The Petrol Can Rider, 2009
‘The Petrol Can Rider’ is a short, hand-drawn, cel animation. It follows a protagonist who, flat broke and having run out of petrol, is stranded by the road in the middle of an Australian nowhere. Having spotted a roadside petrol merchant (whose scavenged fuel is sold by the bottle) he attempts to seek charity. To remain motionless in this world, it seems, is to be as good as dead.
Set in a speculative future Australia, a post-Apocalyptic wasteland (with a nod to George Miller’s Mad Max), the animation engages with the centrality, in the Australian culture of moving images, of distance and isolation.
The narrative is adapted from a short story by Franz Kafka (The Coal Scuttle Rider), in which the protagonist faces freezing to death less the merchant give him charity. The interaction with the merchant is hindered by, in The Petrol Can Rider, an over-zealous kelpie guard dog.
Themes of over-consumption and the scarcity of resources are bluntly present. Transferring the coal for petrol updates Kafka’s story to bear wider relevance to contemporary issues. Beyond the simple story of trying to barter for petrol, the animation deals with themes of isolation, addiction and the inability to ever achieve satisfaction. This satisfaction remaining out of reach can also apply more generally, and in current (not just imagined) times, to dependence and addiction.
In a climate where instant gratification prevails, and movement (speed) is everything, The Petrol Can Rider asks ‘what happens when the font dries up, when the supply ceases, when the resources are exhausted? Can commerce outlast infrastructure? Can commerce still exist when there is nothing left to sell, and no customers left to buy? Is the death of community, human interactions the fault of the apocalypse (perhaps a war, or climate change, or any other kind) or the failing-to-die of commerce after the apocalypse?