The Science and Industry Museum channel Nikola Tesla with XFRMR

Robbie Thomson’s Nikola Tesla-inspired work has been called “an assault on the senses”

By Ben Brown | 15 January 2019

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This February will see Nikola Tesla meet Industrial Electronica as Robbie Thomson’s spectacular XFRMR (pronounced ‘Transformer’) is performed in Manchester for the first time at the Science and Industry Museum.

In 1891 the genius inventor Nikola Tesla tamed lightning with his Tesla coil, a device that renders electricity visible. Anyone who has played Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 or has seen that film with Hugh Jackman – The Prestige – will know what I’m going on about.

Coming to the city on Friday 15th February, XFRMR explores the possibilities of the Tesla coil as an instrument in a composition inspired by the sounds of space weather and electromagnetic fields. Housed in an imposing steel Faraday cage and accompanied by audio-reactive projections, this work is a physical assault on the senses.

Thomson’s musical accompaniment – a soundtrack played on laptop and synthesiser, by turns melodic and soothing, then pulsing, skittering and searing – strikes visuals from the coil, sending light signals flaring through the Faraday cage that contains it. The grid of the cage displays ever-changing geometries, as light seems to fuse with sound to make synaesthetic patterns, in a unique sensory phenomenon.

Robbie Thomson is a Glasgow-based visual artist working in sound, kinetic sculptures and visuals.  His works have been displayed across Australia, France, Indonesia, Mexico, The Netherlands, South Korea and widely across the UK.

“It’s great to be bringing XFRMR to Manchester” says Robbie. “I’ve toured this set a lot over the past few years but this will be the first time I’ve shown the work in a museum setting. Supporting the ‘Electricity: The spark of life’ exhibition is the perfect environment given that Tesla is often called one of history’s most important inventors, whose discoveries in this field were way ahead of his time and continue to influence technology today.”


Robbie Thomson’s XFRMR
Note: Over 18’s only

Venue: Science and Industry Museum
Date: Friday 15th February
Time: 8:00pm – 9:45pm
Cost: £5


Science & Industry Museum, Liverpool Rd, Manchester M3 4FP