There’s this idea that parents pass on their unresolved experiences to their children. Anecdotal evidence will support it, whether it’s the hoarding of a post-Depression child or trans-generational trauma. On a very basic level, though, it’s safe to say the emotions and events of early life will doubtless inform the rest. That’s why it’s not surprising that the thinking behind audiovisual artist Robin Fox’s laser show is inspired by his own mother’s experiences with synesthesia. It’s a condition that means that a person experiencing one sensation will simultaneously experience another -most commonly colour through sound -and that’s something Fox attempts to recreate with this ambitious performance featuring himself, a laptop, a smoke machine and a rather expensive laser projector.
Performing for the first time at London’s eminent experimental music venue, Café OTO, the Melbourne professor presents an overwhelming sensory occurrence alongside opening performers Tom Scott and Ben.Harper. With a last minute change meaning that fellow hybrid artist Sally Golding would not be complementing the set with her more interactive take on a similarly aligned interdisciplinary practice, it is up to them to present their own points of difference. But where pianist Scott’s incredibly sparse song compositions, alongside a murmuring low-noise sample, is to offset the cracking, booming onslaught of Fox’s performance to come, Harper’s experiments with a table of cluttered effects pedals presents a more appropriate build up to the show to come.
After more instruction from the master of ceremonies and last minute calls to the male toilets before all entry would be barred –its placement directly under Fox’s star laser beam rendering any thoroughfare an unwanted distraction –the room is thrust into the roaring noise of an electrical signal hitting the speakers. A green tunnel of light comes with it as the sounds crack and curl in time with the frenetic movement of the cone-shaped projection enveloping its audience. Here, electricity is experienced in the three-dimensional mirage of dancing light, coagulated by the reflection of swirling dry ice. A crackling speaker and distorted noise twists and turns with the shifting geometry, while the braver of the mesmerised crowd thrusts a shadow-casting finger or two into a sheet of green. It’s a physical, almost tangible experience generated through pure energy and no number of photos or film stills could capture it. Nonetheless there are a still a few who try in an act rendered futile in an event that must be experienced to be understood.
With electricity being not only at the foundation of the modern world but the source of all life, Fox’s work represents a preoccupation with, not what distinguishes things from each other but how they all connect. Because, in the same way that we all theoretically experience synesthetic cross-modality in infancy, Fox presents us with a synchronous experience at its most primal, delivered through a complex framework of science and technology.
Robin Fox performed at Café OTO Dalston on September 16, 2012.