This week Spray Planet linked up with activist and guerilla artist collective INDECLINE. The artist collective's work seeks to highlight the social ills cast upon us by government, corporations, media elite and other authoritative figures. You may not even realize you are witnessing the artwork of INDECLINE as their focus spans artistic mediums including: graffiti writers, filmmakers, and photographers. The end result is a creative collective of full time rebels focused on bringing about awareness and social change through art. These days INDECLINE’s graffiti and political art works can be seen worldwide; everything from massive billboard alterations to large-scale installations to political graffiti. Together the collective has become experts at utilizing graffiti and art as a weapon and a voice for the disenfranchised.
Background of INDECLINE Activist Art Collective
SprayPlanet: Who are you and where are you from?
INDECLINE: INDECLINE is an anonymous activist art collective that employs various subversive tactics to expose the social, environmental and economical injustices routinely carried out by government and law enforcement agencies. The collective is predominantly based on the West Coast, but has active cells all over the country, as well as Mexico and parts of Europe.
SprayPlanet: So tell us about your name (meaning/origin)…How did this all start?
INDECLINE: The collective was formed in 2001 by a small group of graffiti writers, independent filmmakers and musicians. The name, in conjunction with the logo, draws inspiration from the nefarious actions and consequences of global capitalism.
As teenagers, the founding members were much better criminals than they were students. Cynical, radicalized and wild at heart, the collective soon developed ways of artistically articulating their rage and decided to forego college educations and dedicate themselves to something more noble. They have been “self-employed” ever since.
The Work and Focus of INDECLINE Activist Art Collective
SprayPlanet: How would you describe your overall artwork to somebody who was unfamiliar with it?
INDECLINE: The main objective of INDECLINE has always been raising awareness and inspiring action through the documentation of the collective’s projects and subsequent unveiling of injustices. Whether that is through corporate billboard alterations, short-form documentaries or large-scale acts of vandalism and art installations, the variety of subversive methods utilized by the collective allows INDECLINE to strike where least expected and constantly reach new audiences outside of the world of Graffiti and Street Art.
INDECLINE also has an online store that sells graffiti paraphernalia, literature, music and clothing. 100% of the proceeds from the sales go towards new actions. INDECLINE also sells something called “The Riot Stick”. This is something every human should have under his or her driver’s seat. Have your Mom buy you one!
SprayPlanet: What motivates you to continue to risk your freedom to create political art for the bigger picture?
INDECLINE: INDECLINE’s motivation can be summed up in this quote from one of the collective’s heroes, dissident Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei:
“Water, if it drips long enough can penetrate a stone. We must look at things with this perspective. It always comes down to some kind of struggle. It can take ages, but the human spirit – our will to be free, to have chance, to communicate face to face, to shake hands and to share space – is much stronger than anything.”
For those who had trouble understanding that, here’s a backup quote from N.W.A. that essentially says the same thing:
“Fuck the police.”
INDECLINE Political Art Collective: Past, Present, Future
SprayPlanet: What would your dream project be?
INDECLINE:Looking at a vast body of relevant work decades from now would be the ultimate project. In a perfect world, there wouldn’t be just one piece. Ideally, INDECLINE will continue to push boundaries and remain vigilant and active for years to come. The history of protest art is rich with thousands of collectives and artists who rarely stay active beyond a few years. For those that take it seriously, it’s a very demanding and dangerous lifestyle, both socially and professionally. INDECLINE strives to break this unfortunate curse.
SprayPlanet: What is the craziest situation you’ve been in because of graffiti?
INDECLINE: The craziest situation has been battling President Trump over the last few years. This presidency was unimaginable, but the day after the election, INDECLINE vowed to shadow Trump and provide their own version of the checks and balances our government would surely fail to enforce.
It all started with the famous naked Trump statues from the “Emperor Has No Balls” project that were erected in 5 U.S. cities on the same day at the same time. Then the collective snuck onto his New Jersey golf course on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration and built a cemetery dedicated to all of the things he had killed during his first year in office. Shortly thereafter, the collective spent 2 days, undetected, in one of his hotel suites in New York City, completely redesigning the room and turning it into a prison/art show experience for the press...with live rats. There have been other projects as well. And there will be more.
It probably comes as no surprise that the collective has been the subject of FBI surveillance, but the ultimate irony, is that the same agency investigating INDECLINE’s actions, is simultaneously investigating those of the same President INDECLINE is protesting. You can’t write this shit.
SprayPlanet: The art projects you guys are involved in are always very calculated and extremely high-risk; what does it take to plan a creative project of that magnitude? How long? Etc.?
INDECLINE:INDECLINE operates in a very methodical fashion. All hypothetical situations are explored (“Are we going to get a sex offender charge for placing this naked statue in public? Or will the bomb squad be called?”). Recon missions are mandatory (“Let’s spend the night and see what happens around 4am”). Bribe money for security guards is set aside (Or weed. Mostly weed). Typically, the collective works very fast, so the process of concept to completion can be a matter of days depending on the variables. Every so often a phone call to a lawyer friend will be placed, but those are only reserved for special occasions and the collective seems to ignore his legal advice anyway.
SprayPlanet: What kind of graffiti and art projects (without giving away too much, obviously) can we expect to see from InDecline in the future?
INDECLINE: INDECLINE is currently developing a number of large-scale pieces for the spring and summer. There will also be a few smaller projects popping up over the next few weeks. For legal reasons, the collective can’t get into what, where and when. There are too many rats on the Internet and the collective needs to make sure that its members aren’t occupying the cells that will eventually be needed to house the real rats; Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and Donald J. Trump. Oh, and R. Kelly. Fuck that dude.
SprayPlanet:What was the turning moment in your life where InDecline decided artistic action needed to be taken against social ills?
INDECLINE: Growing up with George W. Bush in office made it very difficult to stay silent. Beyond the constant cultural and global issues we as human’s face, the Bush Administration ushered in a new threat to our world and as kids, the founding members of the collective felt it was mandatory to use the tools they had at their disposal (cans and cameras) to speak up. Soon, the artillery grew, and the concepts expanded beyond graffiti and stencils and into something much bigger.
Literature has also played an enormous role in inspiring INDECLINE’s work, notably, “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and the work of Noam Chomsky.
SprayPlanet: How do you choose which political issues to tackle or prioritize within your art projects?
INDECLINE: Some projects are fast-tracked due to a specific issue being a hot topic in the news, such as the “Make Kids Disappear, I.C.E.” billboard that went up in Oakland during the height of the child separation drama last summer. Sometimes we plan something for months like the 3,000-foot military runway we painted that stands as the largest illegal mural in the world. Typically, the collective works on a number of projects at once and whichever one gets logistically figured out and funded first gets the green light.
SprayPlanet: So how do you guys want to be remembered?
INDECLINE: We’d like to be remembered as the collective who burns down Donald J. Trump’s Presidential Library...with Robert Mueller’s written permission.
Ever wonder what kinda graff supplies these guys use? Check out the INDECLINE Guerilla War Pack!