Patrick Keiller’s The Robinson Institute in Tate’s Duveen Galleries takes the visitor on a walk through the British countryside – but one that rapidly fragments and complicates the term ‘British’, and questions what on earth we mean by the word ‘countryside’. Keiller structures his installation around the metafictional conceit that researchers have located film canisters and notebooks belonging to Keiller’s fictional everyman, Robinson – the protagonist of his Robinson trilogy – in an abandoned caravan. The researchers have used these to re-construct Robinson’s last journey, interweaving stills and footage from Keiller’s final Robinson film (Robinson in Ruins, 2010) with a heterogeneous selection of items from Tate’s permanent collection, together with maps, borrowed artefacts such as a piece of the Wold Cottage meteorite, clips of film and pieces of archive footage. The result is a psychogeographic meander that refutes any notions of edenic (or nationalist) pastoral, and instead unfolds a vision of the landscape as a palimpsest of human usage, overwritten by economic and political concerns.
This review was originally published on Kultureflash in May 2009.
Blood and oil: using these two elemental materials, Russian artist Andrei Molodkin’s Liquid Modernity at Orel Art mediates on the interplay of energy, greed, consumption and corruption in the modern world, critiquing oil and culture industries alike. The show is dominated by the first installation; two cages, one made of white neon tubing, the other of tubes filled with viscous, treacly oil, which sit amidst a mess of power cables, pumps and oil barrels. The gauges controlling the oil levels let off pressure ever few seconds with small explosions that ricochet around the gallery space, which, combined with the crackling hum of the neon bars, makes for an increasingly oppressive atmosphere as you move through the rest of the show. Grids filled with oil and blood encourage connections between chemical reactions, power grids, human cells and quasi-religious fervour for money and power. Accompanying a set of perspex blocks in which ‘Das Kapital’, the title of Marx’s critique of capitalism, have been hollowed and filled with oil, is Marx’s description of modernity as ‘all that is solid melts into air’ – a quote that provides an apt summation of the show, concerned as it is with the destabilising effects that the combustion of fossil fuels is having on our planet.