Jürg Lehni: Robotic gestures, choreographed drawings and poetic machines

Jürg is a designer, artist, engineer and, above all, an entertaining person. And he has a witty way of connecting it all.

Jürg showing the artwork of his “robot family”. © Sebastian Weiß (Monotype)

The Swiss-born designer Jürg programs, builds various machines, performs researches and presents his work in various galleries and institutions.

His devices are given names, they’re given an identity; he never calls them robots. It makes sense: technology is used in a very transparent way, they do what people can do by hand. Jürg’s “family” includes Hector, a portable spray paint

output device for computers, Victor, a robotic chalk-drawing machine, Rita, a recording and playback device for drawings, and more. Each of his project deals with the task on hand with a witty, crafty, even somewhat malicious, yet joyful twist: It’s great to see a robot struggling with a piece of chalk. Jürg admits that he often doesn’t know whether his idea will work or will perhaps works differently than he expected – he calls these situations a “Frankenstein moment”.
Jürg Lehni

Jürg Lehni

Designer, Artist, Programmer (Switzerland)

Jürg Lehni works collaboratively across disciplines, dealing with the nuances of technology, tools, and the human condition. His works often take the form of platforms and scenarios for production, such as the drawing machines Hektor, Rita, and Viktor, as well as software-based structures and frameworks, including Paperjs.org, Scriptographer.org and Vectorama.org. Lehni has shown work internationally in group and solo shows at the MoMA New York, Walker Art Center, Centre Pompidou, Institute of Contemporary Arts London, Victoria and Albert Museum, Design Museum London, Kunsthalle St. Gallen, etc.

Someone might object that Jürg’s talk was merely a retrospective presentation of his work. But his physical presence in the room conveyed his enthusiasm. Giggling at his own jokes throughout the show, Jürg has confirmed that he not only has fun with his work but also with presenting it.

Someone would perhaps ask what Jürg’s things are good for. His projects won’t save the planet’s population from starving, or calm down the political situation in Eastern Europe. But you could say that about any art. His works is fun: for the audience, for himself. And he has proven that on stage at TYPO Berlin.