Tate Modern prove themselves once more capable of putting on interesting and challenging film programmes, even in the middle of a dull summer blockbuster like Dali, with a day of Patrick Keiller films ending in a presentation by Keiller himself of an installation work he produced for Le Fresnoy in Lille based around the vast gothic Victoria Terminus railway station in Mumbai.
In the installation he reproduced the virtual space of the station interior with thirty large screens and HD projectors looping footage shot in the station itself. The films were complemented by a sound design in which the unsynchronised loops triggered sounds taken from the synchronised DAT recordings, dissociated and reassembled to create a three-dimensional soundtrack. Even from the basic documentation which Keiller shows, it looks like an immensely impressive affair, one now dismantled and unlikely ever to be repeated: this is the ‘problem of the panorama’
The Mumbai piece was a distraction from his ongoing City of the Future project in conjunction with the excellent Centre for British Film and Television Studies – currently this takes the form of a DVD in which the menuing system is used as a means of exploring archive maps and zeroing in on early film, mostly phantom rides, exploring urban space at the turn of the century. Though the research is ongoing and Keiller keeps adding new film works to it, it’s a shame it hasn’t yet become a commercially available product because the rudimentary interactiveness of DVDs is better-presented than the ‘interactive’ work of many with more powerful tools at their disposal.
A form of the work will also appear at the BFI Southbank’s gallery in November (if it stays open that long). A part of the project I’ve seen previously, which involved stitching together these early illustrative actualities with intertitles into a detective/thriller narrative seems to have been completed and shelved because he wasn’t happy with it.
As he presents his work, Keiller rambles splendidly – at first it seems as if he’s beginning to flail off-topic, but what you get is a stream-of-consciousness and almost free-association of the ideas that are going on in his head, the semi-distilled version of what might become a film or essay. He takes in the Telegraph Museum in Porthcurno, the homogenisation of time in historical film, his relationship to the London Film Co-Op, ‘long-shot’ cinema, Gothicism as an ideology, and why if capitalism is presented as nature, Gilbert Scott’s St. Pancras must either be a vegetable or a dinosaur. If you read the same things he has you might come to the same conclusions, you might not. These are some of the works he mentions:
Adrian Rifkin, Benjamin’s Paris, Freud’s Rome: whose London?
Roger Luckhurst, The Contemporary London Gothic and the Limits of the “Spectral Turn”
Patrick Wright, A Journey Through Ruins
W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Philip Pullman, His Subtle Knife
David B Clarke, The City of the Future revisited
Tom Gunning, The Cinema of Attractions
Jane Jacobs, Death and Life of Great American Cities
Paul Dave, Visions of England
He tells us he’s working on a new Robinson film. It will be about the possibility of living with displacement rather than belonging, and may involve Staffordshire, where Cheadle (but not Cheadle Hulme) is located. Dracula will not appear unless he can bring himself to go to either Whitby or Purfleet. It’s all good news, only slightly marred by the barely-surprising-any-more ignominy that it will be supported with money from research sources rather than film production funding.