The new seven-part instillation at Tate Britain extends the narrative of Robinson, a fictional intellectual of landscape who has appeared in many of Keiller’s other works, including his magnificent films London (1994) and Robinson in Ruins (2010). We are invited on a walk by the side of Robison through English history and politics, from London to Aberystwyth, through Oxfordshire and Berkshire. We travel alongside this imaginary psycho-geographer through the Duveen gallery meeting drawings, paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs, accompanied by long texts that increase the extent of this magnificent journey.
The inclusion of international and British artists, from Turner to Warhol, introduces a global interconnectedness to the instillation extending this journey beyond Britain and British art. From the sale of nuclear arms to the Peterloo Massacre, Keiller pulls us through a confusing patchwork of history, but a confusion that arises not of the art, but of the world and its history. Here is art as a window into reality, a window which by no means attempts to resolve the absurdities and nuances of history but rather relishes in them and makes them its subjects.
With a collection that spans across a diverse range of artists and events from several centuries, The Robinson Collection draws upon the works of Keiller and other artists in the Tate Britain collection in order to recontextualise current economic hardship. Keiller embeds the global economic predicament within the landscape of Britain and forces contextual links that have been lost by political narrative to be reinstated. We find a meteorite that fell in 1795, the same year that saw the introduction of The Speenhamland System by parliament, a system that sought, and failed, to relive the widespread poverty that plagued England at the time.
Through a diverse and imaginative collection, Keiller’s instillation, seeks to challenge the notions that the domains of economics and politics are in some way separate and isolated from surrounding context. Mature, intelligent and imaginative, The Robinson Collection encourages visitors to rethink the manner in which we commonly frame economic hardship and political occurrences in a way that would challenge those who claim control of these governmental domains.
Toby Austin Locke
Patrick Keiller’s The Robinson Collection is at Tate Britain 27th March – 14th October.