Hello Dankness

Hello Dankness
Hello Dankness
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Greetings Darkness my old buddy. Soda Jerk’s new film Hello Dankness seems like a reunion with a person we have known for a very long time, culture. Culture is that regenerating Hydra called let’s say ‘culture’, which keeps growing its head back whenever the counterculture cuts one off, and producing content at an exponential rate while it’s at it. There has always been culture but now we’re drowning in entertainment. Thanks to technology, news, memes and simulacra have replaced culture.

Hello Dankness is about our culture between late 2016 and early 2021 when the memes came down like 10,000 people maybe more. It takes literally hundreds of audio and video samples from roughly 85 years of history and edits them into a mostly coherent comedy about COVID, the 2016 election, deadly conspiracy theories…you know the drill.

This movie is political but not in any hard specific way (except losers), like peak South Park it holds up two absurd sides so they can both see how stupid they look through the eyes of the other side. Only Soda Jerk does this by editing movies like Next Friday or This Is The End or Wayne’s World or Sausage Party or Napoleon Dynamite etc., which not only makes the events weirder and more surreal for us to watch but also extends a renegade artistic practice much needed by these times.

Don’t worry too much about the first few minutes of Hello Dankness…well actually do worry about them because they’re worrying themselves. It starts with an uncut Pepsi advertisement from last year where Kendall Jenner wins race war by giving soda to cop during protest over police brutality that had become one of most perverse and insulting ads ever made (to anyone on any possible side) even if it didn’t mean anything within film itself beyond acting kind-of mission statement for whole thing; namely:

Culture is hourglass that actual political events get poured into through memes, posts, hashtags and vids down narrow neck of corporate capitalism which then spits it all back out as simulacrum in form ads, programs, media, political posturing and detritus corporate lingo. So BLM Muslim bans police violence riots racial tension becomes Kendall Jenner “Pepsi Is…”

After this Hello Dankness starts culture jamming mass media not so much to tell story of 2016 election but rather evoke feeling through copyrighted material. We meet Tom Hanks and Carrie Fisher as well as their neighbors in the 1989 film The Burbs where Hanks has Bernie Sanders flag but his neighbors have Hillary Clinton lawn signs or ‘Hillary for Prison’ posters while Wayne and Garth (Wayne’s World) play hockey in Hanks’ street before driving around town listening to a song about Harambe.

Annette Bening is the real estate in Hanks’ neighborhood; we see her singing in the car and cleaning an empty house in scenes from American Beauty. She cries when Hillary loses the election to Donald Trump, something that becomes hysterically apocalyptic in Hello Dankness. Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel (This Is the End) walk to a corner store and see the results on a small TV there; big fast things from a small TV. Hot dogs and hot dog buns (Sausage Party) argue about the future of the country in the aisles. Jesse Eisenberg-as-Mark-Zuckerberg (The Social Network) smiles at his laptop ominously, years before we find out Facebook sold millions of users’ data to Cambridge Analytica for targeted political ads.

All of these movies, news pieces, audio clips are woven together expertly. Contemporary elements are added digitally edited into them: clothing color is changed to create more consistency; in the original movies, they not only wore different clothes but somehow behaved differently too. That’s because editing is everything in Hello Dankness, as it is with any collage film or ‘found footage film.’

There’s something post-Eisensteinian about this dedication to montage here, something more extreme. The original images are somehow liberated from what they belonged to by changing establishing shots, music, reverse shots, occasionally dialogue even. The actors, characters and images we know so well have suddenly started behaving differently. Soda Jerk doing this without paying any copyright makes it even more radically liberating; though there has always been a long pedigree of such détournement in political art–Isidore Isou et al applied similar tactics between ’40s and ’70s as Lettrists/Situationists–and then there was…

Musique concrète and electronic music began deconstructing identity/home of sound/sending it to school/taking it out to eat. Samples and loops began transforming intellectual property, and making mainstream aesthetics of experimental artists (from Raoul Vaneigem to Negativland). Rap and techno evolved from that, alongside litigious record companies. More and more people were liberating art; graffiti artists let art exist in public spaces outside museums, hipster Napster tech freaks took art from its owners and gave it to new peers (to peers). Academically speaking: they were creating ‘f*ck-you’ art.

Makers like Craig Baldwin (a Soda Jerk mentor), Sam Smith, now Aristotelis Maragkos have been taking the mantle of this great piracy pedigree and making wonderful movies as a result. However, Hello Dankness might be the apotheosis of this kind of sample-based trickery – if not for the fact that Soda Jerk have been announcing themselves as pranksters-in-chief for quite some time now with wildly original, hypnotic, surprisingly polished projects like Hollywood Burn with Sam Smith or The Was with The Avalanches.

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