BY Lisa Yin Zhang in Opinion | 21 APR 23

Editor’s Picks: ‘Hello Dankness’ Echoes the Collapse of Objective Reality

Other highlights include Mindy Seu's expansive book on cyberfeminism and a new album from the Korean American artist Yaeji

BY Lisa Yin Zhang in Opinion | 21 APR 23

Editor’s Picks is a fortnightly column in which a frieze editor shares their recommendations for what to watch, read and listen to.

Hello Dankness, Soda Jerk 

I’m excited – and a bit afraid – to view the new film from artist duo Soda Jerk, Hello Dankness (2022). The pair – Dan and Dominique Angeloro – use a sample-based methodology to produce work that is surreal, satirical and both weirdly political and fascinated by the politics of the weird. Their After the Rainbow (2009), part of their ‘Séance Fictions’ series, stages a time-travelling Judy Garland as Dorothy, while Hello Dankness is a ‘suburban stoner musical’ that purports to explore the spectacle of American politics from the Trump election in 2016 to the first years of the pandemic.

Hello Dankness, film still
Soda Jerk, Hello Dankness, 2022, film still. Courtesy: the artists and Prismatic Ground

I’m still waiting for art that truly reflects the feeling of those years: fragmented, illusory, nihilistic and experienced partly through a deeply surreal compilation of disparate media. This work might come close: composed entirely of hundreds of film samples and audio clips, like its title might suggest, Hello Dankness has the patina of a laborious shitpost. Signs like ‘BERNIE 2016’ are digitally stitched into clips from movies such as American Beauty (1999); Wayne and Garth from Wayne’s World (1992) are recast as alt-righters. It’s as close to form-as-function as it gets, the precipitous loss of a consensus view of reality reflected in the uncanny retooling of filmic canon.

'With a Hammer', Yaeji

Yaeji: With a Hammer
Yaeji, With a Hammer, 2023, album artwork. Courtesy: XL Recordings

‘Submerge FM’, the first track of Korean American singer and producer Yaeji’s new album, opens with gentle flutes, softly tracing a paired harmony. One could mistake it for the beginning of an ambient acoustic album, until Yaeji’s breathy voice sweeps in. The drums come a moment later, then a dance-y synth, and the album takes off. Aptly titled With a Hammer (2023), the trap drum in songs such as ‘For Granted’ evoke the handyman’s tool, while the titular track includes a whomping drum that calls to mind 1990s bands like Massive Attack.

‘I was really angry, I thought I couldn't stand it / I'm really angry, I'm going to go fist first,’ she sings in Korean, then adds in English: ‘There were days I gave up / And put a mask on my face, brain, and heart.’ The album is accompanied by a pamphlet of more than 100 pages, which includes watercolours, reproductions of her personal journal and photographs of outfits, and tells the story of her wandering into a pawn shop. There, she finds a wizard dog that grants her wish to eject her anger: it zips out of her mouth, ricochets destructively around the room, then finds its home in a nearby hammer – the same one, perhaps, that’s slung over her shoulder in the album cover.

Cyberfeminism Index, Mindy Seu

When the term ‘Cyberfeminism’ originated in the 1990s, it was, according to Mindy Seu, graphic designer and curator of the New Museum’s online exhibition (2020–ongoing),a critique of the cyberbabes and fembots that stocked the sci-fi landscapes of the 1980s’. With Donna Haraway’s iconic ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ as a launching-off point, the physical catalogue of the exhibition (Inventory Press, 2022), edited by Seu, gathers hundreds of excerpts that exemplify cyberfeminism, from the inception of the term in 1991 to 2020. In some ways, the book embraces the internet vernacular from which it emerges: it reprints its sources verbatim, including errors or typos, for instance.

Cyberfeminism, Mindy Seu
Mindy Seu, Cyberfeminism, 2022, page spread. Courtesy: Inventory Press

But it also differs not only from its online iteration but also from other physical books in a number of substantial ways. It includes, for instance, four different indices within the larger book: one for each year included in the book, and others for titles, people, and images. Cross-referencing items entails not just clicking on a hyperlink, but physically flipping back and forth through multiple indices within a physical tome – a tactile manifestation of the accreted knowledge and interconnections in a rhizomatic, still-growing body of thinking.

Lisa Yin Zhang is assistant editor at frieze.