The Roboshow

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 Patrick’s 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 show’s creative and techhical processes.

The Roboshow Electronic Press Kit (EPK): Promotional video featuring Q the Robot and a snippet of Patrick D. Martin’s 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. Martin’s 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).

A selection of press articles have also been added here, with features from The Observer and New Scientist being the most comprehensive.

A number of interviews have been conducted with the surviving Roboshow protagonists, and have been included in the people section together with profiles of the other key collaborators.

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.

  • Hugh

    There are a number of other press clippings which would be worth adding to the site (assuming there are no copyright complications???) These are the additional ones I think I have tracked down, apologies if some of them are already posted here somewhere…

    > Encyclopedia Psychedelica [Volume 3]: the Robodevco comic strip (truly wonderful, including a trip to see a demo show in Torriano Avenue!)
    > Various Midem bits and pieces
    > Design Week [October 17 1986]: ‘High Price for Hi-Tech Retailers’
    > Televisual [Nov 86]: ‘Two Techniques Launched’
    > Televisual: ‘Variation On Moving Pics’
    > Hot Shoe [#48]: Interview with Tim
    > ‘The Q Starts here For The Roboshow’: Can’t cross-reference this one at the moment, so it may already be here somewhere? Written by Keith Watson, it is based on an interview with Marcus
    > Omni [Dec 87]: Total Movies
    > Time Out: ‘I, Robot’
    > The Games Machine [Oct/Nov 87]: ‘Welcome To The Roboshow’ (Easily the most comprehensive review of the implications of what we were doing…)
    > Audio Visual [Jan 88]: ‘Coming Of Age With The A-V Industry’ (review of the Renault 21 launch show)
    > Audio Visual [Mar 88]; ‘The Controlled Approach’ (about the Robocore)

  • Anonymous

    Do you have these. I’ll add ‘em if you’ve got them, particularly Encyclopedia Psychedelica as I’ve been trying to track it down.

  • Hugh

    Somewhere I hopefully have originals, which should scan better than the photocopies knocking about in more accessible locations…