pablum, then a 60-year-old grandpa wearing a toupee mumble from his “What if pets could talk?” pulp—I could hear Dr. Seuss crying in heaven. THIS, ON THE MAIN STAGE. Where were the edgy radicals, rebels, and raconteurs? The rock-and-roll writers? The pissed-off poets? The literary terrorists? Part of literary fame really must be whom you know. The audience couldn’t figure out how these scribes had managed to land plum spots up there for an hour each. Were they friends of Shriver’s? Did their PR reps blow a roadie? If this is what book show producers believe are going to get readers excited about books, then no wonder publishing’s got big problems.
April 10, 2014 2:26 am
OMGGGGG! I started it in 1999—and now it’s finally here! Or rather, there! Near you! In bookstores! And on Amazon! And Barnes & Noble! And iTunes! In paperback! And E-Book formats! I’ll admit it: I’m proud of it; it’s the best thing I’ve ever made. So if you’re moved, get it! Read it! Love it! Thank you *so much* to everyone who supported this dream, who believed, and who helped keep me sane (as much as that’s possible—hahaha). Here’s a kung fu present just for you….
April 5, 2014 1:35 pm
The standing-room-only book tour’s reading & performance launch party at gorgeous Skylight Books in L.A. was a smash! I’ve gotta admit, it felt a little surreal (and terrifying) to hold the book in my hands and talk openly about something I’ve been working on like a hermit behind closed doors since 1999—but there’s no denying that the excitement, anticipation, and support in the room were real, and I couldn’t be more grateful—it’s my childhood dream coming true. Thank you *so much* to everyone who came out!
After catching a few hours of sleep, we drove up to the Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, where I unveiled a new piece called Your Name Is Magic for the monthly live 5x5x5 show curated by my performance art mentor, the certifiable art genius John M. White.
The gallery was packed, and the crowd absolutely on fire. I can’t be 100% sure, but I *think* I received my first standing ovation (except that the crowd was already standing, so I don’t know if that really counts??—haha).
You can get all of the book tour information here—we’ve got a ton of stops from L.A. to NYC, with more cities coming soon! I can’t wait to read and perform for you!
March 11, 2014 2:31 pm
I can’t believe the book’s official launch is only 30 days away! It’s been such a long, surreal, and gloriously delirious haul—did I really start this journey 14 years ago? Apparently I did. Apparently I’m insane. Hahaha. But holy shit, IT’S HERE!
Which brings me to two exciting announcements:
First, although the official launch date is April 10th, 2014, there’s no such thing as exactitude when it comes to dates in the world of publishing, since books will hit different distributors, wholesalers, and retailers at different times. And so it’s happened that the E-book version of the book is already available for the Kindle, iPad, and Kobo devices! I’m trying not to make a huge deal of this, because the publisher and I have spent so much time trying to run a coordinated April 10th launch, but if you’re reading this, and want an E-Book version instead of the paperback, by all means, hit it!
And second: I’m insanely thrilled to say we’ve just confirmed our first bookstore event! I’ll be reading and signing at the gorgeous Skylight Books bookstore in Los Angeles on April 3rd at 7:30PM. Expect a little reading, a little performance art history, and of course, a lot of crazy. And YES, we will have paperbacks for sale—the real deal! I would LOVE to see you there! (And if you’re not in L.A., don’t worry, there are plenty of other cities and dates, with more coming!)
February 27, 2014 11:57 am
Many people ask why my novel, Two Performance Artists Kidnap Their Boss And Do Things With Him, has such a long title.
1. It’s ridiculous (and therefore, I hope, memorable).
2. It references Hank and Larry, the novel’s performance art protagonists, who believe that every performance art piece should be given a title that simply says what the piece is about. Example: “Slap My Face With A 2-Pound Trout.”
3. My first boss (who is now a billionaire) gave me this marketing advice: “The best name for a thing just tells people what it does.” Maybe he was on to something.
February 12, 2014 6:06 pm
NEWSFLASH: I’ll be protesting SHIA LABEOUF’s plagiarizing ass tomorrow/Thursday Feb. 13th outside the art gallery where he’s doing his #IAMSORRY “performance.” Stop on by anytime from 11am until 5pm and join in the craziness! Wear your favorite #lunchbagfashion! Cohen Gallery, 7354 Beverly Blvd.
