A brand new outdoor film installation inspired by traditional drive-in movie theaters opened on the plaza at 300 Ashland Place last weekend, bringing videos and films produced by Brooklynites to a captive audience of pedestrians at the busy thoroughfare.
Sponsored by the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, the Van Alen Institute, and local real estate company Two Trees Management, “Drive-Thru” features two large, rotating screens, which will pivot to face different parts of the plaza and the surrounding streets. Designed by Datum Zed, the installation seeks to reimagine the ways shared public spaces can engage and connect communities during the cold winter months, when parks and plazas often sit empty as cold weather and early nights drive neighbors indoors.
Works by eight artists and filmmakers will be displayed on the screens until April 14, and occasional live performances will complement the themes explored in a selection of the films.
On Feb. 23, Senegalese artist Babacar Top taught a traditional dance and led an open dance and drum circle to celebrate Black History Month and the launch of “Drive Thru.” More live performances will be announced throughout the installation’s two-month run.
“Our latest public art installation, Drive-Thru, builds on DBP’s mission to connect people through the power of shared spaces, storytelling and public art,” said Regina Myer, president of DBP, in a release. “Supporting local artists is at the core of our vision for the Plaza and by bringing diverse voices and perspectives to the forefront of the public realm, Drive-Thru exemplifies how individual experiences can become shared when viewed as a community. We invite all New Yorkers to visit Drive-Thru and enjoy the unique work that Soft-Firm has created and the Brooklyn-inspired videos it is providing a stage for.”
The installation is best viewed after the sun sets, when the projections can shine most clearly, whether the viewer is just catching a glimpse on their walk home or pausing to sit in the plaza to take in a whole video.
Starting on Feb. 24, Drive-Thru will be screening “Follow/Unfollow,” by Nicholas Fraser, a “hypnotic” nine-minute film following New Yorkers as they walk briskly from frame to frame throughout New York City. “Follow/Unfollow” plays until March 2, when the next film, Simon Benjamin’s “Errantry.”
The full schedule of films and videos is as follows:
Feb. 24-March 2
Follow/Unfollow (2016): Nicholas Fraser’s Follow/Unfollow captures New Yorkers as they travel the city’s ever-changing streetscape. As their paths cross in frame, a single person grows to two, two form a trio, the trio morphs into a crowd, stopping, shifting, and changing direction to a hypnotic effect.
March 2-March 8
Errantry (2021): Named after Édouard Glissant’s theory, Simon Benjamin’s Errantry is centered on the polyphonic rhythms of coastal space, the Caribbean sea, and the life sustained by it in a non-linear narrative that raises questions about time, labor, environmental degradation and the ongoingness of colonialism.
March 9-March 15
What the Pier Gave Us (2021): In Luna X Moya’s What the Pier Gave Us, a fisherman’s ordinary day at an undisclosed New York City pier becomes a visual metaphor for the immigrant experience in the United States. This short film is part of an upcoming feature-length documentary.
March 16-March 23
The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) (2021): Olalekan Jeyifous’s The Frozen Neighborhoods (Fly-through) depicts a speculative future where poor and marginalized communities are cut off from travel, forcing them to develop advanced ecological technologies. This deceptively dystopian vision imagines the potential of community-focused innovation and creating a sustainable and self-contained world in Brooklyn.
March 25-March 30
(construct)Clearing (2021) and Sanctuary (2021): Tanika I. Williams’ (construct)Clearing is meditation on quiet care, intention, intergenerational movement and labor. The film seeks to understand how we wear and repeat family patterns of silence and separation. Sanctuary illustrates the aftermath of African-Caribbean mothers leaving their daughters to immigrate to the United States, combining academic research, autobiographical expression, and archival interviews.
March 31-April 5
Flatbushtopia (2017), Bridge Street (2015), At the Same Moment (2013), Words of Wisdom (2016): This series of shorts by Ezra Wube offer snapshots of life across New York. These stop-motion animations, often developed with community input and participation, depict scenes in Flatbush, DUMBO, Jamaica, and on the subway.
April 6-April 13
Choir (2020) and Friday (2019): Aisha Amin’s film Choir explores the world within one of New York’s most competitive youth choirs, while Friday is a portrait of the community within a historically black Brooklyn mosque as it fights gentrification.
Take a stroll through Ashland Plaza any evening to take in the films, and keep an eye on the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s website for more live performances.