November 2017

Australian Reflexxx

What brought you both to film?

André I’ve always been obsessed with film. I always say film taught me stuff. I always used TV and movies as things to socialise me and teach me how to be people, hence why I’m sometimes a mélange of references and different quotes from movies, because essentially I kind of am. I remember watching 30 Rock for the first time when I was fourteen and having it resonate with me soooo much that I just wanted to act and just live the same life of the people in that show. That’s kind of what I’ve tried to do my whole life. That’s how I’ve felt with all the movies that have shaped me. I’ve been drawn to them as things that teach me myself.

Jen I guess the same thing … and often because films are made by freak outsiders and that’s what comes through. Film was definitely the most accessible way for me to experience a world outside of Adelaide that I could connect with. Especially because I think I grew up in Adelaide having an outsider's perspective. I was growing up in a home with a single mum, raised by a bunch of women in what is a relatively conservative place. So I had a lot of access to experiences that people I was growing up with didn’t. Then I’d watch films … films that were about women and queer experiences, in way that nothing I was exposed to was. So I just latched to it and wanted to stay inside. Like wished for it to rain everyday.

André Totally. I definitely feel like I’m at the point where my understanding of film and my personality is so confused that I can’t even remember if film made me who I am or if I’m myself and film is just a second part of it.

How would you situate yourselves in the Sydney art scene?

André Ummm … unheard of (laughs), unpaid and desperate. Jack and I are the most hardworking volunteers you’ve ever met. I want to be a disruptive force but in a way that’s educational or positive or conducive to an experience. I don’t think the reason that I create things is because I’m oppressed or I represent a creative practice that is not widely seen or recognised. I think I am just interested in creating frictions between different mediums and having people experience that because that’s probably the language that I speak.

Jen It’s way more DIY …

André Not even just DIY. My practice is being unpracticed I guess. I’m really interested in the aesthetics of rehearsals and improvisation, of bad filmmaking and bad art … that fascinates me. 

Jen Let’s be clear, not in like 80s kitsch bad. Bad as in like spontaneous ...

What we talk about is often to do with production elements. And it’s just the fact that we will try as hard as we humanly can to get production at a level that is really watchable and enjoyable. But we simply aren’t skilled enough. So rather than spend three years waiting for funding and waiting to meet the right people to pull off the perfect shot, we’ll just make it anyway and hope that the ideas are good. We don’t say, “Oh we’re going to make a bad film” and come up with a bunch of shitty ideas. But it’s like if you have an idea, the most important thing is to make it and move on. I think that’s what we’ve learnt in the last year and a half. I also would like to say, when you say from a more intellectual point … it is intellectual but not in a symbolic historical sense. We don’t go “Oh we want to really imbue this with methodology and political theory from the 70s that’s been forgotten … (sigh)  we want to respect this artist and this art form blah blah”. It’s more like we want people (audience) to be intellectual. We want to be satisfied and be satisfied in an active way. So while the dialogue may not be heavy or the cinematic structure isn’t really pointed and political, I think we try to make things that make you think about your own moment and awareness …

André Totally. When Jack and I work together we definitely make intellectualised pop.

Jen Yeah we love the Knife! Queer, anti-capitalism … it’s political in a way that is very encouraging of DIY and do-it-yourself parties, thinking actively about how to make the world better …


Jen I also think art is one of the truly most satisfying things. There’s like a few things that really satisfy people. It’s like when you’re hungry … you’re angry and anxious. The more ideas there are that are keeping you excited and inspired, the better your life is going to be.

André There is so much thought on our behalves going into; the site, the performance, the message, the reasoning, the practice, the craft, the talent, the technique ... everything. There is no one reason to appreciate what we are doing. I think want we want to offer to people is the ability to expand their ways of appreciating things. And expand what can be liked. For us in particular, we just get very bored of things that only have one idea behind them.

Jen When things are pulled off successfully and people act as if it’s something to be congratulated’; that just sounds like wearing a nice outfit or something … It’s hollow.

André It’s so easy to be good at something. It’s so much harder to have the confidence to do something that you know you’re bad at. I don’t think Jack and I ever want to do things that align with a certain way of seeing. We just get immensely bored, and don’t want to give someone the recipe; we want to give someone random ingredients and say, “These are all nice foods, if you just put them together they will just taste nice because they’re all nice”.  

Jen It’s like 60% things we already like because they speak and connect to us and 40% like what haven’t we done before.

André Like a green juice. Nothing tastes bad in a green juice.

