Back in the mid-80s, charismatic maverick Patrick D. Martin magnetised a group of eclectic individuals into realising the Roboshow, a theatrical 3D multiscreen computer synchronised audio video spectacular, hosted by a virtual robot called Q. The vision was to create a global franchise of Roboshows making fortunes for QNet, the creative co-operative network behind it. Seed funding was initially raised for the Technocab pilot, which delivered a multi-sensory experience in the back of a modified London Cab. The Technocab’s success helped raise a further £725,000 from financier and fashion impresario Peter Bertelesen, and Robodevco Ltd was then formed to produce the Roboshow. A 12 minute pilot show was produced, but despite being well received by the press and test audiences, no further funding was raised for a full blown Roboshow. There were, however, a number of spin-offs that developed both the ideas behind the Roboshow and its technologies, which were used in the arts, music and commercial arenas.
The Roboshow could be seen as an attempt to commercialise what Gene Youngblood termed Expanded Cinema (1970), particularly given some of the talk about “spiritually uplifting experiences” and ‘psycho-sensory art” (see New Scientist Magazine Feature, November 1986). The key creative component was an abstract visual music experience build around a Qabalah-based structure rather than narrative-based drama (10 years before Madonna converted from Catholicism to Kabbalah). This visual music approach evolved from Patricks two earlier Vidzine (1981-82) and TV Fetish (1983) collaborations.
A substantial archive of original Roboshow material exists charting a number of different aspects of the Roboshow’s evolution and aftermath. A growing list of artifacts is still being added to, but in the meantime some video highlights have been selected to help provide an overview of the project:
Richard Brown was the system designer for the Roboshow and key member of the creative/technical team. In this video interview he explains his role and gives a candid appraisal of the enterprise.
Roboshow Documentary Part 1: features early documentary footage of the Roboshow team discussing the shows creative and techhical processes.
The Roboshow Electronic Press Kit (EPK): Promotional video featuring Q the Robot and a snippet of Patrick D. Martins earlier TV Fetish experimental music/video production. The EPK also features footage from the Technocab prototype, as well as press and audience feedback.
The 3D audio recording of the Roboshow pilot soundtrack was later re-purposed for Patrick D. Martins subsequent Pyschovisision spin-off. The music written and produced by Patrick and Phil Nicholas. Tracks included: ‘Psycho-sensory/Pay Clone XTC’, ‘Geburah’ (aka Mars) and ‘Psycho Drone’ (attached below).
One the original hopes of this REWIRE 2011 submission was that it would instigate subsequent discussion about not only what it takes to get a art meets technology and commerce operation off the ground, but also to succeed. An an initial analysis into what lessons could be learned from the failure of the Roboshow collaboration. This highlights the inequitable structure of the company formed to realise the show, which became a key contributor to it’s demise.