Patrick Keiller: The Robinson Institute, Tate Britain, London
Is Patrick Keiller an architect, or is he an artist?
Perhaps this an obstinate question to ask? A man can be both, and more besides, can’t he? My answer to this is no. There are many professions where dual roles are acceptable. An actuary can also be a restaurateur, and a cabby might arrange flowers. But an architect can never make art, and an artist can never make places. One might become the other, but they have to leave their previous form behind forever. This might sound like reactionary dogma – perhaps it is – but this distinction must be made for the collective good.
Keiller is an architect who has become an artist. A thoughtful collection of works from the Tate’s collection has been given an unexpected airing alongside some historical objects, ranging from a thresher to a meteorite. These have been assembled as narrative juxtapositions to silent clips and stills from his recent film, Robinson in Ruins (2010). The result is a carefully constructed muse on the British countryside. Here presented in the aftermath of a battle: modernism in vicious conflict with our cultural rural sensibilities, with a backdrop of class-struggle and globalisation.
Yes – this is definitely art – so we can relax, no-one has been hurt.