Can you talk to me about Caledonian Road? Was it responding to anything in particular …

Jen The first point is we really wanted to make porn at school. Porn definitely was so formative for me. Watching gay porn, watching gay people interact in a way that is such a fantasy. The fantasy for me was not the gay sex. I could have that. The fantasy for me was gay people talking to each other and being friends. The history of gay porn is really punk … how gay porn started ... in the States … with these cool little short films of people just doing yard work. But then it became something where people all across the country would flood to experience being gay together. They would make films and show them at cinemas to each other. It became a huge movement. Basically up until the 90s it was the only way to experience gay storylines. Unless it was a really subliminal character that was either being bashed, being killed, being disrespected or in the act of coming out. Even now you don’t really see gay storylines where the gay person is the center of it and it’s just a day-to-day thing. Porn is often about situations where gay guys meet in the supermarket and then they fuck. I think that also talks about what happens in the gay psyche. One of the reasons I think that gay guys are so promiscuous is because they learn how to react to situations in terms of sex.

André It’s also because when you’re gay you spend your entire life being inquired about. There is always emphasis put on your sexuality, which happens to everyone I’m sure. But when your gay it’s specifically about who you’re fucking. It’s not just about your body or who you’re attracted to. It’s like, you’re eleven, like “Do you like dick?”, “Do you have sex?”, “What porn do you jack off too?” … how scary is the idea of guys having sex! It’s this whole idea, like, there’s no way to talk about gay sex when you’re young without it being totally fucked up I reckon.

Another thing is that there is so much porn out there. Watching porn that is naughty is kind of transgressive. There’s so much boundary pushing in so many different places, porn is just one of those places. But at the same time there is a lot of porn out there that is dangerous.

Jen And the culture is definitely doing more damage than good. And it’s mainly because porn is largely made by hetero-white guys who are completely desensitized and have no empathy. You really do need to take that into account. There is nothing keeping these people in check because no one can talk about it openly.

Does porn have to be something what you get off too? What defines it?

André Admittedly our film has nudity, ejaculation and all this kinky stuff in it. We wanted to make an art film. We just thought nudity was a cool thing ... porn is anything that you make masturbatory I think. So many things can be porn but they are wrapped up in different ways. There is no reason why Girl with a Dragon Tattoo isn’t a twisted fetish fantasy.

Jen Even ASMR has expanded our ideas of what porn even is. There was this whole sub-community that our friend Rex was really obsessed with, of guys taking videos of guys in tight wrangler jeans. It’s just iphone videos in portrait mode of guys butts walking to a shop. Admittedly it’s very ‘aesthetic’. They drive these big cars, they wear these boots, wrangler jeans and they go into places that are kind of masculine to do masculine jobs or chores. And then they get back in the car and rev the engine and that’s the video. That’s porn. But you don’t see any nudity.

Pimple popping is a thing …

André The Kardashians. What they do is specifically targeting a sexual trigger I guess. Also, Kim Kardashian is a pornstar, she’s made porn.


Jen For me ‘queer’ is just anyone complicating ideas of normal identity. And I think everyone has a complex identity, and most of the time I just speak to people who are kind of heteronormative and I’m like “you’re just in denial”. It’s not that you’re sexually orientated in a complicated way. It’s just that you’re processing things in a way that doesn’t feel legit to me. And I know because there was definitely a point, like every single day, I’m undoing different things that I’ve been taught that are conservative. I realised that I’m not being honest with myself in a healthy way. But I feel like everyone is doing that, everyone right now; it’s like a positive movement. I think we went through a really scary anxious movement, which is how change happens. And everyone was branded in a really scary way in our generation, but I think we’re just coming to terms with intersectionality and mental health … and everyone’s learning to experience more complex existences which are queer …

André I think queerdom is something that is accepting of EVERYONE regardless of race, gender identity, sexuality, body function, body parts, hot farts, cold farts, colour of hair, face, it has to be a form of inclusion, not exclusion. I don’t mean to say this in opposition, with a negative light, but there are certain things that just aren't that.

Jen You find your queer family, which I think is more authentic. I also find that there are certain things for people who aren’t queer. It’s You and Us and you can have Your culture that way and we will have Our culture this way. I think queer is where you kind of vanquish, you can still cherish your culture and your family and wear those uniforms, but you kind of vanquish your walls and divides. And the more Queer you get, the more you shed those layers of baggage.

