Two-person Australian art collective Soda_Jerk will be at Lightbox on December 6 to show their work TERROR NULLIUS and answer audience questions. We asked them about the sample-based film and their inspirations.
What inspired TERROR NULLIUS?
A feeling of being profoundly pissed at the apocalyptic conservatism that has taken hold in Australia and abroad. Although we wanted to deal deeply and specifically with the Australian contours of this, these issues are also grossly shared by an international context: asylum-seekers in inhumane detainment, the devastating legacy of colonial history, the erosion of minority rights, and a political circus that’s more than happy to propagate hate when it polls well. So TERROR NULLIUS was really our way of dealing with all that, of upending our feelings of despair and channeling them into a form of unapologetic rage and resilience.
Which works were sampled to make this film? Did you write a script or work primarily from the samples?
A few hundred films are sampled in TERROR NULLIUS. Anything from iconic Australian New Wave classics like Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wake in Fright, to the awesome schlock horror of Ozploitation flicks like Turkey Shoot and Razorback. The characters also span the whole spectrum from adorable animals with the power of speech like Babe the Pig and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, to misogynistic jackasses like Mick ‘Crocodile’ Dundee and Mel Gibson.
Since we can never fully anticipate the scope of samples that will surface in our research, we can’t lock in a script in advance. But from the beginning of TERROR NULLIUS we were guided by a strong sense of the film as a political revenge fable that would upend the usual structures of power and privilege in Australian national mythology. What emerged was a rogue documentary where the dystopian desert camps of Mad Max 2 become the site of refugee detention, flesh-eating sheep are recast as anti-colonial insurgents and a feminist bike gang goes vigilante on Mel Gibson.
What has surprised you about the piece and reaction to it?
Guess the most unexpected thing was when the Ian Potter Foundation that co-funded TERROR NULLIUS withdrew their support for the project a few days before its premiere. Turns out that some of the conservative members of their Board of Trustees were deeply affronted by the left-leaning politics of the work. They made a public statement describing TERROR NULLIUS as a “very controversial piece of art” and instructed that there would be no further association between their organization and the film. Of course, as you might imagine, what happened was the exact opposite: A media storm ensued and their connection to TERROR NULLIUS was relentlessly reported and roasted. A classic case of The Barbra Streisand Effect.
What are you working on now?
We’re currently working on our new feature film project called Netploits. It’s an operatic cypherpunk thriller that engages with the profound impact the internet has had on the constellation of collectivity, political extremism, the news media and the nation state. Starting with Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks of 2013, it will trace the shifting landscape of the internet through to the Russian hacking of the 2016 election and ensuing Trumpocalypse. Our hope is to hit a genre sweet spot somewhere between dystopian sci-fi, anime, dank memes, deep sincerity, critical rigor, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the blockbuster musicals of the ’80s and ’90s.