A Taxonomy of Communication, drawn by Viktor

Viktor
Jürg Lehni, Viktor, 2006–16; Accessions Committee Fund purchase, 2014

As a part of Typeface to Interface, Viktor will draw parts of A Taxonomy of Communication on Floor 6 at 1:30 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays, and 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

Viktor is designed to draw autonomously and with exceptional precision. Though it is driven by custom software and four computer-controlled motors, it executes compositions using a surprisingly simple medium: chalk. This interplay of the digital and the analog inspires Jürg Lehni, who himself blurs disciplines, working as an artist, designer, engineer, tinkerer, and inventor. Viktor embodies the increasing difficulty of distinguishing between medium and method in contemporary communication—it is both a tool and a performance, an apparatus for creating and an artwork in itself.

For the exhibition, Lehni and collaborator Jenny Hirons have created A Taxonomy of Communication, a series of drawings that chart a history of visible language and communication tools. Each set of drawings deals with a subset of the evolution of these technologies – from writing, reading, displays, signs, and interfaces.

“Whether we use a stylus to punch shapes into clay, use our hands and fingers to form gestures or read Braille, learn the 10 finger system to type words into a typewriter or computer, come up with grids and systems to form our letters, make a fire to send clouds into the sky in a specific rhythm, there is one underlying theme: the purpose is communication. In the past, humans used knives to shape wood into instruments that allowed us to write; today we are surrounded by software interfaces that allow us to communicate with machines and each other. A Taxonomy of Communication is about the exchange of information, and the systems we use that have become part of our culture and identity.”

— Jürg Lehni





Jürg Lehni’s extraordinary drawing machine

Swiss artist and designer Jürg Lehni reveals the history and philosophy behind his work Viktor (2006–16). He discusses how this large-scale chalk-drawing machine installed at SFMOMA explores issues of communication and technology through medium and imagery.

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