Going viral isn't anything new to Ryen McPherson and his production company Indecline. In the early 2000s, McPherson single-handedly pissed off the media with his Bumfights videos. In some circles the videos were considered a cult phenomenon; in others, just a violent way to exploit the homeless.
After selling his stake in the series, McPherson took a different route when it came to video production. He wanted to show people another side of humanity, the marginalized side. In Indecline Vol. 1: It's Worse Than You Think, McPherson sheds light on those dealing with drug abuse, mental-health issues, homelessness and physical disabilities.
You could say that McPherson's most recent work also shows a side of marginalization, and of course, as with a lot of his work, it's gone viral.
McPherson's production company decided to give the Hollywood Walk of Fame a little face-lift. Instead of adding celebrity names to the empty stars, it added the names of people killed by police officers: Ayana Jones, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Kimani Gray, Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice and Dontre Hamilton. In an interview with The Root, McPherson explained his latest production and what he wants people to take away from it.
The Root: You started out with Bumfights videos; how has your work evolved over the years?
Ryen McPherson: 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.
We released Bumfights in 2002 but had started Indecline the year before and had been aggressively using that movement as a vehicle for social and political activism and art projects. Initially, corporate billboard alterations was a go-to, but over the years, we've steadied our aim on more topical issues, focusing on things that matter in the moment, as opposed to the general issues we've always faced and will likely face forever.
TR: What inspired the Hollywood Walk of Fame video?
RM: Those stars and the names on them don't mean anything in comparison to the citizens suffering at the hands of these racist and murderous police. If we're to be honoring or remembering anyone, it should be those who continue to get gunned down. Having spent years in L.A. and watched tourist[s] walk up and down that boulevard, drooling over the "stars," we thought it would make a great canvas for this project.
TR: What's the biggest takeaway you want people to realize from your Walk of Fame act?
RM: People always need to be reminded to refocus their attention on the things that truly matter. Hollywood is a vacuous, elitist culture that exports false hope and promise while providing a convenient escape from the current issues we're all facing here at home. Cops are murdering black men and women on what seems to be a weekly basis and they're getting away with it. This has become a new epidemic, and there needs to be a countermovement to stop it.
TR: You said in a previous interview that a Donald Trump piece is coming up. What will that involve?
RM: We've been advised against discussing this with the media at this juncture.
TR: What do you think this world needs less and more of?
RM: An educated populace is an extremely motivated and dangerous force. We need more of a proactive and disciplined approach to how we educate ourselves. We need less distractions like bumfights.
To learn more about Indecline and its work, visit the website.