Robin Rimbaud  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Robin Rimbaud (born in 1964 in Southfields, London) is an electronic musician who works under the name Scanner due to his use of cell phone and police scanners in live performance.


Rimbaud is also a writer and media critic, multi-media artist and record producer. He borrowed his stage name from the device he used in his early recordings, picking up indeterminate radio signals in the airwaves and using them as an instrument in his compositions.

Growing up, Scanner was interested in avant-garde literature, cinema and music. When he was a teenager his family was bereaved when his father was killed in a motorcycle accident. He attended Kingston University in Surrey, earning a degree in Modern Arts (BA). He created music as Dau Al Set and The Rimbaud Brothers, releasing cassette editions in the early 1980s.

He released Peyrere compilation cassette album in 1986, featuring the work of Nurse with Wound, Derek Jarman, Current 93, Coil and Test Dept. That same year, he composed the soundtrack to a short film A Horse with No Name, directed by Phil Viner, shown at the London Film Festival.

In 1989, he was commissioned to contribute to the Cultural Icons publication (Bloomsbury) edited by James Park, writing many articles on contemporary art, literature, music and dance.

His debut Scanner CD was released in 1992 on Ash International, a subsidiary label of London's Touch Music label. He continued to produce the first dozen releases with Mike Harding of Touch, including Scanner 2 Mass Observation, Blind, and Runaway Train, a real-time recording of the captivating radio contact between Alfie, controller of the line and Wesley, the driver of a runaway train. Location: New Brunswick, Canada, recorded 9 March 1948.

In 1994, he pioneered one of the first webzines, in the very early days of the internet, I/O/D, in collaboration with Matthew Fuller and Graham Harwood. In 1998, he presented Surface Noise on a London bus, commissioned by Artangel, and won the Imaginaria 99 Award for Digital Arts, ICA London the following year. He re-soundtracked Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville movie in a series of performances around the world, whilst playfully presenting 16 concerts in one evening using a series of Scanner look-alikes to perform in his absence. For 2003, he installed a permanent installation in Raymond Poincaré hospital in Garches, France as part of the bereavement suite Channel of Flight<ref> link to Channel of Flight</ref>. In 2004, Tate Modern commissioned Sound Surface in collaboration with Stephen Vitiello as their first sonic arts work. In the same year, he composed "Europa 25", an alternative National Anthem for Europe that was freely distributed via 10,000 CDs and a website.

He has continued to collaborate with classical musicians – Michael Nyman for Ars Electronica in Linz, Austria, Musique Nouvelles in Belgium for their 'Play Along' collaborative string quartet, and opera singer Patricia Rozario for a new untitled work in 2007.

From 1994-2000, he set up and "curated" The Electronic Lounge music club at London’s ICA, where these monthly sessions presented nights of music in a social environment. Nights included presentations with the record companies Warp Records, Irdial, Ninja Tune, Touch, Mego, Leaf Records and many others.

Since 2000 he has featured on BBC Radio 4, as a commentator on issues relating to popular music on a number of occasions.

Working with choreographer Wayne McGregor, he created Nemesis for Random Dance in 2002, Detritus for Ballet Rambert in 2003, and Qualia for the Royal Ballet in 2004. He continues to work with dance, with new works for Shobana Jeyasingh and Siobhan Davies in 2007. In 2006 he created the sound for Merce Cunningham’s E:vent at London’s Barbican theatre.

In 2006, he created Night Haunts, a monthly online artwork, working with writer Sukhdev Sandhu and designers Mind Unit. He sound-designed Aitan Errusi’s new British horror film Reverb.

In 2005, he was a contributing curator ‘J’en rêve’ at Fondation Cartier Paris, and in 2006, jointly curated the video art exhibition ‘Mobile’ at Espace Landowski Paris.

His BBC radio production of Jean Cocteau’s ‘The Human Voice’ won the Prix Marulic Award and recently, he won First Prize Neptun Water Prize for his installation ‘Wishing Well’ in Germany, in collaboration with Austrian artist Katarina Matiasek. In 1998, he became ‘Professor Scanner’ at John Moore’s University in Liverpool.

He is a Contributing Editor of, a London centric e-zine which goes out weekly via HTML email to 27,000+ subscribers.

He recently contributed a chapter to Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008) edited by Paul D. Miller a.k.a. DJ Spooky.

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