André When you watch queer work the main thing that binds it together is that it is inventive. A lot of queer stuff … regardless of whether its got to do with sexuality, gender, or race .... it’s just inventive art, it’s super creative and I think a lot of people are drawn to that. I think people who aren’t queer can’t understand things that are inventive because they like things to be normal. And that’s the trademark of a queer text is that it’s creative, complicated, nuanced and it shifts people’s traditional views. That is the baseline for everything that happens in a queer piece. Jack and I come from the most heteronormative backgrounds in existence. In the same way as a lot of people who grew up in white Australia, we come from a culture that is predominately heteronormative and white, and we were lucky enough to be educated and then able to leave the heteronormative behind. To have the foundation of education that we had and the upbringing that we had. To then bring that to a space that is way more diverse than anything we could have imagined in our own towns gives us an opportunity to use what we’ve grown up with …

Jen Not to cut you off or anything, I just wanted to specify, we grew up in a heteronormative place but we were so so so lucky to have families that were queer. Your parents are incredibly accepting of who you are and exposed you to things that a lot of people don’t get. I grew up with a single mum whose only friends are militant feminists and queer folk. I grew up with gay people around me, hanging out, and I really benefited from that because my mum runs a pub in a really conservative place. There are a lot of things that we don’t agree with. It’s mainly because she’s been socialised and conditioned in that way. But I also know, the most important thing is to make everyone in a space comfortable and come together, regardless of anything else that’s going on. I think we were lucky. I got some sick friends who stayed in Adelaide. And I wish I could’ve done it. Cause there are some friends in Adelaide who knew how to push it. But I’m too sensitive to my surroundings.

Pushing the boundaries that in a way is harder and requires more thought and research and some of them didn’t even go to uni or move from Adelaide. You know what I mean … they’re amazing people. Whereas I came to Sydney and got it spoon fed to me.


And can you talk me through Agitprop performance?

Jen We had the gallery booked for the whole week and I had become obsessed with this tower that was under-construction in Circular Quay that was covered in this green shade cloth. I found it so sublime and beautiful. I read into it a lot and became weirdly hopeful, like what if they just reveal that and it’s just the most beautiful, gorgeous building. What if they just leave the shade cloth on forever. You know when you get an idea and you come up with like a hundred uncool ideas around it … I was thinking like, “This is the world right now, the world is covered in shade cloth” like “under construction” and essentially a really weirdly pubescent stage for the planet and nobody knows what’s going on. Then we really started thinking about puberty. André had the idea that we would do something involving cum. We found all the shade cloth and covered all the walls … did some childish drawings on the ground, did this performance to my friends hardcore band, who did this song about gay marriage, which is not something that is talked about much in the hardcore scene. Basically saying what the fuck is with all your prejudices, what’s going on in this scene? Agitprop is the idea of doing a performance on a specific theme and having it manifest change in whoever watches it because it’s usually quite extreme and abrasive.

André Jen and I don’t rehearse … it’s like our trademark. We definitely talk about performing before hand a lot … and then we do it. Everything is based on what happens in the moment. Which is something that we want to acknowledge before hand to the audience. We don’t want to claim that we are giving anyone a polished experience. The enjoyment comes from watching us try something every time.

Jen You just think of a theme that your concerned with and work that connects is usually work where people are like “Oh you’ve articulated that for me”. So everyone has the power to articulate. But people are too sacred to articulate a lot of the time. Think of the amount of times you’ve gone to write something and you’re like no that’s been said before, I don’t have the right words for it … But I think if you encourage people to take the step and become artistic with everything  then the world would be a better place.


André I think because Jack and I both grew up in settings dominated by women or the female voice we’re attracted to that. It’s something that gives us comfort, safety and joy; the idea of female friends and women being there for people. Just female empowerment. We really wanted to make a film about the gay experience and the gay experience of sex, which we think often revolves around the women who are the friends of the gay men who have sex, and their anxiety (or lack of anxiety) about danger. A lot of people that we know who sleep with men are doing it through Apps, in public, in dark corners. A lot of it is dangerous and with strangers. So it does involve talking with your friends about it, having them be aware of what is happening. And most of the time the girlfriends that gay guys have, I think, are often employed to be a watchdog to make sure the gay guys don’t get murdered, because what you’re doing is significantly dangerous. Everytime we do something that involves two guys hooking up we always want to see it from the girls point of view ...


Jen Could you imagine if two white people made something so serious. Nothing fucking worse than people with privilege being completely guilty and horrible. I’m sorry, but can’t you just have a sense of humour? That was a negative way to approach that. Humour is just such a level playing field, it’s like a way of connecting and of getting through trauma.

André Being funny is so hard. I think we are always trying to do things that challenge us … especially when you’re trying to make someone laugh with a cum shot.

