INDECLINE is an artist collective that was founded in 2001. The collective dropped a documentary called “The Art of Protest” on Oct. 13. The film’s main intention was to highlight how art is a major form of political resistance and featured dozens of artists, musicians and social justice advocates.
The group attempted for two years to get this film funded, and all major streaming and production sites and companies refused because they saw it as “too risky.”
For many, art is the only way to be heard. Two days before the Republican National Convention in 2016, INDECLINE set out with an ambitious, national project called “The Emperor Has No Balls,” which featured naked effigies of President Donald Trump.
This project was “crucial because we were sounding the alarm before he was even nominated” said a member of INDECLINE who wished to remain anonymous to avoid legal implications after creating a controversial art piece. “We felt it was necessary to raise the bar in the event he was elected.”
Many of the projects that INDECLINE completes have illegal components, so the members are typically hesitant to reveal themselves as they have been arrested for completing these projects.
“The Art of Protest” features artist and activist Shepard Fairey, known for the “Obey Giant” series, as well as his involvement in skateboarding art culture. Those who follow him know of his long involvement as a resistance artist.
“Trump, I think, sparked the rise of division, racism, sexism, xenophobia,” Fairey said. Later on he mentioned that “protest art didn’t flourish under the Obama years,” insinuating the direct correlation between the rise in frequency and urgency of protest art and the current political climate.
In the documentary, Chris Barker of the band Anti Flag said, “Anytime you have fascism rear its ugly face, there will always be a greater hunger for resistance art.” Resistance art is meant to disrupt mainstream narratives and shed light on suffering and oppression. “The time is ripe for people to be fighting that sh**,” Barker said.
The film emphasized the importance of the average everyday person. “Any progressive, radical, or revolutionary change, it’s come from below,” said Tom Morello from the band Rage Against the Machine when featured in the documentary. “The people who made the Berlin Wall fall, the people who destroyed Apartheid, the people who dismantled Jim Crowe, had no more intelligence, power, money, courage, or creativity than anyone watching this right now.”
One art medium that seems to activate a lot of people is street art and graffiti. Fairey started putting up street art amidst the skateboarding culture of the ‘90s. “The more people contribute their voice creatively, the better the world will be,” he said.
Bansky is a famous – and anonymous – artist who focuses on displaying politically charged art worldwide and was recognized in “The Art of Protest.” Having controversial art in public spaces forces uncomfortable conversations to be brought mainstream. The Trump presidency in particular ignited a militant urgency from political artists and activists.
INDECLINE is one of the leading art collectives that pushes the limit with their controversial pieces. They created hyper-realistic doll heads of President Trump, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonnaro and President Putin, then filmed people kicking around the heads. The leaders featured in the art demonstration were not impressed. Art is a necessary antidote to the human condition, and these artists take it to another level.
The film also commented on the narrative that rising and powerful leaders who speak against the status quo frequently meet violent ends, such as Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Though he has not faced such violence as of yet, Colin Kaepernick did face consequences when speaking out against unreprimanded police officers that murdered Black people. Fabian Williams – who goes by the artist name, Occasional Superstar – wanted to honor Kaepernick’s message.
He painted a mural of Kaepernick alongside Muhammad Ali as T’Challa from Black Panther on the side of a nondescript building in Atlanta. On the first day of Black History Month and of Superbowl weekend, the building was demolished.
This was an apparent attempt to silence Kaepernick and Williams’s dissent. Williams met with Ash Nash, and together they created #Kaeperbowl.
“I reached out to the streets,” said Nash.
Artists from all over Atlanta went out and painted murals of Kaepernick throughout the city as a response to the attack of demolishing the mural.
“The Art of Protest” is thought provoking, enlightening, entertaining and at times, infuriating. As a fair warning, this film does show images of police brutality, especially the violence against Black people that is filmed by bystanders. It stresses the importance of speaking out against injustice, as well as the importance of inclusivity among all social justice fights.
INDECLINE wants people to take up space and be loud. The message of this film is to do what’s right and necessary in the fight against oppression. INDECLINE calls on people to stop being allies and become accomplices.
“Resistance art will always reach the hearts and minds of citizens in a way that more traditional forms of protest can’t,” INDECLINE said on their Instagram.
The film can be found at www.artofprotestmovie.com, and the website also features other short films about their various other projects. INDECLINE can also be found on Instagram @indeclineofficial.