Robotic art……….. from a distance

One artist, two robots and three cities: Painter creates a work of art in Vienna - while ABB robots create the same picture in London and Berlin.

Its not every day you get to watch an ABB product perform live in one of Europe’s most famous public spaces entertaining thousands of people. But that is exactly what I got to do yesterday in London’s Trafalgar Square.

The Vienna Tourist Board,  working together with Austrian artist Alex Kiessling, are hosting an event where Alex is creating artworks not only in Vienna, but also simultaneously in Berlin, at Breitscheidplatz, and London, at Trafalgar Square. They call the project Long Distance Art.

For the London and Berlin locations Alex is using two industrial robot “assistants” (ABB IRB 4600) which are fed by real-time data from Vienna via satellite connection to the remote cities. The result is three unique artworks that will be brought together to built a triptych.

On the left Alex is painting the original in Vienna, in the center the robot in London, and on the right the robot in Berlin

Commenting on the project Alex said “Painting is one of the oldest cultural techniques whilst robotics on the other hand is one the most recent human achievements. In the long term robotics represents a cultural and technological revolution that will probably spawn even more changes than we can foresee today.”

During my visit I also got the chance to discuss with Christian Steiner from INDAT–the team behind the technology involved–the challenges they faced in bringing such an ambitious project to fruition. Christian explained “We are using a pink ball mounted on the end of Alex’s pen to collect data from an infra-red touch frame and a Microsoft Kinect located in Vienna. We then analyze the movements of the artist and the data is translated to feed the coordinates to the robots in real-time. The robots then recreate the movements of the artist and draw their interpretation of Alex’s drawing. The data is being transmitted from Vienna to Berlin and London using a dedicated satellite connection.”

Kiessling says it took more than six months to perfect both the technique and the software he uses, and that as he learned to work with the robots, he increasingly questioned the concepts of original and copy. “What are the machines doing, actually?” he asked during a news conference. “It appeared to me in working with the machines that it is less about a kind of copy and more like a clone.”

The artworks created are based on a drawing of a ‘hybrid head’ – one full face with two half heads on either side. This allows the three unique canvases to be joined together as one and exhibited as a panel painting in Vienna and London.

The support team for the Long Distance Art project at the Trafalgar Square event.


Read more about the Long Distance Art event via the following links:;sta&ipad=true#/beitrag/video/1994558/Roboter-Premiere-Kunst-der-Entfernung

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About the author

David Marshall

I am Head of Marketing Communications for ABB Robotics. I am a marketing communications specialist with in-depth knowledge of industrial robotics gained in over 30 years working in the industry. I have a passion for industrial robotics and a mission to communicate the benefits to all manufacturers.
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