After the Rainbow by Soda_Jerk

After the Rainbow by Soda Jerk

Originally published in Text Camp Reader: 2010 Next Wave Festival : No Risk Too Great

When a festival like Next Wave takes place, Melbourne feels more cinematic to me. Wandering around town, from one show to the next, I encounter different objects and artworks which, within the everyday environment of my home, have an ethereal quality. Trying to attend as many shows as possible, storming around the city and surrounds like a tornado, works whirl into my consciousness so that stepping out into the evening is akin to a film-like dream: alley walls move with shadowy images unable to be grasped (Doomsday Vanitas), cul-de-sacs lead me on time travelling adventures to boundless imagined destinations (Infinity Tube), and performances in museums about museums take me on obsessive tours through film history (Some Film Museums I Have Known). Amongst the many works that blew into Melbourne for the biennale contributing to this cinematic atmosphere, one resonated most. Projected on a wall at the back of Kings ARI was a video work that at once transported me through time, whispered to me of film history known and unknown, and poignantly seeped into my memory – for these reasons, After the Rainbow from Sydney duo Soda_Jerk (Dan and Dominique Angeloro) was my festival standout.

Compiled from numerous copyrighted cultural sources, After the Rainbow is a single-channel audio-visual remix that runs for approximately six minutes but exists as a perfect infinite loop.  Like a cyclical video-prophecy of doom, the video presents a multilayered narrative where the late Judy Garland chases herself through time. Beginning with an early sequence from The Wizard of Oz (1939), Soda_Jerk reconfigure, reassemble and reimagine Garland’s profound and (in)famous life and career.  Garland, as gingham-clad girl-icon Dorothy Gale, takes her legendary tumble through the twister, however rather than landing in Oz, Dorothy spins through time.

Haunted by clips of herself from classics Easter Parade (1948) and Meet Me in St Louis (1944), Dorothy eventually lands face-to-face with her future saddened self performing on the TV special Once in a Lifetime: Judy, Frank and Dean (1962).

Commissioned as part of Next Wave Time Lapse, After the Rainbow was to screen at Federation Square earlier this year. According to the artists, the remix was thus informed by the “idea of cinema not only in terms of its scale but also the public nature of this site.”[1] A month out of its launch date however, After the Rainbow was withdrawn from the schedule due to the work’s explicit and deliberate copyright infringement. Working within the realm of remix, this was not an unlikely or shocking scenario, and eventually After the Rainbow managed to land a willing home at Kings ARI and a perfect slot in the Next Wave 2010 program (aptly themed “No Risk is Too Great”).

Like numerous others who sample from copyrighted materials who work in this mode—artists as varied as Philip Brophy to Candice Brietz or Tracy Moffatt—Soda_Jerk are aware of the inherent risk associated with the legalities of using found footage. Champions of the shared culture movement, Soda_Jerk believe that in this (post)digital age sampling is ethical and defend “the right for everyone to be able to participate in the creative construction of culture”.[2] Accordingly, Soda_Jerk celebrate the power of using such found footage because “it plugs into existing networks of investment and affect that circulate in shared culture…it provides a concrete way of drawing together associations, memories and experiences into new constellations.”[3]

It is fitting then, that upon encountering After the Rainbow, I was instantly reminded of a quote from writer Lesley Stern, who stated that when viewing a film and deciphering meaning, “(r)emembering and forgetting stalk one another, circling, lying in wait.”[4] While “After the Rainbow” shows Judy Garland’s deeply melancholic “remembering and forgetting” quite blatantly stalking one another, “(e)ven before the first images, we are remembering”[5] too. While this is true to film and art spectatorship generally, in sample culture it becomes more apparent.

Concept, content and context collide vividly in After the Rainbow, the second of Soda_Jerk’s “The Dark Matter Cycle” series. Like their first instalment The Phoenix Portal that saw the late River Phoenix revisit his earlier self as he teleported through his film career, After the Rainbow is an experiment, exploration and exploitation of time-travel through media, a framework that is inherently reliant on a viewer’s memory. Whether Garland or Phoenix, Soda_Jerk believes that child star is “a portal through which the viewer can access temporally distant versions of themselves” because a child star is, after all, “an unavoidable measure of time passed”.[6] Through the use of tragic child star figures whose bizarre lives and untimely deaths played out before our very eyes, Soda_Jerk amplify nostalgic attachment and tap into the greater human psyche.

