Scanner: How To Make Art From Life

The Lowry Theatre; Saturday 22nd April 2017.



Composer Robin Rimbaud a.k.a. Scanner took his stage name from the fact that he once created shows by using an analogue scanner to intercept live telephone calls being made in the vicinity of the theatre.

Thankfully modern digital encryption means that Mr Scanner can no longer stick his nose into your business. So instead he came to the intimate environment of the Aldridge Studio at Salford’s Lowry Theatre to tell us all about it.

For more than 25 years Scanner has been prolific in producing a wide variety of audio-visual delights: sonic art, concert productions, audio installations and recordings – essentially experimenting with contemporary electronic music, turning it into a modern art form and, in some cases, taking it even further.

The evening began with a ~45-minute performance. Whilst a series of near-hypnotic videos played on the projector, Scanner delivered a live musical accompaniment to each, using nothing more than a couple of laptops, a synth pad, and a rather comically small electronic keyboard.

The videos were highly evocative, the kind of scenes you may expect to see on a multi-million pound television advert for very expensive perfume:

  • slow motion footage of models flicking their hair over their shoulders in a derelict house;
  • droplets of ink dispersing in water at an infuriatingly relaxed pace;
  • wireframe tours of virtual worlds, maybe something like examining the maps of a yet unconquered kingdom in some fiendishly complex computer game.

The live musical performance was ultra-ambient, no heavy bass, just a soft, mellow murmur in the background, one which instantly induced deep breaths and even deeper contemplation.

Following his performance, Scanner briefly described everything he had just done, explaining what made him choose the videos that he did, and how he created the musical accompaniment. Furthermore, a brief biographical history was given: his influences as a young child; and examples from his incredibly diverse portfolio over the last two-and-a-half decades. His work has moved well beyond art for the sake of performance, there was a detailed analysis of two of his very practical pieces of work: an installation in a hospital swimming pool to assist the rehabilitation of victims of serious brain injury; and a commission to install a static audio recording in a French morgue.

The evening ended with an audience Q&A session that bought yet more insight – most notably an excellent question about which comes first: the video or the music?

In the end this became much more than the performance that the audience paid for – to get so much detail and insight from the artist himself into how he literally turns ordinary life into art was a great privilege – and just when we thought he couldn’t have been any nicer, he gave everyone a free CD to take home.

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