Dr Alice Marwick,- “Irony allows people to strategically distance themselves from the very real commitment to white supremacist values that many of these forums have.” (Report- Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online) Godwin’s Law Poe’s Law Simply by bringing to life discourse typically reserved for message boards, “HWNDU” has the ability to show just how radicalized our climate has gotten,- Grant Ridner Nylon magazine
Memes IRL: How the Performance Art of Labeouf, Rönkkö & Turner Unleashed an Internet Subculture Into the Real World
Memes IRL: How the Performance Art of
LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner Unleashed an
Internet Subculture into the Real World
Katie Elson Anderson
MAPACA, November 11, 2017
In this presentation I will be talking about the participatory art project, HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US by
LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner, specifically the participation of representatives from internet subcultures
traditionally labeled as “trolls”, but more recently, and more aptly described in some cases as alt-
right, far-right or neo-nazi. A brief description of the collective and their works, which operate in the
context of metamodernism will be followed by a focus on the project and the role that internet trolls
and memes played through disruptive participation. A timeline of the project’s evolution will show
detractors’ efforts to claim “victory” and label the project a failure, however in reality, their
participation supports the metamodern sensibility of the project sought by the artists. I will briefly
introduce the subcultures and their tactics and weapons in this specific project. In some cases these
are disturbing, upsetting, certainly NSFW and full of vitriol. I will argue that the project’s significance
continues to grow as it evolves. The events surrounding HEWILLNOTDIVIDE.US have brought to light
not only the internet subcultures that have increasingly been documented and discussed since late
2016 by scholars and media in relation to their role in the support and election of Donald Trump and
subsequent pivotal events in 2017, but also brings up questions regarding public space, museum
neutrality, free speech, hate speech and online harassment.
This presentation is the beginning of deeper explorations and continued research on the artists and the project and slides
have been added since the original presentation to provide more information and context.
LABEOUF, RÖNKKÖ & TURNER
Shia LaBeouf (b. 1986, Los Angeles, USA)
Nastja Säde Rönkkö (b. 1985, Helsinki, Finland)
Luke Turner (b. 1982, Manchester, UK)
● Collaborating since 2014
● Create participatory projects
● Projects explore: empathy,
emotion, social interaction,
● Performances span digital and
● Focus on Connection and
Further reading on LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner
De Wachter, E.M. (2017). Co-Art: Artists on Creative Collaboration. London: Phaidon.
Hunter, B. (2016). Reviews : LaBeouf, Rönkkö, and Turner. Canadian Art, 33(2), 128.
Muñoz-Alonso, L. (2016). artnet News’s Exclusive Interview With LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner:
Is it time to reconsider Shia LaBeouf's art practice?, artnet news. Retrieved from
Newhive, (2015). #ALLMYMOVIES: A conversation with LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner. NewHive.
Retrieved from https://newhive.com/b/allmymovies-interview/
Swift, T. (2014). An interview with Luke Turner & Nastja Säde Rönkkö, AQNB, Interviews. Retrieved
Vermeulen, T., & Van Den Akker, R. (2010).
Notes on metamodernism. Journal of
Aesthetics & Culture, 2(1), 5677.
Notes on Metamodernism
“thus, metamodernism shall be defined as the
mercurial condition between and beyond
irony and sincerity, naivety and knowingness,
relativism and truth, optimism and doubt, in
pursuit of a plurality of disparate and elusive
horizons” -Metamodernist Manifesto
Post 2001 sensibility, response to cynicism
Structure of feeling
An oscillation between aspects of both
modernism and postmodernism
NOT a philosophy
NOT a manifesto (despite existence of a
Each unique performance (listed
from website) explores space,
physical and digital presence, and
Online communities created around
performances, often through the
Project was not presented with a
hashtag as with previous projects-
#HWNDU grew organically with the
Main connection was audience/
participant; unlike many previous
works which invite direct connection
with the artists themselves.
Against the Normalization of Division
Text from: http://hewillnotdivide.us/
(Hey look, there I am again…)
“It’s incredibly powerful to see my fellow Americans, in all
their beautiful diversity, approach the exhibit camera and
passionately announce (or sing) to the world that they
will not allow this new president to tear our country
apart” (Earl, 2017) (http://www.indiewire.com/2017/01/shia-labeouf-he-will-not-divide-us-
In Real Life
MEME: Dawkins defines meme as “theories of cultural replication to shared in-jokes, catchphrases and signature texts” (Milner) “Magic”
Weaponized Meme: Meme used to as propaganda, for attacking or harassment or to flood the mainstream. Alt-right power broker Jeff
Giesea's paper about memetic warfare in 2015, we might have seen it coming."For many of us in the social media world, it seems obvious that
more aggressive communication tactics and broader warfare through trolling and memes is a necessary, inexpensive, and easy way to help
destroy the appeal and morale of our common enemies,"
PEPE: A frog cartoon by Matt Furie that was co-opted by the alt-right and listed by the ADL in 2015 as a hate symbol.
KEK, KEKISTAN: LOL, Frog god (pepe)
4chan: Internet Forum
8chan: Internet Forum (usually with less restrictions than 4chan- ie; if you get kicked off of 4chan, you move to 8chan
These internet forums were the birthplace of anonymous, the alt-right, GamerGate, conspiracy theories such as pizzagate, countless false
narratives and harassment campaigns. A 2003 analysis
Discord: A social network primarily used by gamers, but recently used by internet trolls and extremist groups, ie; much of the planning for the
Unite the Right event in Charlottesville took place on a Discord server (private, generally invite only)
Godwin’s Law: if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or
something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.
Poe’s Law: On the internet, it is impossible to tell when someone is joking. Unable to distinguish irony from sincerity.
LARP: Live-Action Role Playing. Pretending to be something you are not; in this context, neo-Nazi LARPing and claims of “just kidding”, “just
playing”, troll, trickster
Shitpost: Generally referring to the worthless, stupid, silly, mundane posting in internet forums. Often crude and vulgar.
Redpill: Taken from the Matrix movies, means to suddenly realize what reality actually is; misogynistic roots, racist, sexist in nature.
Lulz: “laughs”, often used to indicate the “just joking” nature of a post or action
Normie: those unfamiliar with the memes and ways of the internet forums and the subculture; those who have not been redpilled.
Some very brief definitions
thing as an
“Troll behavior calls attention to various points of
overlap between negative and positive,
transgressive and acceptable, even cruel and just
behavior” (Phillips, 2015)
“It's an incredible thing to be
a part of. Making even one
real human connection in
the love and positivity that
the project has generated is
infinitely more powerful than
any of the hate that's been
thrown at it.” - R.B.
participant and supporter
(draft work in progress)
Phillips, W. (2015). This is why we can't have nice things.:Mapping the relationship between online trolling
and mainstream culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Milner, R. (2016). The World Made Meme Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Nagle, A. (2017). Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars from 4chan and Tumblr to Trump and the alt-right.
Laurel House, UK: Zero Books