“Visually stunning…” (The New York Times)
“A completely unique and memorable experience” (Hobart Mercury)
“The distortion of space and reality is awe-inspiring” (New York Theatre Review)
Close Encounters of the Tassie Kind! Melbourne laser/sound artist Robin Fox brought his other-worldly performance to the docks for a completely unique and memorable experience. Nicknamed “ZZ Laptop” by fans, Fox’s laser show describes, in three-dimensional visual space, the geometry of sound.
Often described as “like an alien abduction,” the show has overtones of organic/technologic interplay, while the experience resembles a synaesthetic experience where what you hear is also what you see.With 3D tunnels of green light solidified by smoke machines, the laser show filled the space with something like a living presence, with the audience lulled into a chaotic trance by the scanning lights and strobing visions.
Audience members were often swept into a frenzy of cat-calls and screams, inciting primal reactions to a truly science fiction experience. If this is what alien abduction is like, we’re moving to the Nullabor, pronto.
Mercury Newspaper (Tasmania) on-line: Rebecca Fitzgibbon
Most spectacularly, Robin Fox successfully visualized sound with his superb laser show. Think of an oscilloscope, think of the scene in the intensive care unit when the green fluro trace flattens out to a straight line. Now think of that line like a bolt from the proscenium wall across the audience multiplying as it describes an astonishing variety of planes, thanks to the dry ice machine and a couple of mirrors. Fox’s use of an audio controlled laser projector to demonstrate the geometry of sound was as elegant as anything you might experience in a concert hall or gallery.
Penny Webb, The Age Newspaper 26/06/2007
With the portentous hiss of a smoke machine, all venue lights are dimmed and Robin Fox begins beaming his laser show. A piercing green ray shoots out from the stage toward the mixing desk and back wall. The audience sit in huddled knots, crowding into the centre of its field, facing the stage. The back wall displays the large ‘resulting’ patterns of the beam, but of as much interest here are the points in-between – the way the beam splits and seems to fold smoke back into itself, the way the audience becomes enmeshed in its stippled dance, as much participating as observing. All of which is not to give short shrift to Fox’s brilliant electronic compositions – a laptop-driven set of plunging bass and dark, fractured tones. The laser show and sound shapeshifted in tandem, cohering in a flawless set.
Ben Gook, Mess and Noise Magazine
Lap top supremo Robin Fox…..is exploring the ever more precise synchronisation of sound and image by linking his laptop bass textures to a single-point laser, projected through smoke as a series of violently cut-off changes in shape and form. Fox’s live performance literally shook the building and riddled it with green, pinprick shafts.
Jonathan Marshall, Real time Magazine
However, the good Dr Fox was always to be the highlight of the evening. Robin is best known for his synaesthetic performances with laptop and laser beam. Tonight, he aimed his laser just above the heads of the audience. It would capture in the smoke from the of fire pits, and briefly fill out into abstract 3D forms in mid air, before shooting off as far as the eye could see down the creek bed and into the overhanging gums. It’s impossible to separate the cut up digital sound from the experience, and on the night we were also blessed with a well tuned surround PA. To say it was well received would be an understatement – Robin has single handedly instituted the uncontrollable urge to whoop and cheer into the forum of experimental music in Australia.
Resonate on-line magazine
I caught a solo “laser” set of robin’s earlier this year in Melbourne, and i have to say that it was one of the highlights of my entire oz/nz trip – really incredible mix of full-blown-out rectified-wave digital histrionics and a ridiculous psychedelic light show…
Keith Fullerton Whitman
ART TERRORIST in the house! His laser light show was pretty amazing. The fire engines, fire alarm, evacuation and smoke was perhaps a good build up for this show too! Robin filled the room with a smoke machine for a better effect and I guess due to the sensitive nature of the Frontroom’s newly refurbished status – set the fire alarm off!
So as I said we all had our own premier light and sound show outside on the street. Was an interesting little interlude actually – well at least it works folks!
Regardless of this excitement, Robin Fox is obviously a very talented guy. I felt like I was raving somewhere, but the music was much more abstract – matching the laser beams as they danced rhythmically around the theatre. Was definitely something not to have missed – was an ‘experience’ to just be there.
