Driven by their complex feelings associated with Australia’s increasingly conservative political landscape, Australian artist duo Soda_Jerk embarked on a long journey in 2016 that culminated in their 55-minute sample-based film, Without fear.
The project actually received the Ian Potter Moving Image commission of $100,000, which funded the production of the film. However, when it was released in 2018, the Ian Potter Foundation withdrew its support, stating that Without fear was a “very controversial work of art”.
Now, 5 years later Without fearSoda_Jerk returns with another controversial political fable, Hello Dankness.
“The idea of Hello Dankness emerged from the weirdness of 2016, the creeping sense that our collective sense of reality was starting to warp under the cumulative pressure of the internet,” says Soda_Jerk. “Where we felt this most strongly was in the sphere of politics and bizarre conspiracies that were beginning to emerge from skanky corners of the web and into the mainstream consciousness of Boomers. It felt like we were transitioning into a great new world, and we wanted to find a way to document that, to build a sort of psychic ledger of the moment.
Composed entirely of hundreds of film samples, Hello Dankness bears witness to the mind-altering spectacle of American politics from 2016 to 2021, and the mythologies and traditions that took root around it. Taking the form of a suburban musical, the film follows a neighborhood through those years as consensus reality disintegrates into conspiracy and other contagion.
“We are thinking of Hello Dankness in a loose trilogy of political fables that began with Without fear. Although evoking very different genres and feelings, each film builds a constellation between political history and the screen archives of a particular nation-state.
The tedious process of creating a sample-based film that takes inspiration from a rapidly changing real-time political climate was “pretty upset, that’s for sure.
“As 2020’s devastating plot twist unfolded, we struggled to find ways to capture new events to fold back into the narrative,” the duo share. “We had assumed we had most of the narrative scaffolding in place at the start of 2020. However, once the scale of the pandemic became apparent, we made the difficult decision to dump much of what we had finished in order to take account of what was unfolding. We.”
Despite the confusing process of creating Hello DanknessSoda_Jerk is grateful to be able to create art that strays from the beaten path of traditional cinema.
“It’s like an amazing stroke of luck working on our own stuff, doing exactly what we want to do. What steals our souls is never the movie, it’s the other financial precariousness and challenges that shitty capitalism throws you.
For Brooklyn-based artists, the dominant creative model that tends to merge “resultant” thinking with creative intentions, is the one they prefer to keep at bay.
“We don’t really identify with the creative industries. We may just be fossils of the 90s, but we’re still committed to the idea that cinema shouldn’t be haunted by the specter of the marketplace. Everything does not have to speak to everyone at once, often the deep magic emerges from the unexpected, the singular or the abrasive.
Their unexpected, singular and abrasive trilogy culminates in a journey through the history of UK counterculture and industrial action.
“We are currently working on an unrelated film project, but when we return to the trilogy, the final installment will be called barney rubble. It will revolve around the history of counterculture and industrial action in the UK. We are interested in opening up a narrative space where acid house meets miners’ strike and medieval witch trials. It’s just the beginning, but it’s shaping up to be the mutant offspring of Derek Jarman, Monty Python, and folk horror.
Hello Dankness will be screened at the Revelation Perth International Film Festival on July 13, followed by a live Q&A with Soda_Jerk.