Notes on Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Ruins

Robinson in Ruins Keiller

Flicking back through the large notebook on my desk which has a Casey Neistat sticker on the cover, I find the notes I made while watching Patrick Keiller’s film Robinson in Ruins at the beginning of last year.

I had seen the film at a special event at the National Film Theatre at the time of its release in 2010 but felt I needed to watch it again – I watched Keiller’s London so many times I wore out the VHS tape.

Here are the notes I made in their raw form:


“The wanderings it describes began on 22nd January 2008”
– this is the same time as the Silt Road journeys began. What was I doing in January 2008? Starting work on London Perambulator. 2008 the year of the financial crisis.

Robinson communicates with “non-human intelligences” living in marginal places – shot of a sign on an arterial road – roundabout – edgelands. They (and Robinson presumably) are concerned with human survival – are they insects rather than E.Ts?

Robinson drawn to London from Berlin in the mid-60’s by the ‘swinging sixties’ and presence of so many prehistoric structures in the landscape. Footpath that was once a Roman road leads Robinson to a gasometer (mirror of the standing stone he visits?) then on to Lidl on the site of the first Mini factory.

robinson in ruins

I stop the film to check my Twitter feed – tweet from London Port Authority: “2014 port trade 3% up at 44.5 million tones: tonnage up across cargo types”
A port statistics update while watching a Robinson film – how serendipitous.

Mention of IWCA in Oxford. Quotes 17th Century antiquarian in reference to a physick well. Then on to Plato and Epicurus in relation to climate then an update on the financial situation. Footage of a substation.
Robinson is a Prepper.
Returns constantly to boarded up house with scaffold first seen at start of film – a motif?

Sets out for Harrowdown Hill – April 10th – the death of Dr David Kelly – not far from Brize Norton – physical link to Iraq.
Spends the night in the enclosure of a mobile phone mast.

robinson in ruins
Military infrastructure gets mentioned a lot – the SOE wartime comms on a hill, railway line used by military.

Broad Street Oxford – the postbox set in the wall on the street corner another recurring motif. Robinson’s disappearance in the 1990’s and his companion’s publication (the narrator’s lover – this bloke had also been Robinson’s lover or have I got confused) of a report based on their work that led to him becoming a government advisor – “transformative potential” of “images of landscape” – linked to well-being. Back to shot of lichen on roadside – grows near nitrogen pollutants. Primroses in a lay-by. Note on UK climate and primrose seed transportation.

MayDay on the Ridgeway.

Horse Chestnut imported from Turkey in 17th Century.

robinson in ruins
Greenham Common nuclear warheads withdrawn – US Airforce base opposed on basis it infringed commoners rights. Now restored to Commons and open access by Newbury Council. Remains of US base stand in the fields where now cattle graze. Declared SSSI in 1985. Natural order restored.

Robinson moves on to Roman Silchester. He is now a marginal figure – semi-vagrant – bit of a weirdo.

The U.K Rocket industry embedded in the countryside near the Icknield Way (Blue Streak) and the Government military underground fuel pipe that possibly follows this Neolithic path.
Bright fields of poppies grown for medical diamorphine.

Robinson is a surrealist who has encounters with flowers – biophilia.

Very long shot of white foxgloves swaying in the breeze.
Long shot of butterfly on teasels briefly joined by a bee.
A great example of SLOW FILM

Watching the film I realize I am neglecting the book I am working on – carry on watching the film anyway.

Robinson in Ruins is set against the backdrop of the financial crisis of 2008. London takes place around Black Wednesday in 1992. Is this coincidence or does Keiller/Robinson have a nose for financial catastrophe?

At this point I stop making notes and just watch the rest of the film.

By Our Selves – Andrew Kotting & Iain Sinclair back on the road

Last night to the Hackney Picturehouse – the cinema occupying a building that was squatted in recent history by some of my old associates from Frampton Park Estate. The occasion was a rare one – the chance to see some work-in-progress footage from the latest Andrew Kötting and Iain Sinclair collaboration, By Our Selves.

