Robinson in Ruins: politics and landscape on film · December 6th, 2010
“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.”
Fredric Jameson’s The Seeds of Time (1996)
It is with this sentence that opens Patrick Keiller’s latest offering, Robinson in Space, at once an eminantly political essay on landscape and history, a rigorously experimental filmic object, and part three of a fictional trilogy involving a mysteriously elusive and half-deluded scholarly type named Robinson who undisguisably acts as Keiller’s own projection and fantasy.
The film purports to be assembled from reels abandoned in a caravan left behind by this evasise and shifty character, and is self-described as ‘picturesque views on journeys to sites of scientific and historical interest’. Its narrative backbone consists in the retelling of the unfolding events of the global economic meltdown of 2008, whilst Robinson’s obsession with port statistics has been replaced by agricultural observations and Paul Scofield’s voice-over, which seemed to embody the character in his absence, has given way to Vanessa Redgrave’s slighlty more distant, but no less monotonic and laconic tone.
Made possible through an AHRC-funded project, ‘The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image’, which explores narratives of mobility and the political in landscape and place and received the input of many academics including Doreen Massey, professor of Cultural Geography at the Open University, the film unveils the history and political forces at work in the seemingly peaceful and uneventful rolling hills of rural Oxforshire, quintessance of the English landscape; It challenges notions of the picturesque, confront visions of a rustic past with industrial romanticism and issues of land ownership, and is ultimately a reminder of the socially constructed notion of landscape.
Robinson’s camera stares ininterruptedly at these places, hoping to discern the “molecular basis of historical events”, framing the only visible remain of a decommissioned US airbase: a fire hydrant sticking out in the middle of a field near Greenham Common (the location of Dr David Kelly’s suicide), or highlighting the ruins of the abandoned villages around Hampton Gay, where 16th-century rebellion against the countryside’s enclosure began. Robinson ultimately discovers a vast network of government oil pipelines running unnoticed through southern England, connecting military sites.
True to Keiller’s own brand of meticulously prepared near-static images, the film alternates wide shots and macro, and sometimes reveals the imperceptible, for example in the red paint of a post-box being slowly eroded by use, or a colony of lichens growing at the corner of letterings on the surface of a roadsign.
The camera lingers for long moments, capturing seemingly mundane images of a noisy machine harvesting a field, or swaying foxgloves merely accompanied by birdsong, followed by the precise but silent beauty of a spider delicately spining its web – contrasted with the narrator’s detailed account of the near-collapse of the international banking system – hinting at the dual challenges posed by an economic and ecological crisis. These long shots effectively result in drawing the spectator towards meditative rhythms of thought oppositional to the politically brutal mechanisms outlined in the commentary, bringing intensity and focus and confering a hightened meaning to images of an otherwise mundane materialism, uncomfortably confronting daily reality with remote global events that seem outside any control, asking what efforts of the mind may be required to break free from the hold of market economy with the state of nature.
The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image blog: http://thefutureoflandscape.wordpress.com/
Exploring Architectural Territories – Launch party · December 4th, 2010
EAT is a collective of architects, thinkers and doers assembled together from an international background wherein each individual brings his or her own sensability, views and language to the whole. Its central belief is in architecture’s potential to function as a transmitter for resources, culture, ideas and change. The territory e.a.t. navigates goes beyond the conventional definition of architecture, viewing its domain as an edifice which aims to influence the built world that we inhabit today and tomorrow.
e.a.t. exploring architectural territories launch party
7pm Saturday 11 December
the red lion pub
41 hoxton sq
Susan Philipsz: SURROUND ME, A Song Cycle for the City of London · October 11th, 2010
“Things… made truly Musicall with Art by my correction, and yet plaine, and capable with ease, by my direction.” Composer Thomas Ravenscroft, from Deutoromelia, 1609
At the weekends an eerie quiet descends on the City of London, in offices, squares, churchyards and streets, broken by the occasional sound of traffic and church bells. The silence of the city has inspired artist Susan Philipsz’s first commission in the capital. Her unaccompanied voice resonates through empty streets around the Bank of England, across postwar walkways and medieval alleyways and along the banks of the River Thames.
SURROUND ME: A Song Cycle for the City of London takes inspiration from the heightened presence of the human voice in Elizabethan London. To be heard over one another a natural order and harmony evolved in the cries of the street traders which enthused composers of popular song such as Thomas Ravenscroft to write canons where one voice follows the other in a round. Another popular song form for several voices, the madrigal emerged in Italy in the 16th Century and soon travelled to England where it flowered as the English Madrigal School.
SURROUND ME embraces the vocal traditions of the City of London connecting themes of love and loss with those of fluidity, circulation and immersion; the flood of tears, the swelling tide and the ebb and flow of the river, to convey a poignant sense of absence and loss in the contemporary City of London.
Susan Philipsz has been nominated for the Turner Prize 2010 for Lowlands, a work installed under three bridges beside the River Clyde in Glasgow. Her work is in the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain, 5 October 2010 – 3 January 2011.
This project is supported by Arts Council England, Special Angels and The Company of Angels.
Saturdays & Sundays only, 10am – 5pm
9 October 2010 – 2 January 2011
Change Alley / London Bridge / Mark Lane / Milk Street / Moorfields Highwalk / Tokenhouse Yard
Surround Me is an Artangel commission.
