Late last week, we all had a hearty chuckle when statues of a nude, nearly dick-less and totally ball-less Donald Trump materialized in several U.S. cities, Los Angeles among them. Our very own life-size, potbellied effigy showed up outside Wacko on Hollywood Boulevard, where it was photographed prolifically by passersby and hastily written about by basically every local media outlet (this one included). 

“The Emperor Has No Balls,” as the collection of statues was called, was widely described as a protest piece created by the “art collective” Indecline, but attempts to plumb the depths of the work's meaning were few and far between — probably because there aren't any depths to plumb. And if something is being passed off as “art,” that's usually a shitty sign.

In Indecline's short, not terribly illustrious history the amorphous “collective,” founded by Ryen McPherson, has produced a number of high-profile public displays that are elaborate but ultimately childlike in their superficiality. Most recently Indecline was behind the “Rape Trump” mural on a wall at the U.S./Mexico border (a response to Trump's comment that Mexican immigrants are criminals and rapists) and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame featuring the names of black people killed by police; that project was called #BlackLivesMatter: Hollywood. As a writer for Vandalog pointed out, the stars also prominently featured Indecline's logo, a tacky move for a bunch of white kids publicly appropriating minority rage. 

And back in the early aughts, shortly after Indecline was founded, McPherson and company masterminded Bumfights, a series of videos featuring homeless people being dared to do things like pull out their teeth, get facial tattoos and, of course, fight for booze or small amounts of money (a true low point for early viral content). In a recent interview with the Root, McPherson feebly defended the project, saying, “To be clear, we started out simply documenting the homeless. If you watch Bumfights, you’ll see that there’s only a small handful of fights in the entire 50-minute video. The majority of the violence is acted out between suburban kids. The rest of the content is a 'shockumentary' of sorts. This is a major misconception when it comes to this project. Nobody was ever paid to fight or hurt themselves.” 

In 2014, McPherson made news when he was caught attempting to ship human body parts — including a severed baby's head floating in preserving fluid — from Thailand to the United States as a joke that no one thought was very funny. Indecline is probably used to that, you'd think to the point of indifference, although a homophobic joke that appeared in the FAQs section of their website as recently as last Thursday (something to the effect of: “How can you tell if a cop is gay? Smell his mustache.”) has suddenly been removed. 

Last week, after the Trump statues were erected, the Daily Beast spoke with both an Indecline spokesperson and Joshua Monroe, the artist who was tapped to create the sculptures. A former Trump supporter, Monroe said that he found the project “hilarious” and that he'd just as quickly create a nude Hillary sculpture: “I have utter detest for her and her rapist husband.” And he might get his chance; the Indecline spokesperson said, “Hillary’s not much better than Trump, so we’ll probably make one of her too.”

While there's certainly some catharsis to be found in pointing and laughing at a poorly endowed, eunuch version of Trump — at least for the people who've grown to hate him — Indecline has once again done what it does best by lowering levels of political discourse and exploiting our basest instincts in the name of exposure.

The laugh's on us after all.  

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