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Five days before the world premiere of Soda_Jerk’s new film-based work, TERROR NULLIUS, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust withdrew its support of the project and requested not to be included in any promotional material surrounding the event.

Believing TERROR NULLIUS to be “a very controversial piece of art,” the Ian Potter Cultural Trust (established by the Ian Potter Foundation in 1993) said in a statement, “it respects their right to create it, to show it, and for audiences to form their own opinion in respect of its message,” before concluding “that in the circumstances it does not wish to be associated with the marketing or publicity promoting this production. All financial commitments made by The Ian Potter Cultural Trust as part of The Ian Potter Moving Image Commission (IPMIC) will be met in full.”

Soda_Jerk, TERROR NULLIUS, 2018, still shot, film duration 52.25 min.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) went ahead with their planned screening of TERROR NULLIUS on March 20 and reiterated their continuing support of Soda_Jerk in a statement released earlier this week. “ACMI is proud to be associated with the commission and remains totally committed to presenting the work and supporting the artists.” ACMI went on to define TERROR NULLIUS as “a satirical, confronting and political work of art that pushes viewers to rethink our history and future.”

Originally from Sydney and currently based in New York, Soda_Jerk were in Melbourne to attend the ACMI launch on March 20.

Announcing the Ian Potter Cultural Trust’s decision on their Facebook page on March 18, the artists revealed their disappointment and concern.

“We’ve been deeply shaken by the Ian Potter’s response, not because they don’t share our political views but because we feel it shouldn’t matter whether they share our views or not. Surely the function of political art is not to reinforce consensus but to deliver an open invitation to further conversation. We really do worry about the broader implications of this decision. We’ve long felt that perhaps the most insidious form of censorship is not when it’s overt but rather the kinds of immaterial cultural erasures that result from self-censorship.”

Soda_Jerk has labelled TERROR NULLIUS as “A Political Revenge Fable in Three Acts.”

Using samples from Australian film archives, the work centres on “a world in which minorities and animals conspire, and not-so-nice white guys finish last. Within this fable, Skippy schools Sonny on intersectional feminism, a house is haunted by the spectre of queer Australia, the mystery of Hanging Rock is resolved, and a bicentennial celebration is ravaged by flesh-eating sheep.”

For the past six years, the Ian Potter Cultural Trust has provided funding to ACMI to form a judging panel and commission three screen-based artworks under the umbrella of The Ian Potter Moving Image Commission. Soda_Jerk were announced as the third recipients of IPMIC in December 2016, the final round of a 10-year collaboration between the Ian Potter Foundation and ACMI initiated to fund new work by mid-career Australian artists. Previous recipients of IPMIC have been Angelica Mesiti in 2014 for The Calling and Daniel Crooks for his 2016 work, Phantom Ride.

In addition to its ACMI run, TERROR NULLIUS will premiere in the USA on 7 April at San Francisco’s Other Cinema.

TERROR NULLIUS: A Political Revenge Fable in Three Acts
Soda_Jerk
ACMI, Melbourne
20 March – 1 July

Read a preview of TERROR NULLIUS by Tiarney Miekus here.

Briony Downes