The Return Of Drawing Machines
In a society that creates automated processes for just about everything, it’s no surprise that we’ve even gone so far as to make art making a hands-off endeavor. Beginning with the first drawing machines from Desmond Paul Henry, a British digital art pioneer who constructed a series of mechanical drawing machines from analog bombsight computers in the 1960s and continuing on to generative art today, painting the artist out of the picture has become a common contemporary art practice.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise to see drawing machines making a comeback with such force lately. Ranging from the solar-powered SADbot (Seasonally Affected Drawing Robot) from Eyebeam, to the bicycle-powered Sharpie-wielding drawing machines of Joseph Griffiths, to Harvey Moon’s refined automated portraits of celebrities and historical figures. But the mother of all drawing machine innovations comes in the form of this room-sized machine from Danish designer Eske Rex.
The colossal apparatus was exhibited at MINDCRAFT11 earlier this month and was inspired by another machine: the harmonograph, a device that makes geometric images using a pendulum. Rex’s version of the device uses two simple wooden pendulums, heavy weights, and colorful ballpoint pens. Throughout the swinging process, the canvas remains still.
The Drawingmachine takes up 380 square feet of floor space. Each of the two pendulums is 9 feet high and can support up to 165 pounds and the drawings it produces are a giant 9′ × 9′.
Rex calls the project “a never-ending experiment where it is impossible to produce two identical drawings.” In addition to the final product, however, the Drawingmachine becomes a public spectacle: “It is easy to become entranced while watching the drawing emerge, line by line.” As it’s propelled by gravity only, Rex stresses that the creative process can be tricky, and encourages “using it as a tool to improvise and create specific visual expression” through “a lot of practice and experimentation.” With a mammoth free-standing structure and an entrancing cyclical method, Rex’s design doesn’t only create art; it is art in itself.
Watch the video above to see Rex’s Drawingmachine in action.