UPDATE (2/13/14): The experience was incredible. WOW. *Thank you* to all of the friends, Hippos, family, and *new* friends for holding me up during today’s protest and #LABEEF performance. The huge crowd — some 300 people who’d been there 8 hrs or more — was empathetic, encouraging, and full of original POVs on Shia, his spectacle, and celebrity. I learned so much, and was blown away by the support—thank you.
Part of my performance (photos here) involved wearing a paper bag with the words #WE WERE NEVER FAMOUS printed on it, and using black duct tape to affix a beef patty to the top of each of my shoes (thanks for the discount, Burger King!). The beef was a reference to interviews LaBeouf has given in which he’s stated that his last name originates from barely-literate French ancestors who couldn’t properly spell the French word for “beef” (boeuf). I’d originally planned to use only one beef patty, but then decided to use two, with the second foot “plagiarizing” the first. And the pieces of black tape served as funerary stripes, like black arm bands, to mourn the slow death of LaBeouf’s originality.
I also ripped out pages from copies of LaBeouf’s zine Cyclical, signed them SCOTCH, and gave them away as souvenirs — my favorite gesture of all, and the crowd seemed to love it.
I was especially moved when, after hearing my story, several people throughout the day offered to let me take their places in line so I could confront LaBeouf directly, even though they’d been waiting for over 5 hours. I was grateful, but couldn’t do it. In order for the #apology to be sincere, I felt LaBeouf needed to come to me. I’d notified the gallery that I would be outside, and that LaBeouf was welcome to come out and apologize to me directly—his army of bodyguards were welcome too!—but he didn’t make an appearance.
Two friends of mine warned me not to let Shia steal my magic, nor my “magic wand.” Haha.
Worry not: LaBeoufs everywhere want nothing to do with magic. From my forthcoming biography, Shia: An Unauthorized Life:
Shia’s French forefathers were, by all accounts, country clodhoppers and barely literate. Cattle breeders by trade, they worked barefoot in the dung over 20 hectares of pasture just south of Montagnol.
The French word for steer was la boeuf, which, unsurprisingly, was also slang for the male organ. When a breeder went into town, he’d try to entice women with crass jokes about his beouf — accidentally misspelled, of course, and therefore mispronounced — to which the women would respond with glee: “n’existe pas, votre beouf!”
Confused, the breeder would report back to the other pasturemen that women had found his beef to be imaginary. Over time, the men became convinced that they’d been cursed with genitalia that only they could see (or smell). Frustrated, they stopped courting women. Known collectively as Les Beoufs, these beef bachelors passed the time by inventing elaborate pasture dances that consisted of leaping long distances in order to hump the air.
If, by pure luck, a breeder did manage to marry, his refusal to wear shoes or bathe made sex unthinkable. If his wife wanted a baby, she would write allemagne — the French word for Germany — on a paper and give it to her husband. Sounding out the letters, the husband would incorrectly render it as “aller magne” — literally, “to go to magne.”
Magne was, of course, a homophone for the English word ‘man’, but more importantly, it contained the prefix mag, from the old Greek magos, which signified a special male member of the priestly class — that is, not just a class ‘member’ (sexually and organizationally speaking), but a special one: namely, a magician or male witch. The husband understood that magic must be necessary in order to conceive a child — how else could it occur?
Reluctant to get too close to occult practices, the husband would take his wife to the train station at Montagnol, where she would show the allemagne paper to the conductor. The conductor would laugh, but faithfully charge the couple for a ticket to Frankfurt — a party town packed with German sailors on leave — and off the wife would go, away to ‘the magician’, the husband believed, only to return weeks later, happy as a clam, and of course, very pregnant.
And so it came to pass that Shia would hail from a long line of bastards who knew nothing of magic — but plenty about fruitless humping.
January 27, 2014 8:16 pm
…So much, in fact, that he apparently lifted passages verbatim from my performance art manifesto for his recent “performance art plagiarism” on Twitter.
If this whole drama is news to you, it really started in late 2013 when the world learned LaBeouf had plagiarized word-for-word from Justin M. Damiano, a comic by Daniel Clowes, for LaBeouf’s short film Howard Cantour. Caught red-handed, but determined to laugh off his asininity, LaBeouf presented a mea culpa through plagiarized apologies on Twitter, then did a little skywriting, and then offered the excuse that this had all been “metamodernist performance art” — that, oh you know, his charmed life is really just a performance art piece — all of which climaxed with a final twittering of performance art aphorisms that read almost like a performance art manifesto. An astute tipster googled some of LaBeouf’s tweets, and lo, discovered they’d been lifted straight from the performance art manifesto on my web site, as well as from writings of performance artist Marina Abramovic and others.
