LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner were in the middle of their 2016 art project titled “#TAKEMEANYWHERE.” Jacky Petters had just learned that, as part of the artists’ project, they were travelling together through Michigan. Jacky, who earned her undergraduate degree in 2015 and works as an artist in Michigan, wanted to be involved in their project. In particular, she was a fan of one of the artists, Shia LaBeouf, and she wanted to meet him. She jumped in car and drove after them.
Arriving at the shore of Lake Michigan, she discovered that the three artists had boarded the S.S. Badger, a ship that ferries cars and passengers across the lake to Wisconsin. When Jacky arrived, the Badger was still docked, but she didn’t want to spend money on a ticket. Who even knows what would happen if she did? Having parked her car, she sat at a picnic table for half an hour, looking out at the Badger, feeling bummed that she wasn’t going to have the opportunity to meet the artists. Suddenly, she decided to take her chance: “The boat was departing at 8:30pm and at 8:14pm I got up off the picnic table, ran to my car, and drove to the ticket booth. There was nothing in my way, there was nobody there telling me no. I realized if I wanted this chance, that I was the one that had to make it happen.”
On the boat, Jacky introduced herself to one of the three artists, Luke Turner, who was carrying a camera and shooting film out on the deck. He asked her if she wanted to be in the movie he was shooting, and he wondered if she wanted to join the artists for the night. Jacky said “yes,” and entered the boat. Inside, Shia LaBeouf was pulling together chairs for the group of nine people currently participating in #TAKEMEANYWHERE. When Jacky told Shia that she had followed them to the Badger, he said, “No shit! Do you want to join us?!” He pulled up another chair for her. The group, including Nastja Säde Rönkkö, the third artist, welcomed Jacky, and she ate pizza and talked with them.
Later, the group went into the boat’s arcade and played video games and bingo. Then they went back out to the upper deck, where they lounged around talking, sitting on metal benches or on the floor, looking out over the water. It was pretty dark outside except for faint yellow lights scattered along the deck, and Jacky could hear water lapping against the side of the boat. Jacky was sitting on the deck, trying to take in the moment, and thinking about her experience overall. There was a moment of silence in the conversation, and Jacky suddenly spoke up. “This is the craziest thing I’ve ever done. Following you, not knowing where I’m going to end up, and being all alone.”
Shia responded, “But you’re not alone. You have us.”
Jacky thought for a moment, and what Shia said seemed so totally true. In fact, she had never felt such an immense sense of acceptance and love from a group of people she had so recently met. She felt comfortable and content, but she also wanted to pinch to remind herself that the night was actually real.
“You’re right,” she said.
Eventually, the boat arrived in Wisconsin, having ferried across Lake Michigan. Jacky was the only member of the group who would not be continuing on with LaBeouf, Rönkkö & Turner or #TAKEMEANYWHERE, anymore. She needed to return home. But, in the meantime, she legitimately felt like she had made eight new friends. Bummed to see Jacky leave, Shia yelled, “Group hug!” Jacky was bombarded by everyone in the group who hugged her and each other.
Jacky writes that, “Honestly, I think one of the coolest parts of the night was the group hug I received when everybody was getting off the boat and I was starting on a return back to Michigan. Because it wasn’t just about meeting Shia anymore. It was about our little group that formed on the SS Badger and the memories we created.”
In this creative essay, I will argue that we can think of the artists and participants in #TAKEMEANYWHERE as a tribe. This is metaphorical language. I contend that, in a metaphorical sense, they are like their own, unique society, with a number of distinct characteristics. So when Jacky joined the artists and participants on the Badger, she joined their tribe, which welcomed her with open arms. The tribe accepted her as one of its own.