Visionary artist Robin Fox will be hitting the Seymour Centre as part of Vivid’s New Wave: Sound program. After almost a decade of performing his monochromatic green Laser Show across the globe, he is now presenting his triple threat RGB (red, green and blue) production, and it’s going to be spectacular.
Despite the fact that Fox’s work is incredibly modern, his initial inspiration was fostered decades ago. “It goes all the way back to my childhood and my mother who had synesthesia, which meant that she had a relationship between sound, light and numbers. Every time I had a birthday it had some kind of significance with a sound and colour, so that was always in my life.”
His interest in this relationship was further enhanced during and after acquiring a PhD in composition and an MA in musicology. “I became interested in electronic music and the creation of tones. When you move from traditional music to electronic you tend to change the language into an almost scientific one. Instead of talking about pitch, you talk about frequency and amplitude. You talk about the physical properties. So when I started exploring electronic music, particularly psychoacoustics – the effect that electronic sounds can have on your brain – I started to get interested in the idea that sound is simply an organisation of air.”
He continues, “[Sound] is a particular way that air pushes backwards and forwards in space and affects you as a biological organism. Your ears decode this vibration. When I started to look further into that, I realised that if you think that way about sound, you could think that way about almost everything. Everything has a frequency and everything is tied up in this idea of oscillation.”
What is so fascinating about Fox is his true love for the science behind his work, which is evident as he explains the difference between imagery and sound. “Noise is an interesting thing, because your hearing is your fastest sensory response. It takes quite a while to process an image, roughly a quarter of a second, so by the time you’re understanding things visually they’ve already happened. What I like about noise is that you’re constantly in a physical state of panic when you’re listening to it, because it’s connected to our fight or flight response.”
But Fox didn’t want to be limited by these differences – he wanted to combine sound and light. He arrived at the plan after looking through an ordinary hospital oscilloscope 15 years ago. “I had heard that you could plug sound into them and look at it, which I found interesting and resonated with me because of my mother’s synesthesia. So I plugged my sound into this machine, and most of it was kind of rubbish, but then there was this fraction of a second where everything came together in this incredibly geometric way. The sound started making these shapes and I thought, ‘Holy shit, this is amazing.’ I had a revelation; this is what I wanted to look at and since then I’ve been pretty obsessed with it.”
Fox continues to use these methods today. “The idea in this new show is that you see and hear the same electrical signal at the same time. It creates equivalence in your brain between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing. It’s not about syncing audio with image. They are the same thing, and that’s the important thing about the way it’s experienced … My intention with the piece is to create a kind of artificial synesthesia.”