Scanner - a way of absorbing and reflecting.
One of the most interesting electronic music artists around these days is a London based young man named Robin Rimbaud, but people who pay a bit of attention to the electronic music world would mainly know him for his artistic name Scanner. And they would probably know his works from projects, collaborations and electronic music festivals around Europe. But rather than being known for a certain album, Scanner gets a highly achieved attention for his way of working with his soundmaterials and also his visualities that often follows his music on stage.
He characeterizes his activities in different ways and plays around with the possibiliteies of the meaning of Scanner as the subject. To reflect the works of Berlin based artist Daniel Pflumm, we have chosen to ask Scanner some questions about his own production which often relates tight to visual arts, film etc. as collaborations or own visual productions. The interview is followed by one of Scanner's statements and a selected CV for this publication.
Scanner soon to Oslo:
For those who are in Oslo at the end of March, Scanner will play together with David Cunningham at Ridehuset, March 31, as part of the festival "Performer".
Others can "only " visit his website www.scannerdot.com and play around (mp3)with some of his stuff.
Tor-Magnus Lundeby, Helsinki, 2001.
TML: You are normally performing on stage as a soundmaker, how would you describe your use of readymade materials as a DJ?
SCANNER: I have actually never described myself as a DJ. I am a poor DJ in reality but I work with sound in an intriguing manner. The idea of the readymade, the found, within contemporary arts is interesting though and plays a part in much of my work as I use the found sound, the indiscriminate signals that float around the ether, the abstract sounds that you locate in the city environment, taking some ordinary and making something extraordinary with it.
TML: How have you developed your interest in video and other visuals that you incorporate in your performances?
SCANNER: The relationship between the visual and the sound is a curious one - I clearly avoid images that attempt to illustrate the sound, I work with textures and layers that act as a further exploratory layer within the performance or installation. I work with video artists and am currently making a video piece myself to be presented at the new Valencia Biennale in Spain this summer.
TML: You have done some projects related to public space and urban life, do you consider them more important for you in a later use, for the listeners, than how they take place in their original context?
SCANNER: In fact most of my work now actually takes part in public space. I realise that is where I receive the most positive feedback from and enjoy working the most. When I consider projects that I have produced over the last few years and am preparing for the next two they seem to follow a pattern of works that look at the relationship between the private and the public, the macro and micro. My project Surface Noise in London in 1999 explored two points of sound significance in the city - Big Ben and St Paul's Cathedral and then the public followed my sound trip on a bus ride. I am currently making works in the Metro system in Washington DC, in the tram system of Gotheburg Sweden and a permanent work, Sound Curtain, exists in the Science Museum in London exploring the hidden micro sounds of urban digital technology. I sometimes alter the sounds and sometimes use them as authentic icons to suggest and invite listeners into the work.
TML: In some of your videos you manipulate time and space (i.e. a traffic sequence) to create a trigging or appealing atmosphere for the music you do on stage, is that correct, or do you work on your visual language as an independent piece of art that goes along with the music?
SCANNER: I suppose this relates to the earlier question - I actually place trust in video artists I have collaborated with to a degree and with my own work I am interested in an abstract relationship between the sound and the image. Digital technology has allowed us all to become time travellers of a sort and move through time and image at the speed we wish in some manner.
TML: How important are the fascination of loops for you, and can you tell us how you did your first loop experiment?
SCANNER: It relates to the idea of repetition and when I was just 14 years old I would create tape loops - long pieces of analogue tape from a Reel to Reel recorder and let them move around my room in an extended fashion and simply hang a microphone out the window and listen to the amplified sound of the loop as it increased in noise levels as time passed by and traffic and pedestrians passed by my bedroom window.
Loops are an interesting way of focusing the attention and exploring the spaces between the regular intervals. Terry Riley and Steve Reich, especially in their earlier works in the 1960s, were a great inspiration to me relating to this issue.
TML: Repeating, stretching and twisting a sequence or a sample, are aspects that are often used in the mind of visual artists, too. But as a constructive element, do you think breaking, cutting deleating fits better music than visual arts?
SCANNER:There can be a freedowm within sound that image cannot often gain - as a medium it can be almost infinitely twisted and manipulated but the language still understood no matter where it takes you to in terms of the imagination of the listener. That intrigues me a lot - one cannot control how the music and sound is perceived as people listen to CDs in their cars, on the way to university, the radio, mp3 players, etc, whereas with most visual art it is curated within a confined gallery space within certain parameters.
