Robinson in Ruins + Discussion

Film-maker, writer and lecturer Patrick Keiller presents his new film Robinson in Ruins, one of the products of a three year research project called The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image. Writer Chris Darke chaired the event and Keiller was joined on stage by three of the contributors to the research project: Doreen Massey, a social scientist/geographer, Matthew Flintham, a doctoral researcher at the RCA, and Patrick Wright, a cultural historian.

For the feature film, Keiller resurrects the character of Robinson from his previous films London and England and explains Robinson's removal from the narrator, Vanessa Redgrave as a necessary distancing device. In attaching the ideas of the film to an absent persona he feels they can be better interrogated in and of themselves, and it is a film that demands that engagement from the audience. Robinson in Ruins is a meditation on settlement, displacement and ownership that attacks the received wisdom of the natural state of markets and offers as a starting point the following quote from Frederic Jameson: "It seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps that is due to some weakness in our imaginations."

Massey speaks about her research on investigating the landscape politically and coming up against a sense that misconceptions of a 'natural order' are semantically hardwired. Flintham had the job of engaging with the implications of the saturation of military sites in the UK. He conducted an investigation on the impact of that projection of military power across the landscape. Wright characterises the aim of his contribution as a reconnection of our experience of spaces with their realities and determinations, proposing that the notion of ruin as a result of neglect is misconstrued. It is rather, he suggests, a product of deliberate process; a consequence of policy. The project, Keiller says, was prompted by what he saw as a dissonance between our sense of displacement and mobility and a bizarrely nostalgic conception of 'living'. The answer to that gap, he felt, would be in the landscape. Using the landscape then, Keiller's bold aim is to stage an intervention and attempt to break the equation of the market with the state of nature.


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