You can check out his (un)original tweets, my manifesto (originally published in 2009 as evidenced by Archive.org), or compare them side-by-side. As payment for my writerly services, I won’t object if Shia wants to buy a few thousand copies of my novel when it comes out April 10th. I’ll even sign each one (unless, of course, he’d prefer to sign my signature
I’ve received buckets of sympathy from supporters & cohorts, which I truly appreciate. Sincerely: thank you for having my back.
But I need to say for myself: I’m not without a sense of humor, nor do I lack appreciation for pastiche, sampling, intertextual play, remaking, invoking past influences, and the like; these are how humans push ideas forward.
I was reminded today (thanks, Mark Axelrod) that French-American writer Raymond Federman termed this kind of textual borrowing “playgiarism” to distinguish it from less artful, more insidious brands of thievery:
“To answer the question once and for all. I cannot explain how Playgiarism works. You do it or you don’t. You’re born a Playgiarizer or you’re not. It’s as simple as that. The laws of Playgiarism are unwritten. Like incest, it’s a taboo. It cannot be authenticated. The great Playgiarizers of all time — Homer, Shakespeare, Rabelais, Diderot, Rimbaud, Lautréamont, Proust, Beckett, Federman — have never pretended to do anything else. Inferior writers deny that they playgiarize because they confuse Plagiarism with Playgiarism. It’s not the same. The difference is enormous, but no one has yet been able to explain it. Playgiarism cannot be measured in weight or size. It is as elusive as what it playgiarizes.
Plagiarism is sad. It whines. It cries. It feels sorry for itself. It apologizes. It feels guilty. It hides behind itself.
Playgiarism on the contrary laughs all the time. It exposes itself. It is proud. It makes fun of what it does while doing it. It denounces itself.
That does not mean that Playgiarism is self-reflexive. How could it be? How can something reflect itself when that itself has, so to speak, no itself, but only a borrowed self. A displaced self.
If this is getting too complicated, too intellectual, too abstract, then let me put it in simpler terms — on the Walt Disney mental level: Playgiarism is above all a game whose only rule is the game itself. The French would call that plajeu.”
Lit critic Larry McCaffery writes about 3 kinds of plagiarist hoaxes: the kind intended to remain undiscovered (e.g., forged painting), the kind intended to be detected (via irony or exaggeration), and the third: an exact forgery, but whose “forged nature is built into the project” in the form of a constructed context (the context allows for the forgery to be inferred).
With his list of “playgiarizing” authors above, Federman seems to cover all 3 kinds of hoaxery — plain thievery, artful dodgery, and structuralized disclosure, respectively — but I find these forms of plagiarism to be vastly different from each other on the ethical scale (and on this, Federman is suspiciously quiet). Since le jeu (“the game”) can’t be self-reflexive — it can’t confess, having no self — and in the case where the audience has no idea a game is even being played — the playgiarizing “borrower” is really playing the game alone, and for his or her own gain, at the expense of the author who did all the work.
My guess is that Shia intended to succeed, through hubris or ignorance, in the first kind of hoax with his film’s brazen theft of Daniel Clowes’s comic. After that embarrassing & expensive failure, he stumbled upon the third kind of hoax through trial and error, creating a “constructed context” by accident, insofar as his listless celebrity aura, stuttering initial apologies, and reputation as a goof quickly made it unbelievable that he’d authored any of the tweets — his ham-handedness became the context in which we no longer believed his claims of authorship. And thus, his tweetfest devolved into dorky, eye-rolling postmodern pastiche — what Fredric Jameson called the “emergence of a new kind of flatness or depthlessness, a new kind of superficiality in the most literal sense” — which was ironically (and accidentally) fitting for a celeb — and especially one trying to confidently bullshit his way forward in spite of total inexperience.
In short, I guess I take issue less with going uncredited as part of an art project, and more with being part of a failed “artist’s” blind grasp at justification for his own initial ethical failure. It just feels kind of icky.
From Federman’s “Story of the Sparrow”:
“The moral of this story: Your enemy is not necessarily the one who shits on your head. Your friend, however, is not necessarily the one who pulls you out of the shit. And besides, one should never twitter when one is buried in shit.”
With his willingness to clumsily screw artists everywhere, it’s no wonder “Shia LaBeouf” is an anagram for “I Has Oaf Lube.”
See? I has a sense of humor.