TML: How do you follow the art scene?
SCANNER: An odd question but I follow it as an outsider - the explorer from the inside! I can reap great pleasure from it but never know who the artists are, what they look like or anything.
TML: What do you think about visual arts going elektro or clubbing?
SCANNER: It is inevitable. Image and sound have been connected for centuries and in the 20 th century artists collaborated with ballet and composers wrote music for them, the pop art movement especially set fire in the UK to a very fervid creative imagination, so it was inevitable that it would end up in this environment. I have no problem with it, just wish that a few more risks were taken rather the desire to 'illustrate' the sound in context. In this manner I wish to enclose a short essay I recently wrote relating to these issues which you are welcome to quote from - it was focusing on UK artists and sound especially:
The Future of Music
by Robin Rimbaud aka Scanner
Can we any longer speak of the future of a medium? With digital technology developing faster than the language and the skills we need to work with it, how do we adapt and process these constantly redefined defaults and definitions?
Step outside for a moment and consider what you see, what you hear, what you smell. This experience, this 'stuff,' is the very substance that colours our experience and seasons our knowledge. We cannot escape it. We constantly breathe it in, soaking ourselves in its unique texture. Sound is always present, sometimes as a constantly shifting whirr, as a damp grain of footsteps, the drone like spangle of distant traffic, or as the seemingly motionless air that ripples past our ears, the elegant stuttering trill of a bird overhead.
Art as a process has always enabled us to take these elements and adapt, treat, edit and alter them into something fresh. Coupled with the advancements in digital technology in the UK, we have consistently produced work that provokes fundamental questions about the nature and role of arts in Britain today. We can no longer simply speak of music and the visual arts in separate breaths as an intricately connected language links all the mediums in which we now operate. A dense network of relationships, exchanges, influences and interferences between the figurative arts and the music world has at least for the last 30 years led to some of the most innovative work around.
By collaborating with Peter Blake on the artwork for their Sergeant Pepper album, The Beatles iniated a popularist image of the arts, continuing this with Richard Hamilton for their minimalististic White Album artwork. British art schools immediately matched these workings in an open experimental climate and encouraged a flow of collaboration that continues today in its voracious manner: Derek Jarman worked with the Pet Shop Boys, Brian Eno with U2, Sam Taylor Wood and Damien Hirst directed pop videos. A hybrid culture constantly being reborn.
At the same time youth culture and fashion have united more closely than ever. Where boy groups discofy the catchy compressed pop of the sixties, typographers and graphic artists like Antirom, Tomato and The Designers Republic spill words and image across the pages and screens of our consumerable age, and multimedia collectives like Dfuse, Fuel and Greyworld explore the outreaches of the digital page, the HTML graffiti. Sleazenation, Dazed and Confused, Self Service magazines ripple with dispelled connections between the music world and elsewhere. Perhaps it is in the hallucinatory and visionary collaboration between Chris Cunningham and Aphex Twin on the Windowlicker and Come To Daddy videos that best displays our future for a raw temporal moment, both capturing the English morbid sense of humour and surreal tactics and innovative use of sound within the pop medium.
I have recognised these symptoms in my own output. Working lately with graphics artist Tonne on projects that unite image and sound, we have attempted to bring together a new relationship to the creation of music and musical instruments, the enjoyment and participation of music and audience and the relationship between music and image (usually formatted as packaged music/sound.). A work like Soundtoys displays our interest in bringing together a new synthesis between the sound and the associated image. Played live as sound and image instruments, music is controlled and constructed by various sound units. Sound and its corresponding image and performance is dependent upon acoustic phenomena. An audience responds to and with it. Understanding 'how' the technology works is less important than for an audience to be able to very rapidly comprehend how their actions can play and effect this work and in so doing reflects the conceptual shift that new technologies have played in one's own shifting concept of live art.
Inevitably our future is far beyond comprehension. Computers and related software packages have enabled a process to begin, and really this is only the beginning, of experimentation far beyond our preconceptions. British pop musicians have intuited the visual dimension of their work constantly and recognising that the computer is an optically based medium and its music composition software is framed in the language of graphic design is a psychological leap that will open up countless dimensions of creativity. The fact that one cannot answer a question of a possible 'future' is both an unsettling and yet inspiring admission.