Magazine article New Internationalist

Home Will Never Look the Same Again

Magazine article New Internationalist

Home Will Never Look the Same Again

Article excerpt

The picture above is a fairly typical shot from a Patrick Keillcr film. The roadside marker indicates a Government Pipeline and Storage System (GPSS). In other words, running beneath this scenic spot is the kerosene for US warplanes.

Keiller started as an architect. He makes his films extremely slowly and spends most of his time doing other things (teaching, writing). Perhaps that's why he doesn't sound like a filmmaker.

He describes his film London (1994) as 'a sort of polemic for the necessity of continually re-imagining our surroundings'. Its fictional anti-hero, a man called Robinson, has had two more outings in Robinson in Space (1997) and Robinson in Ruins (2010).

'To endow with poetic value that which does not yet possess it' was an aim of the surrealist filmmakers. It's something that Keillcr has gone on taking to heart.

The camera is generally motionless. It observes and the world it reclaims is indeed one we haven't fully 'imagined'. Take the gigantic distribution centres which regulate the flow of goods: how many of us ever really look at them?

The second largest port in Britain is somewhere called Immingham. It imports millions of tonnes of coal and iron ore each year and nowadays, as Robinson wryly observes, this 'involves very little labour'. It is from such places that Britain exports weapons all over the world, but who has ever heard of Immingham? In whose interests is it that we have no mental image of it?

A recurrent Keiller theme is the erasure from England's 'smiling and beautiful countryside' of its 'dreadful record of sin'. …

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