For twenty years, Dutch artist, Theo Jansen has wholeheartedly devoted himself to creating a new form of life. His "Strandbeests" (beach beasts) seem so organic, that, from a distance, they could be mistaken for huge insects or prehistoric mammoth skeletons. But, they are made of materials from the industrial age: PVC pipes, plastic bottles and adhesive tape.
Strandbeests were born inside a computer, as an algorithm, but they do not require engines, sensors or any other type of advanced technology in order to walk. They move, thanks to the force of the wind, and the wet sand, they find in their habitat of the Dutch coast.
What was at first a rudimentary breed, has slowly evolved into a generation of machines that are able to react to their environment: "over time, these skeletons have become increasingly better at surviving the elements, such as storms and water, and eventually I want to put these animals out in herds on the beaches, so they will live their own lives."
Constructed as intricate assemblages of PVC pipes, wood, and wing-like sails, Jansen's creations are constantly being improved and have become excellently adapted to their sandy, beach environment. The creations sport legs, which "prove to be more efficient on sand than wheels...they don’t need to touch every inch of the ground along the way, as a wheel has to."
From his laboratory in Ypenburg, Jansen studies the history of biological evolution to provide his new generation of creatures with greater capacities. His dream is that, one day, they will learn how to evolve without his intervention and continue their lives as any other organism, subject to cycles of nature.
All those who observe the beauty of one of Theo Jansen's creatures moving around the sand, for the fist time, immediately understand that the work of this engineer, scientist and artist is something special. However, over more than a decade, he has remained in the dark and has only recently been discovered by the international art community.
In the last decade, dazzled by the digital revolution, his works would seem rudimentary, above all compared to the sophisticated productions his contemporary colleagues have been carrying out in the field of robotic art. But, nowadays, in the age in which the coexistence between technique and nature in pursuit of sustainability is an urgent priority, his design strategies are more relevant than ever.
Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Designer: Theo Jansen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Technical info: PVC pipes