Secret makeshift cinemas to pop-up on Grantchester Meadows
If you go down to the woods at Grantchester Meadows, you’re in for a mini eco movie-going surprise… Artists Chris Dobrowolski and Leslie Hill are behind the project, Vanishing Point, which was commissioned by Live Art Collective East (LACE) to help celebrate The Cultural Olympiad.
It has already graced the trees of Latitude Festival and the Secret Garden Party, and will be setting up on Grantchester Meadows for the Cambridge Film Festival’s Movies on the Meadows event in August.
As Leslie is based in America, I caught up with her British co-conspirator.
Chris Dobrowolski is what you’d call a bit gruff. His patter swings from lengthy pauses to stretches of flowing enthusiasm – and it is oh so easy to imagine him holed up in a disintegrating shed building tiny mechanical cinemas and popping to the post office with boxed up matchbox cars.
This is the basis of Vanishing Point: a collection of mini cinemas made from found objects (think petrol and watering cans) hidden in rural spaces, with letterbox gaps for people to peer through while films, projected from toy cars, whir away inside.
“You know toy matchbox cars?” he asks rhetorically. “They were generally made in England, but they made a lot of American cars, so I collected some up, packed them up in little wooden boxes and sent them to the real America.
“The trick is, Leslie’s films are projected out of the cars with small little mirrors, out of the boot of the car or the window, onto the back of the wooden box they went to America in.”
Leslie creates the short films which focus on the journey of the cars, starting with the moment they escape the box they travelled across the pond in, and Chris develops the makeshift movie theatres.
The idea was triggered by a stint Chris spent working with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, looking at the real and unreal. “The Antarctic is a bit like the moon. Boring objects that are used there come back and are considered ‘authentic Antarctic artefacts’. So I took pretend Antarctic things, like a plastic Penguin van and a toy snowmobile, and took photos of them at the Antarctic so they became ‘real pretend Antarctic items’,” Chris explains mischievously. “So that’s what I did by sending the pretend toy cars to the real US.”
It’s all about the cinema-going experience he tells me, underlined by an eco-vibe, hence the recycled cars and found objects.
“It’s a different way of looking at film. You usually go to a big cinema, or sit at home in front of the TV. I wanted to see how the context of the film affects the experience of it.”
Originally the films were going to be shown using solar powered Borrower-sized projectors but because most of the venues were trees it meant there wasn’t enough light. Car batteries were used instead. “It was disappointing,” Chris admits. “[The solar power] does work [but] trees have millions of years experience of absorbing all the light,” he laughs.
Despite the setback, the exhibition has lost none of its charm being something you will “stumble across in an unexpected place,” – it’s just a matter of tracking it down….
We think it’s definitely time to go hunting. Find 'Vanishing Point' (if you can) at Spring Lane Field, Grantchester Meadows