SODA_JERK: Challenging the Status Quo Illusion and Delusion in Australian Film
‘Change the culture, the stories, change people’s understanding of the world and you will change politics’ Ian Milliss
The air crackles when artists first exhibit work that is joining the zeitgeist. It’s not about who was there or how many of us, it’s about a collective recognition that what has been produced and exhibited has an importance outside that room and beyond that day. The air crackled loudly at ACMI’s World Premiere of Soda_Jerk’s latest work: Terra Nullius, A Revenge Fable in 3 Parts. This is a work we need.
But Hark! Controversy! All is not well. A last minute public relations skirmish had broken out around Terra Nullius. The Ian Potter Foundation (who had generously commissioned it) withdrew their public support for it. On viewing, the rich old white peeps that run the Foundation judged Terra Nullius to be: ‘un-Australian’ and ‘very controversial’ and said it like this is a bad thing. For many of us being labeled un-Australian today is akin to winning an Oscar (Logie’s don’t count for shit). For starters no-one can define “Australian’ and secondly ‘Un-Australian’ is one of the divisive ideas coined by little Johnny Howard. ‘Un-Australian’ is shorthand for when the born to rule, moneyed up set don’t agree with what we think because it’s different to what suits them for us to think.
Anyway, what could be more Australian than Terra Nullius? The British Monarchy turned up to this continent where peoples from the World’s oldest living culture live and pretended, (according to laws they’d conveniently written for themselves), that it was ‘nobody’s land’. The Queen still bangs on about this ‘Young Nation’ standing before her Union Jack. You know shit’s bad when the Queen presents as a stabilizing force within world politics and she and hers are in the midst of a winning streak. Royal Wedding did I hear you say? How simply smashing! What is she wearing?
http://theconversation.com/friday-essay-the-arts-and-our-still-born-national-identity-68434 Stephen Sewell writes about Anzacs, Advertising, declining Arts funding and our stillborn Nationalism.
The Ian Potter Foundation’s removal of support for Terra Nullius (haha) attracted more media attention to the work than it might otherwise have enjoyed. It’s an example of ‘The Streisand Effect’: an act of mass psychological resistance wherein once people become aware that information is being withheld, their motivation to access and spread said information, escalates. It’s named after Barbara, because she didn’t want us to see how huge her cliff-side Malibu home is, so sought a court injunction to stop the media publishing pics of it. We in turn wanted to see them real bad. Don and Dan published an eloquent synopsis of their woes with the Foundation and the FB shares went viral in the way that turns Public Relations professionals green.
The triumph of Terra Nullius, A Revenge Fable in 3 Parts, is in how it unpicks the difference between how we want to see ourselves and how we really are. How sexism, racism and homophobia are just as prevalent as mateship and camaraderie but hey, ‘Fair Go Mate, throw another shrimp on the Barbie, crack open a tinny and ‘let’s get munted together on Australia Day.’ Pauline Hanson becomes an extra in Mad Max, we’re not sure who threw the boomerang at her and Tony Abbott’s heads, but they were good shots. Mel Gibson isn’t a heart-throb, he’s a misogynist and an anti-Semite.
As the world continues to explore new levels of fucked-up-ed-ness, there is increasing focus on political art, dangerous ideas and the role artists play in confronting, challenging and shifting the status quo. Problem is, this art may have been made possible with funding from the very people who may not have invented the status quo, but who did inherit it and therefore work tirelessly to maintain it. Artists are often in financial partnership with those who have the most to lose if the entrenched systems of class, power and control are dismantled. This conflict plays out time and again and punctures the preferred narrative that all is fine and dandy, within a creative industry increasing dependent on private philanthropy.
The status quo: what is it and how do we order a new one?
The status quo is the ‘state in which’ an awful lot of shit is presently going down. The status quo processes art and culture like a Super Trawler processes fish: they suck us all up for dispensation and spit out the waste: wrong fish, wrong size, wrong message, wrong nutritional value. The status quo’s suspicion of artists is evidence of our latent potential to shift the status quo. If rich people just gave artists some money and let us rip, that would be cool. But they’ve got to weigh in with their opinions and once that door is open, well soz, but that’s access both ways. Let’s look now, not because we necessarily wanted to, but because ‘they started it’, at philanthropy.
The Problem with Philanthropy:
Animating philanthropic issues
There is nothing more political than money. The divide between the have’s and the have not’s, is a deadly weapon of mass subjugation. The Ian Potter Foundation dish out pressies to the needy, like Santa on a meth bender. They are hell bent on solving some of life’s more complex problems. You might observe that there’s a touch of the God complex about such philanthropic foundations, though you probably shouldn’t, because so many of us need their money now. Despite The Ian Potter Foundation’s deep pockets they can’t help everybody out. Charity is in fact a cut throat business.
Critics point to the evident use of foundations as veils for advancing neoliberal and capitalist agendas in areas such as education, agriculture and international development, and a world where elite and relatively closed networks of influence and decision-making can silence critical voices by being brought into the fold or through funding dependencies.
Film has always been a valuable tool of propaganda for those in charge.
Australia is a country trapped between illusion and delusion. Confronting reality and mythology is big work and if I were in charge of The Ian Potter Foundation, I’d give Soda _Jerk a bonus for a job well done (just like in the corporate world). Australia’s culture war is a battle between free thinkers and the control freak super villains. The control freak super villains have almost all the money. Sometimes they accidently stumble on a good idea we can learn from:
‘Politics is downstream of culture’ Andrew Breitbart
Shifting the status quo isn’t work for the faint of heart. It’s messy, there are casualities. It’s war. And Soda_Jerk just won a round. Congratulations comrades.