Film: Patrick Keiller’s The Robinson Institute @ Tate Britain

Tate Britain Commission 2012, 27 March – 14 October 2012, free admission

Patrick Keiller’s The Robinson Institute was unveiled at Tate Britain on 27 March – the first Tate Britain Commission made in response to Tate’s Collection of British and international art, supported by Sotheby’s. The Robinson Institute is an exhibition that considers the origins of the current economic crisis. Throughout The Robinson Institute, images of landmarks and locations in the English landscape are employed to illustrate the development of capitalism.

Keiller is best known for his series of film essays, London 1994, Robinson in Space 1997 and Robinson in Ruins 2010 in which a fictional, unseen scholar Robinson undertakes exploratory journeys around England. Robinson’s chance encounters with various locations, for example the site of an 1830 meteorite fall and nearby scenes of local rebellion, prompt him to record and reflect on the significance of each to greater global themes.

The Robinson Institute’s researchers have revisited Robinson’s last known journey, presenting his findings and film footage as an exhibition that features works by artists, mainly from Tate’s collection; writers, historians, geographers, cartographers and geologists; and a variety of other objects.

Audiences are invited to retrace Robinson’s steps and consider the connections that he makes. For example, the 1795 amendment to the Settlement Act, which enabled the rural poor to migrate more easily to industrial towns and cities, is shown alongside an unusually large meteorite that fell the same year. Robinson’s discovery of the Boyle-Hooke commemoration plaque on Oxford’s High Street, which celebrates two of England’s most important scientists, triggers further consideration of the historical events that led to the Industrial Revolution, as his photograph of the memorial site is juxtaposed with Ed Ruscha’s Mad Scientist1975 and L.S. Lowry’s Industrial Landscape 1955.

Penelope Curtis, Director, Tate Britain, said: ‘Patrick Keiller has risen to the challenge of the Tate Britain Commission in an exceptional way with a new installation that enables us to look at the Tate’s collection in relation to some of the issues that Britain faces today, demonstrating how similar concerns run through time. Patrick Keiller’s sustained interest in understanding the English landscape, and what it can tell us about the origin of some of the world’s problems, strikes a perfect chord with the Tate collection.’

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