Exhibition review: Open Sauce, Soda Jerk

Contemporary film and internet culture cut and spliced by two artists interested in the politics of image.
Soda Jerk

In Australian-born art duo Soda Jerk’s films, worlds collide. Recent real-life political figures appear on the TV screens of film characters from across the decades, and those characters traverse the boundaries of their source material, materialising in scenes from movies not their own. By reimagining and re-editing pirated audiovisual samples, Soda Jerk create provocative new works, a selection of which are currently being shown at the Samstag Museum

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Hello Dankness: a new feature-length film commissioned by the Adelaide Film Festival and the Samstag itself. For what is their longest and most ambitious project to date, the duo (who are now based in Brooklyn) have turned their attention to the tumultuous US political landscape.

The film opens in a quiet suburb where familiar-looking residents are gearing up for the 2016 presidential election. Tom Hank’s Ray Peterson from The ’Burbs has his hopes set on Bernie Sanders; Wayne of Wayne’s World has turned alt-right. Soon, news of Trump’s election unleashes an apocalyptic nightmare on a house party full of confident Clinton supporters. The timeline jumps back and forth. Napoleon Dynamite watches the leaked Access Hollywood tape. COVID arrives, then scenes of police brutality unfold to the tune of ‘Springtime for Hitler’. Tentative hope is restored with the election of Joe Biden. And all the while, Mark Zuckerberg (in the guise of Jesse Eisenberg) lurks on the sidelines.

Hello Dankness is innovative and experimental, but the feelings it evokes are all too familiar. Best understood as not just a satire of the times, but of how those times were mediated and experienced online, watching it is like being trapped in a particularly dismal internet spiral.

With its heavy reliance on the language of internet memes, online discourse and conspiracy theories, and its disorienting mash-up of material from hundreds of sources (leaving the viewer to work out what has been tampered with), it is a disturbing reflection of, rather an antidote to, the insanity of life online.

The exhibition also includes hourly screenings of Soda Jerk’s controversial 2018 work, TERROR NULLIUS. Using clips from the Australian cinema canon, the film challenges the myths at the core of our national identity, highlighting our horror-movie-level treatment of refugees and First Nations people.

As the film progresses, colonialists and macho men get mauled by a series of revenge-bent animals (eagles, crocodiles, sharks, flesh-eating sheep – the list goes on), while Skippy the Bush Kangaroo urges us to ‘speak truth to power!’

Music is a key interest of the Soda Jerk team. Audio samples abound in their longer films, but also play an important role in their four-part video series, Astro Black (2007-2010): an Afrofuturist take on the history of hip-hop. The duo later proved themselves the perfect match for sample-based electronic music group The Avalanches with their 2016 collaboration, The Was.

Read: When trendy immersion is second to genuine connection: Do Ho Suh

With this exhibition, Soda Jerk has given us a record of the collective myths and manias that shape our culture. It is a unique opportunity to experience the full scope of their work, and a timely reminder of how vital it is to examine the things we would rather comfortably ignore or forget.

Open Sauce by Soda Jerk
Samstag Museum of Art
, Adelaide

Free admission

Open Sauce will be exhibited until 16 December 2022.

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.