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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, June 21, 2004
    Robinson In Space
    "It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible not the invisible."

    The words are Oscar Wilde's; they come from a film I'm longing to see but am going to have to miss at FACT on Thursday, as something else has just cropped up.

    The film is Patrick Keiller's widely acclaimed Robinson In Space, "One man's journey in search of England. Through Cambridge and Oxford to Blackpool, Liverpool and beyond, Keiller unashamedly mixes past and present in creating an imaginatively deadpan twist on English-ness."

    It's serious but also satirical, by the sounds of it. The two protagonists take a tour which nominally follows in the footsteps of Daniel Defoe, using Reading as a central base.

    "Robinson plans to venture in all directions of the compass, with the initial wanderings following the route of the Thames. Upon the borders of this aqueous artery, businesses, stately homes, schools, golf courses and more reside. By commenting on the most interesting examples of each, Robinson's friend begins to weave the threads of society into a coherent whole," one reviewer says, concluding that "Robinson in Space is a rare experience (an intellectually fulfilling movie) and that alone makes it worth catching."

    Another reviewer compares Keiller's art to Iain Sinclair's; if you follow this blog you'll know how much that writer has featured here, whose deep-and-sidewards perceptions of English life I value so much.

    What's stopping me going to see the film? The very recently-arranged England - Portugal tie (and a meal with friends watching it) has taken precedence. But, it being Architecture Week, I'll have the chance to pop into FACT some other time to see another Keiller project which is also running, The City of the Future, billed as "an ambitious investigation of the evolution of cityscapes over the last hundred years."

    "Given access to the vaults of the National Film and Television Archive, Keiller has assembled a large interactive collection of historical moving image works to illustrate the nature of Britain's urban space at the turn of the century, including 8 films shot in Liverpool in 1897. At a point in time when much of Liverpool itself is going through major changes, the project provides a space for contemplation of the transience of modern cities."