The ending of Patrick Keiller’s London (1994) saw the fictional academic Robinson and his loyal but un-named narrator (voiced by Paul Scofield) drowning in a sea of absence. Having criss-crossed the city of London in a desperate search for its hidden nature, the pair eventually collapse. Exhausted, deflated and defeated. London, they announce, is a city without essence. Devoid of any underlying meaning or fundamental essence, Britain’s capital is a hermeneutic desert. A space in which no meaning can grow and into which visitors are forced to carry any truths they may need in order to keep themselves alive.
Robinson in Space marks the return of London’s intrepid duo. This time the pair are hired by an un-named international advertising agency to produce a similar report on the unspecified ‘problem of England’. However, despite travelling further and further across the country, Robinson’s initial romanticism about England proves to be just as deluded as his romanticism about London. Indeed, neither an enchanted kingdom full of art and fellowship nor a gothic landscape full of dread and oppression, England reveals itself as a land of facts. Tedious, maddening, preposterous facts.