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Todd Chandler & Jeff Start: Empire Drive-in

The Brooklyn boys put their unique stamp on the cinematic experience for the Abandon Normal Devices Festival

JG Ballard’s cult crashed cars have become so normal people sit inside them and are entertained. Empire Drive-in, an outdoor cinematic installation of 25 wrecked cars and a 30 foot tall screen, offers the Mancunian audience a taste of life after the Ballardian apocalypse. With a series of sci fi and indie films accompanied by live soundtracks, Brooklyn artists Todd Chandler and Jeff Stark bring their collaborative DIY project to Manchester for the North West’s Abandon Normal Devices Festival.

With humble beginnings of smaller pop-up drive-ins in upstate New York and Queens, the large-scale installation’s genuineness is demonstrated with an upcycled ticket booth and a concession stand serving up popcorn for night viewers. We caught up with the artists at Cornerhouse for a chat about what the drive-in cinema involves.

Dazed Digital: This isn’t the first time you’ve constructed a drive-in. What was the original idea?
Jeff Stark:
The original piece came up because we wanted to create a space for Todd’s film, Flood Tide, a space that felt unique and different from a traditional movie theater. We thought about what would be the dream venue to show the film and we tried to create that.
Todd Chandler:
We wanted a way to bring the film to life and make it really special. And we wanted to build something connected to the themes of the film, about re-use and creating a sense of possibility.

DD: What sorts of collaborators are involved in the project?
Todd Chandler:
There are the two of us and a team of people who are working on the installation itself, including three more American artists. There are also performers and musicians who will perform live soundtracks with several of the films. Those musicians are from the States, along with two bands from London, Blue on Blue and Plaster of Paris.

DD: What will the installation be like during the day?
Jeff Stark:
There’s an audio programme during the day with a half dozen sound artists. Some of the work has been created specifically for this installation and we programmed some existing work with complimentary themes. We’re using low-power FM to broadcast audio to the cars during the day, and if you are watching a movie at night you can tune in to FM as well.

DD: What excites you?
Jeff Stark: We’re really excited about handmade films and DIY films. That’s a pretty common theme. The feature that we have on Thursday night is called Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then. It’s a 70-minute feature that's got the artist's hands all over it. He made it in his backyard and it always plays with a live soundtrack, a live narrator, and live sound effects.

There will be screenings at Empire Drive-in from 29 to 31 August 2012.