Thinking Machines

Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria

03.11.18 – 10.03.19 ArtLab EPFL

EPFL ArtLab’s Thinking Machines. Ramon Llull and the ars combinatoria, is a bold exhibition that draws together scholarly, scientific and artistic modes of enquiry. Through it, we reread the late Middle Ages in the works of Ramon Llull, the outstanding Catalan philosopher and theologian, to explore the ramifications of his thinking in the realms of modern and contemporary art, and computation. The reverberations of Llullian thought on technology, art and culture find their present-day corollary in a pedagogical revolution which has ‘computational thinking’ at its core.

This four-month exhibition proposes fresh perspectives on contemporary technologies and their development through the ages under the influence of both art and science. The exhibition offers a space in which visitors can reflect on the significance of Llullian combinatorics for generative and algorithmic principles which are now developed in advanced technologies. Thinking Machines likewise raises ethical questions on the accumulation and transfer of knowledge through intelligent systems.

The exhibition is organized by the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, in collaboration with the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona – CCCB and EPFL | École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne. Curated by Amador Vega (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona), Peter Weibel (ZKM | Karlsruhe), and Siegfried Zielinski (UdK, Berlin University of the Arts), Thinking Machines is realized at EPFL under the leadership of ArtLab director: Sarah Kenderdine.

Specifically designed to be encountered through either of its two opposite entrances in the Pavilion B of EPFL’s ArtLab, the exhibition offers visitors a non-linear curatorial assemblage that can be approached bidirectionally. The four primary themes of this exhibition are: Inside Thinking Machines, Variantology, Poetics of Knowledge, and Towards Computational Thinking.

Contemporary artists and thinkers are in interactive dialogue with the great work of Ramon Llull. He was a nomad moving extensively across the world around the Mediterranean Sea, in the same way as his ideas were to travel, be rediscovered and echoed across time.

Download brochure of the exhibition

Participating artists and thinkers

Abraham Abulafia, Petrus Apianus, Ralf Baecker, Manuel Barbadillo, Berlin Society for Nontrivial Pursuits (S4NTP), Michael Bielicky, Hélène Binet, John Cage, Juan Eduardo Cirlot, Salvador Dalí, Márton Fernezelyi, Philipp Goldbach, Matthias Gommel, Jean-Jacques Grandville, Sabine Groschup, Philipp Matthäus Hahn, Daniel Irrgang, Sarah Kenderdine, Yunchul Kim, Athanasius Kircher, Alexander von Kryha, Werner Künzel, Pe Lang, Nikolaus Joachim Lehmann, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Daniel Libeskind, David Link, Bernd Lintermann, Ramon Llull, Christian Lölkes, Josep Maria Mestres Quadreny, Stephan Michelspacher, Manfred Mohr, Thomas Le Myésier, Valère Novarina, José Pal Latorre, Perejaume, Miklós Peternák, Giovanni Battista della Porta, Robert Preusse, Francesc Pujols, Raymond Queneau, Stefanie Rau, Sophie Reiser, Kamila B. Richter, Petrus Roselli, Arnold Schönberg, Jeffrey Shaw, Adam Słowik, Josep Soler, Josep Maria Subirachs, Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák, Edwin Thumboo, Philipp Tögel, Tatjana Joëlle van Vark, Amador Vega, Peter Weibel, Iannis Xenakis, José María Yturralde, Lazarus Zetzner, Siegfried Zielinski

From 3 November 2018 to 10 March 2019

Opening hours

Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 6 pm
Thursday from 11 am to 8 pm
Closed on Monday

Admission free

Access to ArtLab Building

Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
Place Cosandey
CH – 1015 Lausanne

Subway: M1, stop EPFL
TL: 57 or 33, stop EPFL
MBC: stop Parc Scientifique
By car: highway Lausanne Sud, EPFL/UNIL exit

Access map
Underground Rolex Learning Center parking


ArtLab building
Station 22
CH – 1015 Lausanne

+41 21 693 65 01


Director: Sarah Kenderdine
Curatorial assistance and project coordination: Giulia Bini
Manuscript specialist: Lisandra S. Costiner
Exhibition architectural design: Matthias Gommel
Exhibition graphic design: Robert Preusse & Stefanie Rau (
Website programming: Martin Wecke
Technical installation: Vincent Jaccoud, Frédéric Paschoud, Patrick Chouard, Nikolaus Völzow
Art Handlers: Artinate
Printing: EPFL Print Center (myclimate certified)
Operation and programs: The ArtLab Team

ZKM | Karlsruhe

Curatorial assistance and project manager: Bettina Korintenberg
Registrar: Natascha Daher

The EPFL ArtLab thanks all artists and lenders.