Revenge of Soda_Jerk | FilmInk

Driven by their complex feelings associated with Australia’s increasingly conservative political landscape, Australian artist duo Soda_Jerk embarked on a lengthy journey in 2016 that resulted in their sample-based 55-minute film, Terror Nullius.

The project was actually awarded the $100,000 Ian Potter Moving Image Commission, which funded the production of the film. However, on its release in 2018, the Ian Potter Foundation withdrew its support, stating that Terror Nullius was a “very controversial piece of art”.

Mission accomplished!

Now, 5 years after Terror Nullius, Soda_Jerk return with another controversial political fable, Hello Dankness.

“The idea for Hello Dankness emerged out of the weirdness of 2016, the creeping feeling that our collective sense of reality was starting to buckle under the cumulative pressure of the internet” Soda_Jerk says. “Where we felt this most strongly was in the sphere of politics, and the bizarre conspiracies that were starting to emerge out of the skanky corners of the web and into mainstream Boomer consciousness. It felt like we were transitioning into a dank new world, and we wanted to find a way of documenting this, of constructing a kind of psychic ledger of the moment.”

Comprised entirely of hundreds of film samples, Hello Dankness bears witness to the psychotropic spectacle of American politics from 2016 to 2021, and the mythologies and lore that took root around it. Taking form as a suburban stoner musical, the film follows a neighbourhood through these years as consensus reality disintegrates into conspiracy and other contagions.

“We think of Hello Dankness within a loose trilogy of political fables that began with Terror Nullius. Although evoking very different genres and feels, each film constructs a constellation between the political history and screen archive of a particular nation-state.”

The time-consuming process of creating a sample-based film that is taking inspiration from a real-time rapidly-evolving political climate was “quite vexed to be sure.

“As the devastating plot twist of 2020 unfurled, we scrambled to find ways to capture new events to fold back into the narrative,” share the duo. “We had assumed that we had most of the narrative scaffolding in place by early 2020. However, once the magnitude of the pandemic became obvious, we made the tough decision to gut much of what we had completed in order to accommodate what was unfurling around us.”

Despite the tangled process of creating Hello Dankness, Soda_Jerk maintain gratitude for being in a position to create art that strays far from the well-beaten path of traditional filmmaking.

“It feels like a staggering stroke of fortune to be working on our own stuff, making exactly what we want to make. What steals our soul is never the film, it’s the other financial precarities and challenges that crap-stage capitalism throws at you.”

For the Brooklyn-based artists, the mainstream creative model that tends to meld ‘bottom-line’ thinking with creative intentions, is one that they’d rather keep at a distance.

“We don’t really identify with the creative industries. Maybe we’re just fossils from the ‘90s, but we are still committed to the idea that filmmaking should not be haunted by the spectre of the market. Not everything has to speak to everybody all at once, often the deep magic emerges from the unexpected, singular, or abrasive.”

Their unexpected, singular, and abrasive trilogy is set to end with a voyage into the history of counterculture and industrial action in the UK.

“We are currently working on a non-related film project, but when we return to the trilogy, the final instalment will be called Barney Rubble. It will pivot around the history of counterculture and industrial action in the UK. We’re interested in opening a narrative space where acid house meets the miner’s strike meets the medieval witch trials. It’s early days, but it’s shaping up to be the mutant spawn of Derek Jarman, Monty Python and folk horror.”

Hello Dankness will screen at Revelation Perth International Film Festival on July 13, followed by a live Q&A with Soda_Jerk.

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