The project is a retracing of the ‘peasant poet’ John Clare’s Journey out of Essex when he walked from the asylum at High Beach, Epping Forest, where he was a patient, to his home in Northamptonshire. Sinclair covered this ground in his book Edge of the Orison but the film and associated live art events are no mere wandering documentary from page to screen, no BBC4 style lecture with occasionally moving images. Nor is it simply a sequel to their brilliant two men in a swan pedalo film Swandown. Kötting does the 3-day schlepp dressed as a folkloric Straw Bear led on a string leash by celebrated actor Toby Jones playing Clare. Sinclair appears by the roadside in some of the footage – English Heritage should really pay him to continuously walk around the M25 and up the Great North Road. Jem Finer once again contributes a jaunty, haunting soundtrack of synthetic birdsong and refracted instruments. Alan Moore manifests on a bench reading Clare’s poem I Am.

 

The day after I’m still haunted by the sounds and images – the procession of masked figures beating drums behind the straw bear parading through Epping Forest, John Clare/Toby Jones reading a boxing magazine sat on the side of a field-path (Clare was a boxing fan). The psychogeographers dream ticket of Kötting and Sinclair looks set to deliver another vital  post-millennial vision of England.

 

The project is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to finish the edit – you can back it for the price of a couple of pints.

Here’s Iain Sinclair talking about his journey for Edge of the Orison on Newsnight in 2005 which includes a snippet of footage that I think was shot by Radio On director Chris Petit

 

 

Like a ‘grunge Keiller’

An article I wrote for 3:AM magazine about Paul Kelly & St. Etienne’s A London Trilogy dvd and my own London perambulations.

etiennetrilogy

“I first met Paul Kelly and Bob Stanley after a screening of their film Finisterre in 2005, recently released on a BFI DVD, A London Trilogy. I approached them in the foyer of the ICA enthusiastically thrusting forward my treasured copy of Gordon S. Maxwell’s 1925 ‘ramble book’, The Fringe of London. I’d been nurturing the theory that Maxwell’s lost classic was the missing link in the topographical tradition connecting the romantic walkers and flâneurs to the modern trend in neo-psychogeography, and had bothered all the usual suspects with my grand idea drawing a blank on each occasion. Paul and Bob similarly had never heard of Maxwell or the book and compensated by handing me a copy of the Finisterre DVD.” continue reading here

 

What I’ll talk about on Lost Steps on Resonance 104.4FM

Going in to doing a pre-record with Malcolm Hopkins and Nick Hamilton for their show on Resonance fm on Monday. I’ll be talking about this blog and some of the things that have inspired it and arisen from ideas that I first noted down here. Below are a collection of tags that I’ll mostly focus on – probably

caledonian park, claybury, derive, finsbury, gordon s. maxwell, iain sinclair, ian bourn, islington, john smith, landscape film, leyton, leyton marshes, leytonstone art scene, locative arts, marsh lane, michael bentine, moblog, patrick keiller, penton, placeblogging, pleasure gardens, psychogeography, river fleet, situationism, spa green, spb mais, topographical film, topographics, urbanism, video blog, virgin of aldermanbury, claybury, derive, gordon s. maxwell, iain sinclair, caledonian park, finsbury, leyton, leytonstone art scene, marsh lane, michael bentine, leyton marshes, patrick keiller, penton, psychogeography, river fleet, situationism, spa green, spb mais, pleasure gardens, topographical film, topographics, urbanism, video blog, virgin of aldermanbury, walking, walthamstow, walthamstow marshes, wanstead, wanstead flats, will self, william kent, william margrie,

london

Walk to the West End – redux

Sat in The Heathcote last night reading David Boote’s excellent series of leaflets on the Leyton Loop made me think about the walk that I did through Leyton to the West End via Kings Cross in June 2007. I posted a blog about it at the time.
Enthused, I came home from the pub, dug out the miniDV tape and quickly edited together this vid. It’s always difficult to capture the experience of walking in any form – literature seems to have managed it best. Here I tried to film as instinctively as possible as if scribbling in a notebook.
The Heathcote btw was shut tonight due to a gas leak – was it something I did? Not quite sure what I’ll do if it stays shut for a while. Maybe get round to writing up some notes I’ve got on walking that I’d like to share.