The art student behind Shia’s DO IT!!!

Seen those LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner's "Just do it!!!!" memes? We speak to the CSM graduate behind the viral art moment of the year

Remember last week when Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Rönkkö & Luke Turner collaborated with the students at CSM to make a video project? In case you didn’t, the premise was that the students would suggest something they would like Shia LaBoeuf to do (breathe heavily, act out a scene, recite a piece of text) and he would comply in front of a green screen allowing his actions to be edited by anyone and everyone at a later date to serve as introduction videos for their final projects. The 31-minute video is made up of 36 improvisations (very good ones too, Shia) but one in particular caught the attention of...everybody.

At 8:58 we see Shia take up a sturdy pose and deliver one of the most ball-busting motivational speeches you may ever have the privilege of hearing. This is thanks to Joshua Parker, an art student at CSM who suggested that Shia performed a motivational speech containing the world's most famous slogan: "Just Do It."

Since Shia’s interpretation of this idea hit the web, the now-edited videos have been making their way steadily around the web, but none so much as Josh’s segment: “JUST DO IT! Don’t let your dreams be dreams,” screams Shia. “Yesterday you said tomorrow, so just do it! Make your dreams come true! Just DO IT.” The speech ties in nicely with Josh's portfolio which is inspired by modern day healthy lifestyle aesthetics.

"Currently I am looking closely into commodification, simulation and the cyclical nature of consumerism within contemporary culture," Josh says. "Particularly focusing on the health and fitness industry, in which I feel a culture is being created where it is fashionable and marketable to be healthy. This way of life is leading to potential "health anxiety" with the increase in "need" for health tech, vitamin supplements and body trackers that remind us to stand up and walk, to "Just do it!"

Here’s Josh on motivation, Shia LaBeouf and his first-hand experience of internet fame.

How much did you know about LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner before the #INTRODUCTIONS project began?

Joshua Parker: I’ve been aware of them since about 2014 when I was doing bit of work as a gallery technician at Auto-Italia for the project opt-ME*. Meditation for Narcissists was LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner’s piece within the project, even though I was late for that event and ended up missing it.

Looking back at the project there is some relation within Meditation for Narcissists and the focuses in my practice. LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner focusing on a self-centred search for inner peace in which everyone can join. My practice looks at the other side, to the corporatisation of health, where health is marketed to a wide demographic, yet made to feel personal with cycles of goals that seemingly never end or is over taken by another trend.

What do you think about their work, and the fact they brought it to CSM?

Joshua Parker: I think the work that LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner are doing is very interesting and is raising questions about our contemporary culture, it is pushing for a shift in the way we look at modernity, reflecting on postmodernism but looking at the period we are in now with fresh eyes.

For the collaboration with CSM students it was all about exchange and we wanted to create an access point for a different kind of audience for our work. From my knowledge this is one of the first times a degree show private view has been live-streamed, which leaves it open to take on further not only for degree shows but to create more excess for art.

Your segment in #INTRODUCTIONS has been by far the most adapted, why do you think it resonates with people so much?

Joshua Parker: Shia’s emotional response was sensational, it had such a wide response in comments of the YouTube videos from people loving it, listening to it in the morning and getting really pumped to saying it’s for a Nike sponsor, even to thinking Shia has just gone crazy, so the reaction has been overwhelming. 

In terms of most adapted the green screen helps, but for me its links closer to concerns within my practice. There is something that settles uneasy with online motivational profiles and selling fitness and health as a commodity. Tim Cook (Apple CEO) said “sitting is the new cancer” which creates panic and treats health concerns as trends or fashions. If we look at Nike's slogan “JUST DO IT,” it’s great and it’s positive butt it’s never suggested what “it” is, just the fact that we just have to be doing something! These parodies and adaptations highlight the reflection that the ‘“JUST DO IT” idea and slogan can relate to anything.

Where did the words come from, did you feel you needed some encouragement?

Joshua Parker: The words come influences from Instagram, Twitter hashtags, Google searches, advertising, media: it’s all around us. As our lifestyles change from physical labouring jobs to more computer-based jobs as technology improves we become more reliant on technology to promote or guide a “healthier,” more active lifestyle to counter act the physical lifestyle that technology has taken away. The iWatch for example.

How do you feel about these hundreds of spoof videos springing up around the piece of text you wrote for Shia to say, do you feel like it's almost a collaboration?

Joshua Parker: It’s a sort of long-distance collaboration. With the other versions a split between curating and composing new works. I like the way open-source material reacts and transforms, it is an interesting way to create new forms and I have always liked the idea of being able to give something back to the audience when they come to see my work. This is not a new process though; artists like Oliver Laric have been doing this for years, he is like a a “young godfather” to open-source, shareable material. 

Got a favourite?

Joshua Parker: That’s tough. It’s down to about three I think. The Songify one just blew me away, I’ve had that stuck in my head for days now.