Patrick Keiller was born in 1950, in Blackpool, Lancashire, UK, and lived in Lancashire (1950-55), Northumberland (1955-58), and Warwickshire (1958-67) before moving to London in 1967 to study architecture at UCL’s Bartlett school.
During 1969, he worked for a time as a volunteer at the Institute for Research in Art and Technology (also known as the New Arts Lab).
In 1970, he was an architectural assistant at Arup Associates, and in 1971-72 at the Greater London Council.
As a postgraduate diploma student (1972-74), he co-authored a book Methane, Fuel of the Future, and assisted what is now the Centre for Alternative Technology at Machynlleth, in Wales.
In 1974, he started teaching, initially for an afternoon a week, at the North East London Polytechnic’s school of architecture, while working for environmental services engineers Max Fordham and Partners (1974-75), and later as an architect for Solon Housing Association (1975-79). He taught at NELP, later the Polytechnic (now University) of East London, during most years until 1992.
In 1979, he began a two-year MA by project in the Department of Environmental Media at the Royal College of Art, where he made a short film that was followed by four similar films later in the 1980s.
Between 1983 and 2000 he was a part-time lecturer in fine art at Middlesex Polytechnic, later University, after which he was a research associate in visual culture until 2002.
In 1991, his proposal for a feature-length film London (1994) was accepted by the British Film Institute. It was followed by Robinson in Space (1997), for BBC Films and the BFI, adapted as a book published in 1999, and a feature-length television documentary for Channel Four The Dilapidated Dwelling (2000), not so far broadcast.
Between 2002 and 2011 Keiller was a research fellow at the Royal College of Art in London, where he undertook two projects supported by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Board, later Council:
The City of the Future (2002-05) was an exploration of urban space, mostly in the UK, as it appears in moving pictures held in the BFI’s National Archive. It led to the production of an interactive display of 68 films from the early period of the medium that was the basis of several exhibitions, the most extensive at the BFI Southbank Gallery in 2007-08.
An earlier edition of this display had been exhibited as part of Londres, Bombay (2006), an exhibition at Le Fresnoy: Studio national des arts contemporains, Tourcoing, in which it accompanied a 30-screen video installation depicting the interior of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, commissioned by Le Fresnoy.
The Future of Landscape and the Moving Image (2007-11) was a project in the AHRC’s Landscape and Environment Programme, an exploration of ideas about landscape, dwelling and displacement. It was a collaboration with co-researchers Professor Doreen Massey of the Open University and Professor Patrick Wright of Nottingham Trent University, later Kings College London. Matthew Flintham was the project’s doctoral student.
The project included the production of a feature-length film Robinson in Ruins (2010), first exhibited in that year’s Venice Film Festival, and later the basis for The Robinson Institute, an exhibition at Tate Britain in 2012 accompanied by a book The Possibility of Life’s Survival on the Planet.
In 1986, Keiller undertook a British Council Academic Exchange visit to Czechoslovakia to research the Czechoslovakian avant-garde of the 1920s and ’30s. In 1995, he began a DAAD Residency in the Berliner Künstlerprogramm. In 2004, he received an honourable mention and medal in the Erich Schelling Architecture Theory Award. He has been a visiting research fellow at the Open University (2011-14) and was the 2017-18 Sir Arthur Marshall Visiting Professor of Urban Design at the University of Cambridge.