With London (1994), Robinson in Space (1997), and The Dilapidated Dwelling (2000), Patrick Keiller established his reputation as one of the most original film-makers of his generation. Now, for the first time, he presents the multi-screen, installation version of his research project The City of the Future. Elisabetta Fabrizi invites you to take your own unique journey into Keiller's compendium of urban memories.
The City of the Future is an exploration of urban space at the turn of the 20th century, a virtual landscape composed of 68 early actuality films from the years 1896-1909 arranged in the gallery on a network of maps from the period.
Until the mid-1900s, most films were between one and three minutes long and comprised one or very few relatively lengthy 'takes'. The majority were actualities, including street scenes and views from moving vehicles. In comparison with films of later decades, early films offer unusually extensive views of the city space in which there was electricity but not much oil - a landscape that was being transformed by technological, political and economic developments. When moving pictures, too, changed in the mid-1900s, this view of city spaces was diminished or curtailed. Those early films offer us a brief but significant glimpse of the urban landscape just before the rise of the oil economy and the outbreak of World War I, a period that throws up striking parallels with our own.
The exhibition stems from a research project that began by suggesting that many of the spaces glimpsed in historic footage look unexpectedly familiar before going on to ask why this might be so. Keiller's identification of many previously unknown locations enabled him to locate the films in the spatial array that is the exhibition's organising concept. Visitors are invited to explore this landscape, both by moving among its sequential screens and by departing from the programmed sequence, to create an individual journey using the 'menu' functions of a DVD.