Kate Kennedy, Scoop
Robin Fox’s Rave-A-Licious laser performance projects are rarer in the 21st century than the nineties warehouses would’ve had us believe. Undoubtedly all roads in this terrain eventually lead to 1 x Robin Fox, a Melbourne based electronica / noise / experimental music performer who has gradually shifted his soundmaking to become servants of a giant green laser. In practice this means he tweaks specific frequencies and patterns onstage with a laptop, which in turn cause a very responsive laser to carve out surprisingly dimensional shapes in a cloud of smoke and inevitably leaves audience jaws on the ground for the duration of his show. Very much something that needs to be experienced more than described, but is also well documented online.
The silent flickering green lasers of classic science fiction. Without sound the eyes are free to absorb even more movement and scope within the impossibly complex and inventive shower of light beams transforming the space. Fox demonstrates the control he has over this stimulating process, creating morphing pulsating concentric circles of light which wrap around the bodies of those who enter, enclosing them in a translucent glowing capsule. Inside the headphones sound and image are re-united, the overarching synaesthetic structure of the contraption revealed.
Joel Stern, Real Time Magazine
From a review of the Chambers installation/performance, Brisbane 2007. Sound was in headphones.
“a highly specific and refined synaesthesia machine”
Digital culture is obsessed with synaesthesia, especially sound/image convergence. From club ‘visuals’ to automatic ‘visualiser’ plugins for mp3 applications, there’s an ideal of sensory fusion at work which draws on cyber/psychedelic rave culture, and utopian new media discourse.
Ideals aside, digital media forms do create new potential for varieties of ‘machine’ synaesthesia – automatic mappings between sound and image. Visualiser plugins offer specific and more-or-less arbitrary mappings of image to sound. While they can’t (promise to) induce a synaesthetic experience, they do offer a machine synaesthesia that might challenge, reorder, or at least reflect on, our own audiovisual perception. Yet most synaesthesia machines are little more than bolted-on nozzles that turn all your favourite tunes into generic visual sludge.
By contrast Robin Fox’s Backscatter disc presents a highly specific and refined synaesthesia machine. He has assembled a simple audiovisual synthesizer using simple digitally synthesised audio and an old analog oscilloscope. The oscilloscope is in ‘polar’ mode, so instead of scanning left to right, displaying the conventional ‘trace’ of the waveform, the trace orbits the screen. Waveforms create woven circles, loops, twisting spirals, filigreed knots.
Response is instantaneous, so the screen jumps and twitches in sync with Fox’s audio signature skitters and blips. The sound-vision mapping is supple, the images beautiful and sometimes surprising. The pieces feel quite controlled, even composed, the way they seem to literally reveal new twists and tricks. Overall, the results are staggering.
Mitchell Whitelaw: Earbash
Oscilloscope Show (Backscatter)
Robin Fox’s inspiring performance was rapturously received. It’s like seeing what you hear, although not in any way illustrative as sounds and oscilloscope interplay, moving from slow visual and aural blips to staggeringly elaborate spirographic raptures, great oceanic washes, enveloping visual flashes and a final shuddering withdrawal. Difficult to describe but utterly engrossing, Fox’s dancing lines and distinctive sonic compositions make for a unique experience in which the performer remains invisible while we focus on his virtual puppetry.
Keith Gallasch, Real Time Magazine Dec 05
Melbourne artist Robin Fox’s astounding work with the Cathode Ray Oscilloscope has developed to a point of almost incomprehensible complexity and beauty. For those familiar with Fox’s project, the great pleasure has been seeing it evolve over 2 years. However, at this late stage of development it’s hard not to envy the Auckland audience experiencing the work for the first time.
The technical basis is relatively simple: computer generated audio flows directly into an oscilloscope and the electricity excites a single light photon (a bright green dot) which moves frantically around a phosphorous screen.
American abstract filmmaker Mary Ellen Bute tried something similar in Abstronic (1954) (featured in ACMI’s recent White Noise exhibition), but where she played on her oscilloscope a charming number called Ranch House Party, Fox blasts his machine full of scorching electronic frequencies and shards of fractured noise. He might also have dipped the oscilloscope in pure LSD, because on this occasion the “single light photon” embarks on an ‘innerspace’ trip so ecstatic it makes the climax of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey feel like an uneventful stroll to the corner store.