Jen We’ve come to this cool point where if the jokes don’t land the film is better. It becomes this cool place that is neither drama nor comedy and it has this uncomfortable tension between the two. That’s the feeling of Caledonian Road is funny and very serious, but it feels like a cool night, when you’re watching.

André We write reprehensible characters because we think they’re fun to watch. Or characters that have quirks that are funny and irritating. So for us to write these characters that could be hated by someone and for them to tell jokes that aren’t funny. People hate them! It makes sense to write them jokes that don’t land.

VR in cinema

Jen I find shooting with VR is so liberating, it’s just the most liberating way to shoot because you can discuss a scene and then you can put it in the room and then you can leave the place, and there’s just a performance that happens and unwinds and people really live in the scene. We went to Tasmania because of Dark Mofo. There were two ideas, one; I had this dream of Kylie Minogue with all of her backup dancers going to this island, which is secluded and to just get away from everything. People that were just saying yes to her ... her backup dancers. The feeling you get when you’re watching Madonna’s documentary and you’re like these backup dancers rely on you … And you are so moody! If you just decide to fire them they’re kind of fucked forever. I wanted to explore that. Anyway the film that I made was completely different.

Stelly and I are very sensitive to the history of a place. You get a very strong feeling in Tasmania that it was a place of great horror. We wanted to tap in the manifested horror in the film through this kind of paranoia that wasn’t necessarily what the film was about. We always felt like we were being watched. It was just this idea that we weren’t welcome and it came about from the characters trying to make themselves feel welcome.

You also wrote that you like using iPhones to film ...

Jen That first came about when I broke up with my boyfriend, I filmed everything for months. Everyday experiences. It was a way of going back into myself. But I got kind of good at it and I felt really comfortable using an iPhone to shoot things. I found new rhythms of watching things and editing things. How dialogue works, what things are pretty. Zoom and make things look pretty in terms of grain, noise and smudgy, colours and nighttime stuff. I think I felt good about iphones. I’m really inspired by the craft mentality of people being encouraged to make art on their own. And I guess MIA is all about that too … The cool thing about an iphone is that it already has the feeling of reality in a kind of verité way because everyone shoots on an iphone now for their daily lives.

André It almost feels like it’s counter-intuitive to shoot something that is supposed to be real on a fancy camera. Because you are seeing it through a lense that is so specific to a certain type of scene in the world. That distracts from the reality that you’re trying to make.

Jen Do you know what I’m thinking about when I see something shot on a really good camera? I’m thinking about the bros that went into destroying that scene. Camera teams suck in general most of the time. Cinematography is male dominated. They’re broey and men don’t work hard. They think they work hard. They don’t work hard. Design is where the work is. And they just get paid so much, everyone sucks their dick! The reason films are so boring comes down to male dominated camera teams.

André In saying that, camera work IS really demanding, you have to shoot every second of it.

Jen What I love about VR and iPhones is you kind of remove the cinematographer from the process and it becomes way more about the director and the performaners. It becomes about the performers really. And the geography rather than the camera person taking total control of the look of a film.

André Because a camera angle is a performance act in itself.

Jen And you’re often thinking, ‘Oh so this cinematographer liked this film’... you can always tell when someone liked Tarkovsky more than Kubrick. It becomes reductive.

Is there ever a tension between trying to realise something conceptually and aesthetically at the same time?

André There is definitely a tension but it is not something that interrupts the work. I think with anything that anyone does you have get to a point where you accept that the work exists in and of itself. You make something and you have to give into it. You set up all these parameters to let something happen and then when it happens you have to just say, ‘that’s the work’.

Jen I feel like films aren’t intellectually stimulating anymore. That’s what TV is doing now. TV is definitely the place were the discussion is happening because they can take some risks. You can’t really take risks in film at the moment.

André Everything’s not only been done before, but people are done with the done. I can’t enjoy things because I have assumptions about how they are going to make me feel because I am so reluctant to think that something can surprise me. It’s this stupid arrogance that I have. 

What’s Next?

Jen Fuck. I really hope VR takes off. And I don’t even know how to change my behaviour to liking VR. I don’t have a headset. I don’t really wanna watch VR. It’s such a novelty. There is something about the experience that is so liberating. I’ve been reading a little bit of film theory and what I’ve started to like is the idea that when photography came around, painting was like liberated from having to be realistic. That’s how impressionism started. I really hope the same thing happens with VR and cinema. In that VR is a thing and becomes realistic representation which becomes this liberating force for film makers.

André I think the future of TV and movies is more experimentation, looking backwards to move forward. Midnight stoner TV shows are just so beyond what’s happening. 

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