COUNTER CONSTRUCTS · September 17th, 2010
Nicholas Brooks, Graham Hudson, Tim Ivison & Julia Tcharfas, Paul Kneale, Guan Rong, Brendan Threadgill
Private view 17 September 6-9pm
18 September – 3 October
Thursday – Sunday 12 – 6pm
Auto Italia South East
1 Glengall Road
Counter Constructs brings together seven artists from the UK and North America in an exhibition exploring strategies of representation and critique of the urban built environment. Responding to the undead ‘regeneration’ of global development projects and the geologic sediment of spatial histories, the exhibition is a series of implicit proposals and contestations. Unfinished maps, unspecified models, unbuilt plans and unbuilding the city – the exhibition is as much about utopia as it is about its folly.
Initially organised by Tim Ivison & Julia Tcharfas around their research-based collaborative practice, Counter Constructs is a way to extend their dialogue on urban space to a wider range of interpretations. The artists in the show are brought together by a shared interest in mining the structures of architectural thinking, taking failure and conjecture as a starting point for productive investigations.
Comprising a number of independent installations, each work forms a part of a circuitous system of associations and digressions. The politics of history and preservation are played out in sound installation and sculpture, while the fetishisation of the suburban is both questioned and consecrated in film. An installation of sculpture, maps and images investigates the unbuilt visions of Edward Lutyens, a détourned architectural pavilion subverts the logic of modern utopias, and a floor-drawing altered daily recalls the paradox of permanent traces in the deep ephemerality of urban space in development an conflict.
Meanwhile other utopias are constructed in earnest in the form of small models and paintings forming a partial proposal towards a liberated social construction. These, and other projects will find space at Auto Italia over the course of the two week exhibition, working towards a negotiation of what we want from out cities, past and future – what is vital and resonant, what is dead and should remain so.
Repair Manual – Photography and Urban Cultures exhibition · September 15th, 2010
16 SEPTEMBER – 3 OCTOBER 2010
An exhibition showing the work of 17 graduates from the MA Photography and Urban Cultures of Goldsmiths University of London and the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR). The possible convergence of urban and social theory with a photographic practice has been taken into practice, explored, celebrated, taken apart, revisited, and deconstructed in order to reassemble all the different approaches within a graduate exhibition.
PRIVATE VIEW – 16 September 5:30-8:30 pm
You are kindly invited to come and visit our private view and opening night. Drinks will be accompanied by Chinese snacks courtesy of Seng Jariangroj.
www.repairmanualexhibition.net for a schedule of events
London SE 8 4SA
Open dates: 16 September – 3 October on Thursday – Saturday from 12am – 5pm
Bus: 53, 177, 188, 199, 47
Tube: DLR Deptford Bridge or Greenwich
Rail: British Rail from London Bridge, ten minutes walk to Deptford
Car: Free parking on Creekside
Alternative Tube maps · September 13th, 2010
A week after the much dreaded London tube strike, I thought I would post here these odd maps of the undeground, for those seeking ‘alternative’ ways to travel when the tube is shut!
More maps and anecdotes on http://stuffandshit.co.uk/2009/07/tube-its-maps.html
FM Radio Map (2006) – Simon Elvins · August 19th, 2010
Site-specific map plotting the location of FM commercial and pirate radio stations within London. Power lines are drawn in pencil on the back of the map which conduct the electricity from the radio to the front of poster. Placing a metal pushpin onto each station then allows us to listen to the sound broadcast live from that location.
TRANSLOCATED – EXHIBITION PREVIEW + FORUM, 21st / 22nd August 2010 · August 12th, 2010
You are cordially invited to the presentation of Translocated – a platform for reflection and artistic practices revolving around urban space and psychogeography.
TRANSLOCATED – EXHIBITION PREVIEW + FORUM
21st / 22nd August 2010
219 Glyn Road
The preview will feature projects and presentations from three artists whose work is currently engaged in the issues raised by Translocated, as well as some work in development and an open forum to discuss the boundaries of translocation.
// PROGRAMME ////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
// Saturday 21st August
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4 – 5 pm
5 – 6 pm
(curator’s introduction, artist talk, open forum)
7 – 8 pm
8 – 10pm
// Sunday 22nd August
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4 – 6pm
6 – 8pm
1-to-1 guided walks
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The Mappiness project: mapping happiness across space in the UK · August 11th, 2010
mappiness is a research project created by George MacKerron and Susana Mourato of the Department of Geography & Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), designed to gain a better understanding of how people’s feelings are affected by features of their current environment—things like air pollution, noise, and green spaces.
To that end, a free iPhone app has been developed, regularly pinging its users to ask them how they’re feeling, as well as a few other things: who they are with, where they are, what they are doing. The anonymous data gets sent back to a server, along with the user’s approximate location from the iPhone’s GPS, and a noise-level measure.
The project being in its early stages, the map displayed on the website doesn’t really give an acurate picture of the spread of happiness in the country – a huge proportion of respondants being in situated in London! – though interestingly the real-time hedonimeter shows that London people are slightly happier than the rest of the UK. I’m pretty sure this could easily be challenged, but I’ll leave that to the academic paper that will come out of the survey…