The Was

There are numerous montages that vie for the title of “most epic mashup” floating around the internet. Hell’s Club is a notable example, and the feature-length Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen may be hard to beat. But this short takes things one step further, from mere editing exercise or narrative supercut into a territory that is nothing less then surreal art.


Australian video art duo Soda_Jerk teamed up with their compatriots of electronic music group The Avalanches to create a thirteen minute mini-movie that is both a promo for The Avalanches’ music and for Soda_Jerk’s unique artistic sensibilities. Culling footage from movies, tv shows, music videos and cartoons, The Was creates a nostalgic suburban universe that is at once distinctly uncanny yet also instantly recognizable. The uncanny quality stems from the strange bedfellows that inhabit this shared universe: beat poets cross paths with Beavis and Butthead, Belmondo walks the streets together with John Lennon, The Warriors and John Travolta ride the same metro train. Still everything feels familiar, even when you can’t place all of the dozens of different clips, because more than with footage this montage works with memories as its raw materials.


The result is an ode to how mainstream entertainment has also always harbored counterculture. This is a dreamy tribute to how film can transform the most public of spaces (metros, alleys, supermarkets) into arenas for the most private of emotions or for intimate personal expression. The Was segues effortlessly from musical to melodrama, from teen angst to crackpot fantasy – always riding on a wave (or a skateboard) that favors the emotional over the sensible.


Is this a video essay in the classical sense? No, and it is all the better for it. This video mixes memories, not footage. It is an effective and affective illustration of the melting pot that popular audiovisual culture is, and of the creative power that comes with embracing diversity.