Amplifier for Art, Science and Society
  • Symposium

Thinking Machines | Machine Thinking


Rolex Learning Center


In the framework of the exhibition Thinking Machines. Ramon Llull and the Ars Combinatoria, the EPFL CDH and ArtLab organise a symposium in conjunction to the launch of the publication DIA-LOGOS Ramon Llull's Method of Thought and Artistic Practice initiated by the ZKM Karlsruhe and published by Minnesota Press, with support from EPFL.

In the publication, international experts address Lullism as a remarkable and distinctive method of thinking and experimenting. "Ars combinatoria", permutative generation of texts, the epistemic and poetic power of algorithmic systems, are among the coordinates of the theory of combination, which appeared very early in the history of science, technology, and art in the work of Ramon Llull. The exhibition brings together manuscripts and rare printed books, displaying for the first time a number of previously-unknown manuscript copies of Llull's texts, including a digital copy of a rare Arabic translation of the Ars brevis, housed in the library of the Maronite Archeparchy in Aleppo, Syria.

On the occasion of the book launch, the international symposium Thinking Machines – Machine Thinking aims to highlight the broad scope of Ramon Llull’s impact, in a many-layered network of references, showing the relevance of Llull’s investigations in the fields of Media Theory and Computation, at the same time focusing on a number of questions emerged through the exhibition, namely the challenges cultural heritage faces in complex geo-political circumstances. It is through the outstanding production of the Catalan philosopher, theologian, polymath from Majorca, that this international symposium offers a platform to explore the inter-disciplinary reverberations of Llull’s work.

The morning session is dedicated to the analyses of his academic figure, and to the legacy of his combinatorial system in the minds and practice of contemporary creators, as well as in the history of informatics, formal logic, media archaeology, and computational thinking.

The afternoon session offers new perspectives on the history of computing machines, drawing connections between the Renaissance invention of printing and the modern science of encryption.
The final section of the symposium will reflect on cultural heritage at risk and its preservation and digitization in conflict zones. This section will constitute an exceptional event, as it will see the participation of the executive director of the Maronite Library of Aleppo, Syria, who will bring for the first time at the EPFL, his rare expertise to the discussion, thus raising consciousness on the endangered written heritage in conflict zones and on the need of further measures for securing such textual memory.

Guided tours through the exhibition and the launch of the edited volume DIA-LOGOS Ramon Llull's Method of Thought and Artistic Practice1 , will offer a dynamic platform for intercultural and institutional exchange.

  1. The publication DIA-LOGOS Ramon Llull's Method of Thought and Artistic Practice was generously supported by Ernst von Siemens Stiftung

Developed by three internationally renowned artists and thinkers, Professor Amador Vega (Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona), Professor Peter Weibel (ZKM | Karlsruhe) and Professor Siegfried Zielinski (Berlin University of the Arts), Thinking Machines was realized for its Lausanne edition under the supervision of EPFL Pavilions' director, Professor Sarah Kenderdine.

© EPFL - Alain Herzog

© EPFL - Alain Herzog

© EPFL - Alain Herzog

© EPFL - Alain Herzog

© EPFL - Alain Herzog

© EPFL - Alain Herzog


Nicolas Ducimetière Vice director Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cologny
Macarios Jabbour Executive director Maronite Library Aleppo, Syria
Béla Kapossy Dean EPFL College of Humanities
Sarah Kenderdine Director EPFL ArtLab, Founding director eM+ Laboratory for experimental museology
Bill Sherman Director of the Warburg Institute and Professor of Cultural History in the University of London’s School of Advanced Study
Roland Tormey Teacher, researcher and administrator at the EPFL
Amador Vega Professor of Aesthetics and Art Theory at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona
Siegfried Zielinski Michel Foucault Professor of Media Archaeology and Techno-Culture at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee (CH)

Book Launch + Guided tours in the exhibition

Organizer: Giulia Bini