Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in /usr/www/users/intermk/alastairmclachlan.com/wp-content/plugins/types/library/toolset/types/embedded/includes/wpml.php on line 643 Warning: "continue" targeting switch is equivalent to "break". Did you mean to use "continue 2"? in /usr/www/users/intermk/alastairmclachlan.com/wp-content/plugins/types/library/toolset/types/embedded/includes/wpml.php on line 660 DRIVE-IN
≡ Menu




It can hardly be argued that Drive-ins are all-American, but here in South Africa, and only a couple of decades later, we were experiencing our own special brand of Drive-in; complete with frosted fibreglass ice cream cones, bus-blowing-up opening nights and 2m high dividing walls.

The first Drive-in in South Africa was built in 1952. Fifty years later and despite the relative success of Drive-ins like the Top-Star and Velskoen Drive-ins, which regularly draw large crowds, Drive-ins are dying a slow death because as Neil Young once said “rust never sleeps”, and yet they seem so alive in imagination.

For 6 years now I have been visiting abandoned Drive-ins to hear what they say about it all. Each one is different, a feat of the heart as confident and proud as monuments and increasingly as grave as tombstones.

I find myself attracted to the feeling of neglect, the slow decay of minimalism:

“…. It’s the kind of human junk that deepens the landscape, makes it sadder and lonelier and places a vague sad subjective regret at the edge of your response – not regret so much as a sense of time’s own aesthetic, how strange and still and beautiful…, lived in fleetingly and abandoned, the soul of wilderness signed by men and woman passing through…”
[ Don Delillo, “Underworld”, Picador p460/1 ]

This hungry ‘ghosts of the past’ energy keeps me going back. They still process a sense of magic though and in altering these images I hope I have given back some of that magic otherworldliness and at the same time allowed the possibility that someone else might have an entirely different view.

Drive-ins for me are the biggest Tabula rasas of them all and a coherent story of the inter-relation between reflection and projection, forethought and hindsight and dreams and regret.

This for me is the interesting thing about Drive-in History/Myth; Memory is an appropriation of history, and is intrinsically subjective, we are our own meaning makers.
When all else is gone all we are left with are fragments of history and symbols of significance, subjective icons of belief and pictures and memories of our place in the world.

“Recovering and recontextualising fragments of history provides one with an opportunity to measure ones present against the past”
[ Christine Dixie, artslink.co.za 11/12/1999 ]

In hindsight there are more important things, that directly influence our lives, than preserving Drive-ins in their original states. What I’m interested in, instead, is the implication of their neglect. This forms a large part of my own canon of beliefs that they represent in all their vast blank whiteness, infinite potential and magic, and that their gradual disappearance is symptomatic of the disappearance of something infinitely more important and vital.

Why in a climate of proliferating commercial billboards are Drive-ins disappearing? What has happened to the individual, creative, entrepreneurial, spirit of endeavour, where delight and value for money were still sustainable commodities?
They stand for me as rivals to the mentality of the multi-plex; they are the unique, absurd and antiquated symbols of the spirit of freedom, adventure and dreams.

These works serve as recollections to show that, in this day and age, nostalgia for Drive-ins is not misplaced.

Leave a Comment



Back&Forth thumbnail


PHOTO ESSAY thumbnail

Featured in Joburg Style

little dark star thumbnail


SPLIT FOCUS thumbnail
I can’t hear you thumbnail

I remember going to see “Who framed Roger Rabbit” at the Zwartkops Drive-in in my pyjamas. I remember my brother and I hiding under the blankets on the back seat and in the boot as my father instructed. We all knew this was less about saving us the nominal fee than about the heart in [...]


I’ve often wondered about the ethics of deconstruction, the power one has to defragment pockets of history. I am guilty of course and justify this by virtue of the fact that I intend to preserve the memory… These slides that we once projected on a now non-existent screen tell their own story of decline and [...]


The scene: Midrand Drive-in a few more months down the road, a few more teeth missing from its massive grin, is the biggest screen I have come across yet and the only one with a curved screen with a full walk-way from top edge to top edge. Built near a busy intersection, the screen was [...]


Standing in front of a Drive-in some time ago, I heard a friend simply say, “Katte sien spoke”, ( cats see ghosts ). It seemed inexplicably profound at the time. We may not all see ghosts, but there is a sense one gets upon seeing a Drive-in that is a mixture of history, memory, nostalgia [...]



After everything else I have said about Drive-ins there is something about my fascination that although inherent in Drive-ins has nothing at all to do with Drive-ins. There is a common factor in almost all my other works that, I think, has something closer to do with a portal or terminal: an object of focus [...]


Copyright © Alastair Mclachlan. All rights reserved.