“A Recent History of Writing and Drawing is an exhibition that explores the evolving relationship between technologies of communication and their users. It is a project by the programmer / designer Jürg Lehni and the graphic designer Alex Rich, curated by design historian Emily King, and involves a variety of interactive and non-interactive devices for writing and drawing.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is Viktor, a large wall-drawing machine that is controlled by an adapted version of ordinary design software and powered by small industrial motors. On Thursday evenings the gallery will host a variety of speakers – including designers, artists and musicians – who are themselves known for using technologies in more or less orthodox ways. During these events Viktor will trace accompanying material on the gallery wall, the image remaining in place for the following week.
Other exhibits include a machine for creating hole-punched posters, and a specially-adapted handheld printer, and all of the works will allow visitors to explore the relationship between technology and expression. Moving away from the blunt duality of man vs. machine, it is now possible to appreciate the particular qualities of various forms of mechanical and digital mark-making. Technologies can be enjoyed for their poetry and exploited for their spare capacity – their ability to undertake tasks not foreseen by their makers.
Lehni, the creator of Viktor, is interested in the nature of tools, and reworks technologies to suit his own needs, often defying the apparent closure of proprietary software. After seeing one of Lehni’s drawing machines at work, Rich – a deft observer of accidental meaning – opened a discussion with the designer about the machine’s historical and cultural context. Since this time the pair have had an ongoing exchange about the tools of communication and the potential of customised and corralled technology.”
On view at the ICA, London, until months end.