PRINT February 2017


The most recent of three films that claim to document the projects of a fictional, unseen character called Robinson, Robinson in Ruins was photographed during ten months of 2008, supposedly by Robinson himself, and completed two years later, supposedly by “researchers” who had been given Robinson’s unedited footage and his notebook. The researchers are the Robinson Institute, a body conceived ten years earlier as a vehicle to continue Robinson’s work in his absence. An exhibition titled “The Robinson Institute” was displayed at Tate Britain, London, in 2012. The following paragraphs develop some further preoccupations.

ACCORDING TO THE FILM’S NARRATOR, when Robinson was released from prison at the end of January 2008, “he made his way to the nearest city and looked for somewhere to haunt.”

He believed that he could communicate with a network of nonhuman intelligences that had sought refuge in marginal and hidden locations. They were determined to preserve the possibility of life’s survival on the planet and enlisted him to work on their behalf.

A few weeks later:

From a nearby car park, he surveyed the center of the island on which he was shipwrecked: “the location,” he wrote, “of a Great Malady, that I shall dispel, in the manner of Turner,1 by making picturesque views, on journeys to sites of scientific and historic interest.”

For Baudelaire, the Great Malady was “horror of home,” but Robinson’s horror is more specific to a view over Oxford and hence, perhaps, to the assumptions that

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