Installation bios [torah]
A robot – writing a Torah? And adopting the human act of writing instead of digital printing?
The exhibition The Creation of the World: Illustrated Manuscripts from the Braginsky Collection (2014) featured the Torah scribe Reuven Yaacobov working on a Torah in front of museumgoers. In contrast, the installation bios [torah] demonstrated that an industrial robot equipped with quill and ink could write a total of 304,805 Hebrew letters on an 80-meter roll of paper at human speed.
The installation "bios [torah]" by the artist collective robotlab makes reference to the act of Torah writing performed by a specially trained scribe called a sofer in Jewish tradition. Whereas the sofer guarantees the sanctity of the manuscript, the installation highlights its industrial reproducibility. It simulates a centuries-old cultural technique that has long been overtaken by developments in printing and other media.
A Torah written by the industrial robot is not kosher – its origins fulfill neither the material nor immaterial requirements of Jewish religious law. The robot does not distinguish between parchment and paper. It does not know any blessings. It writes what it is programmed to in the preset manner.
The installation title also refers to a fundamental component of computer technology, the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). BIOS is the system upon which all other computer programs build and is thus as intrinsic to the evolution of machines as writing is to human cultural history.
The robotlab artist collective examines the relationship between human and machine, repeatedly using industrial robots in its public installations and performances. robotlab creates experimental designs that open up new perspectives on the body and the mechanical movements of robots. Thus they serve as a preview of a future in which robots have become a visible part of daily life in society.
robotlab – Matthias Gommel, Martina Haitz, Jan Zappe
bios [torah] (2007/14)
Work on Hebrew calligraphy and typesetting:
Sahar Aharoni, Karlsruhe
With the kind support of:
ZKM in Karlsruhe, KUKA in Augsburg, LAMY in Heidelberg, PAPIER UNION in Karlsruhe, CORDIER Papier in Bad Durkheim, WINTOPO in Biggleswade, UK