Robert Mueller may not have succeeded in bringing Donald Trump to justice yet, but for a fleeting few hours Friday night, the shadowy art collective Indecline did what millions of people in the US and beyond have dreamed of doing since November 2016: they put Trump behind bars.
It may not have been the actual maximum security prison of our collective dreams, but Indecline — most recently known for surreptitiously staging a graveyard at Trump’s Bedminister Golf Course, hanging a troupe of “Ku Klux Klowns,” and previously for planting naked Trump statues in multiple cities during the 2016 election — managed to stage a prison cell installation, dubbed “The People’s Prison,” in a suite on the third floor of the Trump International Hotel & Tower next to Columbus Circle. The work was installed in less than 24 hours, entirely undercover, and without the knowledge of hotel employees, who unwittingly helped carry all of the props and equipment to the room.
Surrounding the one-man prison cell were portraits rendered on American flags, burned and tattered at the edges, each illuminated with its own individual lamp. Indecline worked with 12 artists — including Molly Crabapple, Ann Lewis, LMNOPI, and the Panic Collective — to create the portraits of 12 artists and activists from across history, including Muhammad Ali, Leonard Peltier, Angela Davis, Hunter S. Thompson, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and even more contemporary figures like Erica Garner and Edward Snowden. Interviews with each of the portrait subjects played for the duration of the show over a background soundtrack of strangely relaxing ambient music.
All of the figures in the portraits, an Indecline spokesman told Hyperallergic, are “activists and fighters that we look up to. Activists that made a difference and made a good point. He has to sit here with the people who actually made a difference.” The spokesman continued: “Everyone on these walls fought to make this flag stand for something greater than it does currently under the Trump administration … they’re the ones who should be regarded as historical figures.”