by Rahul KumarDec 30, 2021
The notorious artist-activist collective INDECLINE released Side Hustles earlier this year, which follows their brazen, anti-fascist and anti-authoritarian escapades across the United States of America. Side Hustles is a greatest-hits style show reel of the group’s actions, which is all interwoven with a skit featuring members of INDECLINE at a job interview. The interviewer becomes a perfect stand-in for a largely conformist society confronting the group’s members, and becoming increasingly shocked and irate in the process.
Much of the film takes place in Southern America, which is a region in the USA that often comes under criticism for the continued proliferation of racist and pro-authoritarian values. When asked to look back on the year and the decisions that led the group to take their mission down south, a representative of INDECLINE who wishes to remain anonymous told STIR, "In the summer of 2020, while our country was grappling with yet another instance of murder at the hands of a racist police officer, we decided it was time to take our specific set of skills on the road. We chose the region of America that didn’t just give birth to racism, but to this day, preserves it as its legacy: the Dirty South." That expression itself tells one quite clearly how INDECLINE views the questionable cultural norms that have thrived in Southern America for centuries. The representative continues, “After having spent the better part of 20 years operating on the West Coast, we had grown tired of the echo chamber. We had grown tired of the endless amount of opportunistic street artists (looking at you Los Angeles), jumping into protest art for a summer, and then conveniently fading into obscurity once they grew bored of it, or realised there’s no money in this movement. Maybe we are just old and cranky, but we have been putting our lives on the line for two decades and it was time for a new challenge.” Once their plans to travel were laid in place, what really steeled INDECLINE was the response they received from artists that they look up to, upon sharing news of the journey they were undertaking: they were met with surprise, and warned that the idea was insane. This is what really convinced them that they were, in fact, on to something.
There was, however, one significant tactical advantage to working in South America that the group were happy to take advantage of: seen from a geographic perspective, the smaller states that make up Southern America would allow members of INDECLINE to escape across state borders far more expeditiously after performing a subversive action than they were used to. Humorously, their representative explains, “We’d simply spent one too many nights white-knuckling it through California in search of the nearest state line after having committed a crime elsewhere.”
One of the projects highlighted in Side Hustles is The Hunt, which added a fair bit of notoriety to the group’s existing reputation. This project saw INDECLINE target far-right conspiracy theory group Q-Anon. Their representative expands on this project, telling STIR, “Q-Anon had been on our hit list for a good while, and for years, we had been kicking around the idea of INDECLINE creating its own Easter egg hunt. After our attorney promised us prison time if we went through with the initial idea we had for the eggs, we begrudgingly regrouped and started conceptualising something for Q-Anon. Then, January 6 happened. We knew Washington DC would make for the perfect canvas. Tons of parks, tons of foot traffic, plenty of tourist and families, and home to a now infamous insurrection carried out by a good number of misguided citizens who had simply consumed too much conspiracy flavoured Kool-Aid." INDECLINE’s members spent two months meticulously altering Kool-Aid brand sachet packaging by placing Qool-Aidstickers over them, carefully folding them, and finally, placing them into 3000 plastic eggs. They also printed several large, colourful banners that are used commonly in upper-class communities to advertise events akin to Easter egg hunts. However, there was one catch: they printed "Sponsored by Q-Anon" on the corners of the banners. Their representative continues, saying, “The night before Easter, about a half-dozen of us fanned out across the city on skateboards and strategically placed these eggs all over the nation’s capital. The sun came up on DC on Easter Sunday and thousands of residents and tourists entered those parks and had a collective panic attack when they came face to face with the banners advertising a Q-Anon Easter Egg Hunt. It didn’t take long for the press to contact us, as we had placed INDECLINE stickers on the back of each Kool-Aid packet. It also didn’t take long for us to get accused of “littering”. Some people will go to great lengths to discredit a good time.”
Despite their notoriety, and the amount of flak that they have garnered from the government and the conservative right in the United States, the art collective is far less concerned with handling a possible intervention by law enforcement, and far more with weathering the ire of shadowy entities that exist above those particular strata of power. Their representative tells STIR that their work has captured the attention of certain parties who they believe to be in control of law enforcement, through decidedly dubious means. They explain, “Those are the guys to be worried about. They don’t have to knock. We have been paid visits. We have been given warnings. All we can hope for is to remain a gang of mice, always withstanding the attack of the hungry cats.”
The artist collective seems ever-defiant with regards to their plans moving forward, always on the offensive, and yet careful to cover their tracks and make a swift escape. Those of a subversive persuasion will no doubt wish them God speed and good luck, and shall eagerly await their next action. INDECLINE has become something of a cult icon, and with the release of Side Hustles, has perhaps gone even past that. The interview with their representative ends on a memorable note: when asked how they have managed to protect themselves so far, they respond, saying “We don’t use guns.”