In Nevada, a mannequin in a business suit hangs from the side of a billboard in a classic noose. The billboard reads “Dying for Work” in all-caps. Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country.
In Utah, a billboard for the National Alliance, a white nationalist, anti-semitic, and white separatist political organization, was vandalized. The original message, “Securing the Future for European Americans,” now reads “for Racist Americans.
Indecline is not the movie production studio that made national news in the early 2000s for its pitted fights between homeless people. Now, it is a loose collective of guerrilla street artists who are messing up billboards across America.
Not much is known about Indecline in terms of their scope, membership, or history. In fact, we don’t even really know that the people who identify themselves as Indecline are in any way related to the video producers of the early 2000s. All we know is they’re, for the most part, white, angry, and well-funded.
That last piece of information comes as a result of their latest stunt: what they are calling “the world’s largest illegal piece of graffiti.” The mural covers an entire landing strip on an abandoned California airbase. It reads “This land was our land” and it cost Indecline, according to an anonymous interview, cost $20,000. The phrase comes from a Woody Guthrie song often sung in American schools and events.[av_video src=’https://vimeo.com/126989234′ format=’16-9′ width=’16’ height=’9′]
“Most people don’t know the lyrics to it—and we all grow up in America singing the modified version,” the anonymous interviewer said over at Vice, “So there’s a kind of a message behind that, so we wanted to tie that in to the message that we were all given this earth and we’ve let people take it from us.”
The piece took six days and eight people to complete, often working up to 20 hours a day. The closest supply store was a Home Dept located about 90 minutes away, so most of the required materials were taken out in their RV that housed everyone. When they were about 90%, they caught the attention of the Air Force, who circled overhead but ultimately decided not to act. Everyone got away without consequence. Although, there is now a much larger lock on the gate that Indecline broke to get to the landing strip.
Indecline, in many ways, represents the dark side of graffiti and street art, the part that conservatives and opponents use to decry the decay of contemporary culture and the need to police and prosecute such vandals. But they also represent something that is so amazing about street art: its public access, its visibility, its political messages, and its refusal to participate in the dominant systems that are used to control, take up space, and spread messages of consumption. And whether or not you agree with their political commentaries, they are getting heard and seen, and that’s an important aspect of any street art.