Soda Jerk at Samstag Museum of Art

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Soda Jerk, the collaborative sibling duo known for their experimental films, returns to Australia with a major exhibition and an ambitious new work. Their midcareer survey “Open Sauce” is an astute and timely reminder of the ways in which reality may, in fact, be stranger than fiction. The show brings together a number of video works from the past two decades, presented in a series of black-box rooms throughout the space. It is an exhibition designed to be viewed over a long period of time, as each individual work contains narrative threads that demand attention from start to finish.

The star of the show is undoubtedly Soda Jerk’s latest feature-length film, Hello Dankness, 2022, which premiered at the museum and screens daily as a matinée. The artists are known for their genre-defying use of video sampling and mash-ups to produce irreverent and satirical results; Hello Dankness is Soda Jerk at their finest. While their previous film, TERROR NULLIUS, 2018, was a sci-fi feminist revenge fantasy that confronted Australia’s colonial history, Hello Dankness offers a more suburban reimagination of recent times—specifically, the years since 2016. The true terror of the new film lies in its quotidian and unassuming nature, which rotoscopes scenes from popular films and television series to stitch together a make-believe community where contradicting realities converge. In this parallel universe, Tom Hanks from The ’Burbs (1989) is now a Bernie bro, living alongside Annette Bennings from American Beauty (1999), who proudly displays a Hillary sign on her lawn.

Hello Dankness offers the unsettling experience of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. The absurdity on-screen is matched only by the absurdity of the real-life events of recent years. For anyone who has weathered the past few months watching the news cycle spin more and more into disarray, Hello Dankness forces us to consider that we are already living in the darkest timeline.

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