by Lauren Mustillo
The relationship between memory and temporality underpins the Dark Matter series by Australian duo Soda_Jerk. With snippets of old Hollywood cinema, the pair reanimate deceased film stars and place them in uncanny and multi-linear narratives. By reimagining archival material in this way, Soda_Jerk draw on our shared memory to explore the invisible cultural forces at play when constructing our personal and collective timelines.
In their first work of the series, The Phoenix Portal (2005), a young River Phoenix from The Explorers (1985) uses the paranormal power of 1980s technology to summon his older self from My Own Private Idaho (1991). The older Phoenix materialises in the room, one tenth his original size and encapsulated within an electric blue bubble. The bubble uncontrollably darts around the room causing havoc before finally vanishing, opening a wormhole through which the young Phoenix disappears.
By colliding past with present, Soda_Jerk collapse time and alter its metaphysical parameters to challenge the way we believe it should behave. As viewers, our progression within time's multi-linear sequence is confused. Are we watching from a position of older Phoenix being drawn back in time, or young Phoenix who calls forth his future self? The clarity with which we perceive time is dissolved. Soda_Jerk seamlessly loop the sequence upon itself, defying any clear beginning or end.
The realism with which they achieve this leaves us with a sense of fatedness. River Phoenix’s untimely death in the midst of his youth - a symbol of hope, beauty and possibility - veils the work in melancholy.
Yet Soda_Jerk’s world of transcendental time travel is ultimately utopian. By disrupting the stability of time’s temporality we are offered a world of infinite possibilities. Their realm beckons reclamation of the past, the chance to travel back in time to rewrite our personal and collective histories. Or at the very least, add another loop to the sequence.