This year’s online edition of the HOME Artist Film Weekender opens with the wild political collage Terror Nullius by Australian artistic duo Soda_Jerk. Borrowing from some of the most iconic Australian films and TV series, Soda_Jerk repurpose these images into an unapologetic dismantling of the colonial, racist, and misogynist myths of modern Australia.
Here Soda_Jerk give us a whistle stop tour of 7 key cultural and political touchstones you might like to know before watching Terror Nullius:
1. Girls in White Dresses
In 1975, Peter Weir directed the film Picnic at Hanging Rock based on the novel by Joan Lindsay. In it, three white schoolgirls mysteriously vanish while frolicking about a rock formation. Ever since, Australians have lost their sh*t debating what happened to these girls. There have been forums, books, and TV specials, and just this year, a serialized reboot of the original film. Yet the narrative is pure fiction. Meanwhile, what’s been less debated and interrogated is the monumental vanishing act performed by colonial settlers when they arrived in an already occupied country and declared Australia terra nullius (nobody’s land).
2. Sons of Beaches
Other countries have race riots, but it’s a special Australian innovation to combine violent clashes with a day at the beach. The Cronulla riots were a series of race-based outbreaks of mob violence on Sydney’s southern beaches in 2005. And that’s certainly not the only time Australia’s immigration debate has exploded at the water’s edge. Australia doesn’t have to build walls to buttress refugees, it has a whopping big ocean around it. Instead of yelling “build the wall,” the chant of racist Australia has long been “stop the boats!”
3. Swamped by Hanson
Who says Australia doesn’t have strong women in parliament? For better or worse (read: worse) Pauline Hanson is one of the most notorious and divisive figures in Australian political history. One minute she’s running a fish-and-chip shop, the next she’s in parliament decrying that Australia is being “swamped by Asians.” In 2003, she was imprisoned for defrauding party funds, only to get out, and straight back into the spotlight on the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars. The real kicker is that she’s in parliament once again, only this time with warnings that the country’s being “swamped by Muslims.”
4. Mad Mel Gibson
Mad Mel likely needs no introduction. As a “road warrior” of the Californian highways in 2006, he unleashed an anti-Semitic tirade against police officers when they arrested him for drunk driving. His violent misogyny is also well recorded, literally. In 2010, tapes were leaked of an obscene phone call made to his ex-partner Oksana Grigorieva. The fact that he was never held accountable for these obscenities is infuriating, and made us wonder: what would Fury Road’s Imperator Furiosa do to Mad Max if she heard Mel’s rant tape?
5. It’s My Birthday, I’ll Cry if I Want To
That feeling when your country has been occupied for over 60,000 years by one of the oldest civilizations on earth, and your government holds a party to celebrate its 200th birthday. That’s right, in 1988 Australia put birthday candles on its bloody history of invasion, with bicentennial celebrations stewarded by then–Prime Minister Bob Hawke. And Bob’s qualifications for the top office? He once held the Guinness Record for skulling 2 1/2 pints of beer in 11 seconds.
6. The Babadook Is Totally Gay
In 2017, the monster from Australian horror flick The Babadook was outed when the film was accidentally listed in Netflix’s LGBTIQ category. A screenshot went viral on Tumblr and so did the internet’s newest queer icon. So is The Babadook really about a white suburban household haunted to the point of hysteria by the spectre of queer Australia? Well that just sounds a lot like real life to us. In 2017, the Australian government held a postal survey in which citizens could vote on same-sex marriage. In doing so, it spawned a vicious campaign of bigotry and hysteria, and a rise in hates crimes against the queer community.
7. That’s Not an Icon, This Is an Icon
Remember that adorable Aussie crocodile hunter from the 1980s film, and how his casual misogyny and uncouth cultural ways were kind of funny? Revisit that film now and you probably won’t be laughing. Among other acts of violence, Dundee derides a transgender person and assaults them by grabbing their crotch to “check” their gender status—which makes it all the more horrific that Tourism Australia recently sunk $36 million into rebooting Mick Dundee as the contemporary face of Australian tourism. Personally, we would have preferred to see the character of Dundee shot and ravaged by a crocodile, so that’s precisely what we did.
All gifs courtesy of Soda_Jerk.