Text by Dr. Alexandros Papadopoulos.
The art-collective created a mix of post-apocalyptic leisure: a cemetery of cars, videos of dilapidated landscapes, DJ’s-led sound-scapes, 1950’s consumerist bliss, deranged documentaries on ‘humaness’, 1980s sci-fi films (Robocop, Mad Max), a techno-ethereal love story (Gravity was Everywhere Back Then), post-rock soundtracks and live Mad-Max performance (Tranarchy). Taken together, all these elements constructed a haunted, funny and melancholic archaeology of failure. Casting a shadow over the future of contemporary commercial dreamscapes (malls, cinematic complexes), the ruined drive-in seemed to herald a fresh genre of cinematic fetishism. Set against the increasingly futuristic over-dominance of indoors digital entertainment, this style of movie-going reclaimed an open-air, synesthetic and ultra-material sense of past: it uncovered the hedonistic remnants of what used to be experienced as ‘future’ in the past.
This genealogy of future – a pop historicity of future – was the combined effect of setting, films and landscape. The wrecked cars did not only comply with the video projections of urban decay: they also evoked a dysfunctional (or ‘abandoned’) device of moving images. The images viewed by the window of a moving car allude to the spectatorial (and hypnotic) experience of cinema. (This similarity between car-window and screen-gazing is highly visible in many classical films and especially in Mad-Max, in which the spectator is recurrently invited to assume the viewing position of the driver.) The immobilized body of a dead car, however, is bereft of this visual illusion, in the same way that a 1980s sci-film (viewed in 2012) is bereft of the illusion of ‘future-ness’. In this respect, both cars and films looked like broken time-machines of visual pleasure. All this contrasted ironically with the plots projected on screen; there, the futuristic technology either strived to restore the fragility of human experience (Robocop, Gravity was Everywhere Back then) or to assert a neo-primitive explosion of wilderness (Mad Max). In all cases, the traumatised devices of illusion [cars, cinematic space] seemed to enact—as pseudo-historical monuments — the traumatised futures visualized on screen.
While, originally staged in abandoned buildings in New York, when set in Manchester, the event’s disturbed sense of future-ness seemed to return to its symbolic country of origin: by being the first place in the world in which the industrial became an awe-inspiring attraction, Manchester is the mother of science fiction, the birthplace of the futurology and the urban epitome of dystopian entertainment. Combined together, the ruined drive-in and the hosting city seemed to tell the story of a mythical time-space in which technology is experienced as emotion, the future as past and the failure as success.
Dr. Alexandros Papadopoulos is a cultural theorist and performance artist based in Manchester.