A flag emblazoned with the words "HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US" will be continuously live-streamed from the arts organisation to www.hewillnotdivide.us for four years, or the duration of the 45th Presidency of the United States.
The artwork is conceived by the artists as a resistance to division, and to the normalisation of division.
The project began at the Museum of the Moving Image, New York, on 20 January 2017, the day of the current U.S. President’s inauguration. Centred on the participation of the public, visitors were invited to deliver the words "HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US" into a live-stream camera mounted on a wall outside the museum. The project quickly became the focus of impassioned political engagement, interaction and debate from all corners, both on and offline, with the stream receiving over five million views in its first month.
Despite the artwork’s inherently political nature and intent, the project has, from its inception, been explicitly open to all, with the words “HE WILL NOT DIVIDE US” acting as a show of resistance or insistence, opposition or optimism, guided by the spirit of each individual participant and the community.
During the initial weeks of the project, the installation was subjected to constant disruption and hate speech by far-right extremists, and a lack of institutional support. On 10 February, the museum removed the camera without the artists’ knowledge or consent. On 18 February, the artists relocated the work to Albuquerque, where the community continued an enthusiastic engagement and participation in the piece. However, due to disruption by neo-Nazis, and after gunshots were fired in the vicinity, although unrelated to the project, the artists were unable to continue to keep the installation open to the public.
On 8 March, the project moved to an ‘unknown location’, where the work was adapted to its present form, accessible solely through the online stream. Following escalating threats and criminal activity coordinated via online message boards 4chan and 8chan, which included the theft and defacement of the artwork by white supremacists, and a field at the location being set on fire, the artists have now been forced to site the project outside of the United States. FACT, Liverpool, is pleased to be able to offer the support that the project needs.
Speaking of the work’s relocation to Liverpool, LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner state: “Events have shown that America is simply not safe enough for this artwork to exist.” The new location for the work is particularly fitting for Turner, having grown up in the North West of England, who adds: “We are proud to be continuing the project at FACT, an arts centre at the heart of the community.”
In an era where elections can be influenced by activity online, a space with no physical borders, HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US resonates with the changing state of global politics. The work articulates the role the internet—particularly social media—plays in the construction of opinions, identities and ideologies.
FACT uses the power of creative technology and media arts to inspire and enrich lives. The organisation recognises a growing need for discourse around identity, state, observation and how alternative points of view might find traction in opposition to mainstream narratives. In this spirit, FACT will hold a series of live, and streamed, events related to the project which provide a platform to encourage dialogue, discussion and a diversity of insight.
FACT’s current exhibition How much of this is fiction., open until 21 May, explores the radical shift in the boundary between fiction and reality, in a world increasingly governed by ‘post-truth’ politics.