Trying to describe Fox’s images is difficult, but one has the sensation of moving exceptionally rapidly through enclosed twisting passages, bursting momentarily through logically impossible space, and being constantly smacked back into cosmic freefall. Perhaps this is what it’s like to be a pinball?
Joel Stern, Real Time Magazine Feb-March 06
The highlight of both evenings was Robin Fox, who overcame the poor PA set-up of the first night to offer a forcefully ripping, laptop performance. Fox’s piece had a commanding rise and fall of squelched electro noises, cut with brittle, musique concrete-like masses, all characterised by a sense of sonic cut-off and a leaping between materials which evoked a particularly aggressive, electronic version of hip-hop turntablism. Laurie Anderson once joked that her jangling, amplified violin work reflected the beat of a dance that we all unconsciously know: one that’s produced when you stick your finger into a power point. Fox’s compelling beats similarly summoned tunes that were too chaotic to consciously decipher, but which subliminally extended deep within the body and the psyche. Only sonic dynamism of this power can approach the “raw power” that Iggy Pop and the Stooges tore from their Marshall stacks.
Jonathan Marshall, Real Time Magazine
In collaboration with Anthony Pateras
Restraint is not a word to be used when describing Melbourne’s Robin Fox and Anthony Pateras. Fox on laptop processing Pateras’ vocals and mixing desk emissions make for a fantastic aural assault. Facing each other like old men playing some demented card game they rupture the dominant trend of slow sustained works with pieces that are short abrasive bursts the length of rock songs. Each piece explores a different set of ideas. From Pateras there are snuffles, gurgles and belches, a bubbling cauldron of hisses and pops, bleeps and wild cries. Each of these textures is ripped apart and cellularly rearranged by Fox’s magic fingers creating sonic meteorites that burn brightly and disintegrate on entry. The works are so dense and fast that the spatialisation served merely to make the pieces twice as loud.
Fox and Pateras performed the same set 2 nights later at impermanent.audio in stereo, and nothing was lost with fewer speakers. In fact the multitude of speakers tended to separate the sound from the source, so that in stereo there was more of a visceral quality to Pateras’ cacophonic mouth clicks, lipsmacks and utterances, making the pieces, edgier and grittier. The piece based on kissing noises was particularly impressive in its uncomfortable over-amplified closeness. However even more impressive were the artists’ solos.
Robin Fox created a stir by bringing visuals into the well-defined audio only environment of impermanent.audio. (There have been 1 or 2 moments of visual stimulation previously but such things are generally not encouraged.) In Fox’s words his photosynthetic piece “explores the 1 to 1 relationship between sonic electricity and its effect on a single light photon excited across a phosphorous screen.” In other words his crafted oscillations make a little green dot grow and dance. The purity and fusion of the sound and visuals creates an interdependent realm that is at once mesmeric and invigorating.
Anthony Pateras performed a prepared piano improvisation on the already battered baby grand at the Frequency Lab. His approach to everything seems to be fast and furious, bashing at the keys to reveal all manner of timbres. Top notes rattle and vibrate like demented toys while bass notes thump and ominously thud. You hear the wood, the metal, the hammer, the pluck. Pateras plays a lot of notes…and then he doesn’t…letting a clanging chord ring out naked, carving silence out of chaos. A magnificent performance.
Gail Priest, Real Time Magazine.
In collaboration with Beta Erko
The ultimate act that had the crowd vibrating with anticipation was the debut performance of Beta Erko. This supergroup of sound art includes Martin Ng on turntable destruction, Robin Fox on digital evisceration, Anthony Pateras on mixing desk, voice spasms and more, and MC Vulk Makedonski from the hip hop phenomenon Curse Ov Dialect on trilingual alien channelling. Together they created the most spectacularly invigorating noise onslaught I’ve ever heard (noise not generally my genre). Each artist was so adept at the detail of their destructiveness that the combined energy of the group literally blew a light and set off the fire alarm. Hopefully the evil posse will find time amongst their other sonic pursuits to reprise this astounding combo.
Gail Priest, Real Time Magazine.