As a remix hatched from the debris of Garland’s broken world¾a much-publicised world contaminated with self-doubt, pharmaceuticals, spotlights and breakdowns¾After the Rainbow induces extreme melancholy. Here layer upon layer, the alchemy of sampling allows Garland’s ghost(s) to conjure an endless emotional matrix. Strongly generating affect through the neatly edited composition, her face, voice and actions becomes a sentimental spectre that visually and aurally haunts the piece; in each incarnation, Garland is at once an extremely sympathetic and fragile figure, as well as an anxiety inducing filmic marker of our own mortality.

As Dorothy—a character so mythologically entwined and inextricably linked with Garland’s persona—she is all wide-eyed innocence and piggy tails, so that when Dorothy awakens and enters the darkened room where her future awaits, the contrast is extreme and immediate. Passing through a doorway that serves as a portal (for the child star portal) between youth and future, Dorothy encounters her 1960s senior self performing a vocal mash-up of “The Man That Got Away”. As the door opens onto a darker, bloated, affected Garland in a red room, I instinctively recalled David Lynch’s sinister oeuvre. Crooning about tragedy where all the “the dreams you’ve dreamed have all gone astray”, elder grainy Garland contrasts with technicoloured teary-eyed Dorothy – the sepia stained celluloid footage from Kansas used prior is left behind. When the song ends and Garland eerily walks away from Dorothy and the spotlight, a harsh reality grasps at the heart of human fears about life and death. Later, when I was researching After the Rainbow I was not surprised, rather intrigued to discover that in this sequence Soda_Jerk sample audio from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). Subliminally infiltrating my mind, the use of this material obviously helped contribute to the nightmarish aesthetic that sent shivers down my spine.

As Dorothy exits her nightmare, destined to enter it over-and-over again, as I watched After the Rainbow overlapping fears collided for me. Personally, I recalled my childhood fear experienced during early viewings of The Wizard of Oz. When I was younger, I was incredibly afraid for Dorothy as she was lifted into another world through nature’s fury – an anxiety that seemed surprisingly fresh when I watched in my current future form. Here, this anxiety was at once teleported through Garland as child-star-portal, but was also underscored by Soda_Jerk’s use of the musical theme from Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958), one of my favourite films. Used as the sound of the tornado, this aural association triggered thoughts of life lost and innocence destroyed by misery; as I watched After the Rainbow, the narrative worlds of Vertigo and The Wizard of Oz combined, dancing to a ghostlike tune of melancholy in my mind. In this moment, I was left feeling as if I was enduring a dream sequences not unlike those encountered by both Dorothy and Scottie, and the affect was strong.

As Soda_Jerk noted, while remaining a highly cinematic work, encountering After the Rainbow in the space of Kings ARI allowed for “a more personal relationship with the work”. Of all the time-travelling, filmic adventures that I experienced during the Next Wave Festival—artworks and performances alike—After the Rainbow affected me most. Soda_Jerk’s intense layering and reworking of history and cultural debris allowed it to cross worlds real and imagined, while heavily relying on an emotional response from the viewer. Before my eyes and in my mind, After the Rainbow at once transported me, morphing memories and meanings in an unending dream remix. Like Dorothy who is doomed to follow herself through time, each memory links to another in an unending cycle, and as a consequence I could write about After the Rainbow forever. However, like all things I must cease, but I take solace in the fact that like Garland’s wonderful work and melancholy life, which came to an untimely end, the memories will live on.

“After the Rainbow” by Soda_Jerk shown at KingsARI, 7-29 May 2010 in conjunction with the Next Wave Festival.


[1] Dan and Dominique Angeloro aka Soda_Jerk, in email correspondence with the author, 8 June 2010

[2] Dan and Dominique Angeloro aka Soda_Jerk, in email correspondence with the author, 8 June 2010

[3] Dan and Dominique Angeloro aka Soda_Jerk, in email correspondence with the author, 8 June 2010

[4] Lesley Stern, “Life is a Dream (Mémoire des apparences, FRN 1986)” Lesley Stern (www.rouge.com.au/2/life.html)

[5] Lesley Stern, “The Scorsese Connection” p.166

[6] http://www.sodajerk.com.au/sj/briefguide.html “A Brief Guide to the Quantum Physics of Child Stars”

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