Watch retired BMW robots draw athletes’ movements at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The installation by Jason Bruges Studio creates unique performances and images based on different sports, from swimming to shooting, sprinting to skateboarding


Industrial robots once used in a BMW car factory have been given a new lease of life as key elements in a new work of art inspired by the Olympic and Paralympic games in Tokyo. The large-scale installation by the London-based design practice Jason Bruges Studio was unveiled today in Tokyo’s Ueno Park as part of the arts and culture festival Tokyo Tokyo Festival Special 13 (28 July-5 September).

The Constant Gardeners consists of four robot arms each weighing more than a tonne that have been repurposed to gently rake and draw in a bed of basalt and granite gravel. The installation was inspired by traditional Japanese Zen gardening and seen as a way to counter the perception of robots as threatening and inelegant, according to the Jason Bruges Studio, which added: “By programming the robots to perform the role of Zen gardeners, we hope to challenge these notions by displaying the machines in a contemplative, graceful context.”

The Constant Gardeners by Jason Bruges Studio is part of the Tokyo Tokyo Festival Special 13 and is on show in Fountain Square, Ueno Park, Tokyo Credit: Tokyo Metropolitan Government; Arts Council Tokyo; British Council

The patterns drawn by the robots are based on the movements made by athletes in Olympic and Paralympic sports and each day a new “performance” will be generated by the custom-built software. According to the organisers, the installation will generate new performative drawings based on events being contested that specific day—from swimming to shooting, sprinting to skateboarding—and should create around 150 in total.